Between Christmas 2005 and Easter 2006, I wrote a novel called The Sigil. I’d been a professional writer and editor for a while, having published a few books and innumerable articles – but I felt that I couldn’t really call myself a writer unless I’d at least tried some fiction. The act of writing was hugely enjoyable. I was often up until 2 or 3 am, night after night, caught in an adrenaline rush. The characters came alive at the keyboard – they really did have lives of their own. I can still remember the feeling of achievement when I finished the story.
Some of you, notably Drs R. P. G. and J. L. R. of London, were kind enough to read it and provide criticism. My agent, ever tactful, suggested I put in the bottom drawer and write something else instead, which I duly did. Meanwhile I posted my début effusion on a free fiction website, to see if anyone would bite. The proprietor of that website loved it - he really ‘got’ this rather strange mixture of romance, lab lit and epic science fiction. Few others did, though. Some people were actually quite rude.
Undeterred, I turned it from a longish novel into the bane of all novice authors – the trilogy. People still loathed it.
So I took my agent’s advice and put into the notional drawer marked ‘back burner’. I thought I might revisit The Sigil …
one day sometime never.
I ate humble pie, went back to nonfiction and after a while wrote The Beowulf Effect: Fossils, Evolution and the Human Condition, which my agent successfully sold, and which, soon, I hope, will come out in the proverbial All Good Bookshops.
I broke up Sigil and tried to sell bits of it as novellas. No dice.
Then the e-book burst onto the scene, and, with it, a profound change in the publishing landscape. It’s easier to publish things than ever before. The lines between author, agent and publisher are blurring. Only one thing is clear – there are a lot of people out there hungry for content. I suggested a new edition of my 2004 book The Science of Middle-earth, timed to come out with the Hobbit movie at the end of this year – my agent jumped at the idea. I revised the text, corrected mistakes, and it’ll come out in due season as a stream of electrons to an e-reader of your choice.
All the while the plot of Sigil was churning over in my mind as this quixotic project made its way inexorably to the top of my things-to-do pile. The Beowulf Effect and The Science of Middle-earth had been delivered – what next? Just then I got an email from one of the very few people in the world who liked The Sigil. He’d popped up as an e-book publisher, re-issuing SF classics and eager for new content … and could he please publish The Sigil?
So now I am revisiting an enormous amount of text of diverse antiquity and trying to pull it all together, cutting out the bad parts (lots of these) polishing the good parts (somewhat fewer) and writing some new text. A contract sits on my screen. I have the chance to get the book Out There, whether it attracts a legion of readers or none.
Watch, as they say,
the sky this space.