Nice write up in the Crawley Observer

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As the book nears completion, and we move closer to a publication date, my local paper, The Crawley Observer, have done a nice little write up about me and the book.

I love the headline – which is basically true. Quite a lot of the book was written in a cupboard in my flat, which I converted into a tiny office. At first glance you might think it’s still a coat cupboard – because of all the coats hanging in there – but there’s just enough space for a desk and a chair, and I’ve spent many happy hours in there writing the book and all sorts of other bits and pieces. It probably doesn’t meet Health & Safety regulations, but it’s quiet and I get plenty of work done.

Hopefully this won’t be the last bit of publicity the book gets. But just in case it is, residents of Crawley rush out and get your copy of the Observer whilst they’re still in stock!

George Thring has a cover

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The book is taking shape, we’re working hard to get it ready for publication. And I can rather excitedly reveal that we now have a cover.

After several weeks, over 50 different designs and several drafts, we’ve now picked the final cover for my debut novel, The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring. Thanks to everyone who pitched in with comments and opinions on all the designs and helped us come to a decision.

It’s a really great, bold, vibrant design and I love how bright and colourful it is. It’s really close to the style and imagery I had in my head all those years ago when I sat down to write the first few sentences. And I think it captures the tone and style of the book really well.

I particularly like the little Elvis on the dashboard. And the gun and the money stashed in the glove box hint at things to come (I won’t say too much and spoil the story).

The book is still being edited and we’re waiting for a publication date. But at least you now know what to look out for. Check back over the coming weeks for further updates.

It’s a done (book) deal!

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Bit of a belated post here, but I just wanted to share the news that after around five years of writing, several months of editing, a heck of a lot of pitches to agents, publishers, friends of friends and anyone else I could think of, I have at last found a home for my first novel.

And so *drum rolls* I can announce that The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring will be published soon by Raven Crest Books. Big thanks to Raven Crest’s Dave Lyons for thinking enough of my work to publish it, and all his help and support so far in the early stages of getting it out there.

Okay, so I probably should have gotten around to announcing this sooner, but it’s all been very exciting and there’s already been loads to do. The book is currently away being edited, and I’m looking forward to getting it tidied up and ready for print. We’ve already looked over quite a few cover designs, with loads of great options to pick from, and I think we’re close to picking the final cover.

Not sure yet about a publication date, but hopefully the book should be on sale in just a few weeks. Check back here for further details.

And if you want to find out any more info, please head to the official George Thring Facebook page and like the page.

The Hardest Easiest Job in the World

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Writing for a living can be the best, simplest, most rewarding and easiest job in the world. But at times it can be the most frustrating, soul-destroying, confidence-sapping, horrible job as well. And sometimes the most difficult thing is just sitting down at the computer in the first place…

I’m lucky enough to be able to write for a living. And I do consider myself very lucky indeed. It’s something I love to do – I’ve always loved to do – and to be able to make money from it, and earn (just about) enough to pay the bills, means I get to do something I love for a living. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well it should. But unfortunately, there’s a double-edged sword to put up with.

The trouble is (come closer, I shouldn’t say this too loud) sometimes I kind of hate writing for a living.

Sorry, I know I should sound more grateful – after all I get to do something I love for a living. What could be better than that? But it can be the most frustrating, difficult, tedious job in the world as well.

Because sometimes the words just don’t come

How many writers out there have never sat for hours on end staring at a crisp, white Word document or piece of paper willing the words into existence, yet the words just don’t come. For whatever reason you can’t quite focus, the words don’t appear to you and instead you find yourself subconsciously flicking a paper clip round the desk or scrolling Amazon for products you can’t afford because you haven’t finished your assignment!

It can be so frustrating knowing the ideas are in there but you’re somehow unable to release them. So you write a sentence, hate it and delete it. Write, hate, delete. Write, hate, delete. And repeat some more. And then you go and make a cup of tea. Then write, hate, delete.

You know the words will come eventually, and they’ll likely flow like a damned waterfall. But until then you have to wait, tear your hair out, swear at your laptop and keep flicking that paper clip.

Because sometimes the assignments suck

Writing is a business, like anything else. And making money out of writing invariably means that you have to write something that doesn’t particularly interest you. It would be great if I could spend all day writing my own stuff and make enough money to live on. But I can’t. So I have to take assignments from people who want me to write things for them.

It could be a press release, a corporate customer email, a product description or a boring article about ‘the best ways to maximise power usage for your IT infrastructure and get more out of your data centre space’. Not exactly thrilling stuff. But it matters to the people who want it written, so I have to make it matter to me and produce something that people will want to read.

And when I get into it, I generally find a strange, unexpected interest grow inside me as well. But mostly it’s pretty bloody boring.

Because the internet makes you lazy

Nowadays, research into pretty much any subject is as quick as a simple Google search. Everything is there in the web, you just have to sift through the layers to get what you want. But way back at the start of my career, when the all-powerful internet was still in its infancy, research was a far harder thing. I remember one of my first ever feature assignments was to write a profile of former Formula 1 Racing driver James Hunt.

I worked in an office where we didn’t have the privilege of having the internet on every single machine – there was one computer in the middle of the room where you could log on. And you had to wait your turn. When you did get online, it took an hour and a day for each page to load. And when you did get there, the results were pretty poor. This was in the days before Google (if you can imagine such a time), and Ask Jeeves was a crappy counterpart.

So I did the only thing I could – I went to a library and looked through books. Imagine…

But nowadays, with research coming so easy, it almost takes the challenge out of it. It makes us lazy. Who among hasn’t thought ‘I’ll just Google some stats later’ rather than putting a real amount of mental elbow grease into it?

Because deadlines make you lazy

There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. If you have two hours to write up your piece and get it in, somehow you’ll find the resolve, you’ll dig deep and you’ll get those words written. But if you have a week to write your feature… well, if you’re anything like me, you’ll sit on your arse for 6 days, play lots of GTA V, drink lots of tea, mess about on the internet… and then write the assignment 2 hours before the deadline hits.

Of course the most sensible thing to do would be to get in early, get your research done and write it straight away. Get the work done now, and then you can relax. But like a lazy kid who has a good six weeks to do their summer homework, you know you’re gonna spend that last day of the holidays stressed out, panicking and cobbling something together.

It might just be me (though I bet it isn’t), but deadlines make me lazy, because they don’t really become deadlines until you come close to missing them.

But then…

Of course I could try and do something different. I’m sure there are other jobs out there that are less frustrating, less stressful and much easier to do. And pay a hell of a lot more. But then they wouldn’t be as much fun either!

Anyway, I’d better stop rambling on and subconsciously deferring – I have an assignment to do, and I’m already past the deadline…

The ‘Business’ of Writing

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Over the last 13 years or so, I’ve been lucky enough to make a living out of something that I enjoy doing – writing. At times (especially in my early magazine editing days) it has actually been mildly glamorous, with foreign trips, expensive meals out, fancy parties, boozy product launches, press outings and even the odd day or two in the company of scantily clad models. And then it was back to the office to write it all up.

It hasn’t always been so exciting, of course. And I’ve spent equal amounts of time at boring conferences and dull press trips. I’ve gone nearly cross-eyed staring at dense technical manuals I was supposed to be proof-reading. I’ve written articles on data centres, floor adhesives and small business tax schemes. But I’ve still been earning a living at something I love – writing.

But that is becoming an increasingly difficult thing to do – at least the making money part, anyway. With freelancers being paid to flood the internet with swathes of uninteresting, poorly-written copy copy for as little as £5 per 1,000 words (in order to meet seo targets), and many new jobs going to unpaid interns, we are slowly reaching a state where in order to be a professional writer, you either have to work very hard for very little return, or work for free. Neither of which seem very fair.

And the question no one seems to be asking is what happens to the quality? When working for such small fees, even the best writers will need to be literally bashing out copy to meet the wordcount quota, without taking the time to ensure what they’ve written is as good as it could be. And when companies give jobs to lesser quality writers, who’ll work for even less, the quality of the editorial will diminish further. The ‘business of writing’ will slowly but surely destroy itself – because people will stop reading.

My latest endeavour has been to try and make a leap to fiction writing, and I am currently trying to get my first novel published – a feat even more difficult than I’d anticipated (and I knew it wouldn’t be easy). It’s taken over five years to write and edit the damn thing, and even if I do get it published, it’s a sobering thought when you consider how little money it is likely to generate

I like to think I’ve written a pretty decent book, but I’m not insane enough to think I’m the next JK Rowling. And in today’s world, where the quality of what you write seems less important than how it can be marketed, or which latest trend it can be pigeon-holed into, what hope is there for aspiring writers who dream of making it their job?

Thankfully I have a fairly regular copywriting gig, that pays the bills. And although I’m currently enjoying the bohemian lifestyle of working from home and making up my own hours, it won’t be long before I have to head back to the boring old 9-5. Oh how I long for those exciting magazine days, with the booze and the scantily-clad models…

Hello

Welcome to my blog site.

Here you will find a selection of stuff that I have written, from short stories to extracts from my first novel, The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring, and maybe a few bits from my new project that is still in progress. And maybe even the odd article or two, and anything else I can think to put on here. I’ll also add any interesting news and regular blog posts from time to time.

I hope you find something here to interest you.

Alastair