Friends. Patrons. Darling readers. We’re only a week into 2019 and a cursory glance at the news suggests it would be greatly improved by princesses, dragons and unlikely heroes. So I have a dragonnovel-shaped gift for you! I wanted to do something fun for patrons in the new year, while I wait to hear back from agents about the manuscript (and also because it will be fun to have something to talk about that isn’t Brexit or my impending house move). It occurred to me that the first three chapters of dragonnovel 1.0, as I’m calling my draft, are just sitting in agents’ inboxes and on my computer, and that I may as well share them with patrons. So here’s the first chapter, on an epub document (which makes it look like a book/is viewable on an e-reader apparently). Come back in two weeks for the second chapter, and two weeks after that for the third!
If the draft is professionally edited and polished up before publication, it will be fun to compare this version with the finished one (which I’ll call dragonnovel 2.0 HOW ORIGINAL). I also get to do something on my days off other than refresh my emails hoping to hear from an agent, so it’s a win-win really…
All patrons have access to the chapters, by the way, from $1 tier to $5 tier. I think it’s a bit shitty to say ‘be a patron for cool exclusives’ and then demand a higher level of patronage for the majority of exclusives. Not a patron yet? No problem, just click on the big orange BECOME A PATRON button on my page and choose which tier you’d like to join. THEN YOU’RE IN OUR COOL CLUB UNTIL THE UNIVERSE ENDS… or until you decide to stop pledging, whichever comes first.
I was scrolling through my Tumblr likes just now so I could dredge up some capital-C content alongside promotions and I came across a post my friend Tatchiana did in 2015 recommending this very blog. I can’t find the post now, but it gave me a fuzzy warm feeling that lasted long enough that I thought I’d come and say hello. I think I’ve been writing here now for nine entire years. That’s longer than most prison sentences, innit. Mad. 2015 doesn’t even feel like that long ago but I suppose it must be.
Sooo how have you been since 10 days ago? I’ve been good, cheers. Started another job (weekends! Retail! Say hi if you see me – wait no don’t make eye contact). Got to hang out with Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. Ish. Sort of. We said hi. I haven’t touched dragonnovel since I sent it to my cuz, but I am itching to make improvements. Not itching as in, I have eczema, itching as in, that feeling of when it’s almost the school holidays. I’ve already started sketching out ideas for my next book, which makes me feel like I’m cheating on dragonnovel. But I have to be realistic that a) dragonnovel might not get picked up, in which case I should start on the next, better, thing as soon as possible and b) dragonnovel might get picked up which means I need to look like I’m serious about this writing thing.
I just spent five entire minutes looking for a suitable dragon gif, no fucking dice. Come on, Shrek. First thing I’m gonna do if this book picks up is commission some cool dragon art.
While I’m thinking about it, it occurred to me the other day that since dragonnovel is actually nearly done (or as done as it can be without professional editorial insight), I’m going to have to stop renaming characters soon. Seriously, this one guy has had about four names. I think the first one was Pablo. Or it might have been Paolo. Then I think I tried to name him Raphael, but I already called someone Raphael. Anyway, my point is that if you were ever thinking of pledging to ye olde Patreon page in order to see a character named after you, you should probably do it soon because I need to start remembering characters properly or my synopses (that’s plural of synopsis, right? I’m scared to Google it) will be way out of whack. Oh, I think this guy was called Miguel at some point. Miguel.
Afternoon. I’m going out in a minute but my intrinsic need to post something every single month and/or week to stop my life losing meaning is flaring up, so HERE I AM. I put a dress on earlier but it’s cooler than I thought so I’m also wearing a hoodie and trouser-sized leggings. You scoff but the Kardashians will have a line of dress leggings sooner or later, guarantee it.
I don’t actually have much else to say, which is why my ridiculous desire to post to a schedule needs to fuck off. I’m busy writing dragonnovel to a deadline so I’m probably not going to be online much until it’s finished. I’m trying to motivate myself by sharing little bits and pieces about it on Instagram, so head there for stained glass windows, goats and the occasional actual snippet. My Patreon is here if you want a free copy when it’s finished and/or a character named after your good self, blah etc.
Yeah, wasn’t kidding about the goats. There are also twin characters named Molly and Clarissa, like the Mindless Self Indugence songs, so I’m really hoping someone pledges soon so I can save the names for a novella about two women who bootleg gin and steal cars.
I’ve been working on my book most of the morning and I started writing a quick update for my patrons, but there are only two of those currently and one is a close relation, so I thought I might as well share it here. The text is still a bit too draft-y for me to share any substantial paragraphs in case I change them further along, but I realise I’ve been telling everyone I’ve been writing a book and refusing to say anything else, which is not conducive to people’s support of said book. So here are ten things I can confirm about dragonnovel!
I recently Googled ‘constitutional monarchy’ for fact-checking
Someone wears a pink dress
The book passes the Bechdel Test (I mean I’m at 17k words, the text should be able to pass a driving test by now)
Stained glass windows feature heavily
There is definitely a dragon
I have counted one (1) joke about a hangover
I have counted two-three (2-3) jokes about posh people
One paragraph includes the word ‘cerulean’
I think I might have borrowed UKIP’s policies for a plot point
A girl rows a boat
And, as a bonus:
The dragon is not a metaphor.
As another bonus: this spectacular cave formation and cerulean sea in Zante is what I was thinking of when I wrote the scene with the girl rowing a boat:
I was aiming to get the final draft done before I go backpacking in the Ionian islands this August, but I think I might have to bring the trip forward. You know, for research.
If any of that picqued your interest, you can have a character named after your good self and read actual snippets of the story by supporting me on Patreon. Literally pledge a dollar and boom, a character bears your name. Or someone else’s name, I’m happy to leave that up to you. I’m basically offering you immortality. For about 74p! Cheaper than a past-it’s-best-before-date bagel.
It occurred to me recently that a) I should start calling the Giant Enormous Writing Project a book, and b) I should probably talk about it more because it’s driving me a bit mad, in a good way, and when it’s done I’m going to brag about it until hell freezes over, and I should set the ground work for that.
So, yeah, I’m writing a book! It hasn’t got a title yet, before you ask, but I’m calling it dragonnovel, because there is at least one dragon in it. It’s a children’s book, probably. I’m not telling anyone anything else yet, because the dragon is one of about three elements that definitely won’t change. Kind of like in an essay when you know that you’ve got to answer a specific question but how you’ll answer it is really anyone’s guess because you’ve deleted about 5,000 words and made 14 separate plans and look please come back later I need emergency snacks and the ability to spot repeated sentences with my eyes closed.
But it’s going well. This week I rewrote an irritating paragraph and I haven’t felt such a sense of satisfaction since I finished my A Levels. I guess the whole not-discussing-the-plot thing is going to keep this post quite short haha, because all I can tell you is that it’s a CRUCIAL PARAGRAPH. There are also many characters. Several conversations pass the Bechdel Test. I think. Ugh, now I’m paranoid that they don’t. I’ll check in a minute. Look, I made a Pinterest board? Enjoy?
I’m going to try to sort-of track my progress with the book by blogging about it sporadically. In theory, the further I get the more I’ll be able to talk about without worrying that whatever I’m telling you won’t make it into the final draft, so hit me up if you have questions you want answering or have strong feelings about dragon mythology or something.
I’m also here because even though I hate talking about works in progress, a condition of finally talking about dragonnovel is to share my Patreon page more often. I’ve reworked it – again! – because I could do with a little bit of financial breathing space while I write, just for tech expenses and website domains and the like, so I can focus on getting as many MCR jokes into dragonnovel as possible and finishing a proper first draft by the end of summer. I want to make this whole thing as fun and off-beat as possible, too, so everyone who pledges from now until I’m finished writing will get their names in the thank yous of the book, and anyone who pledges $3 or more will get a free ebook/PDF of the finished novel. I am hoping to get traditionally published with a proper agent, but I’ve been working on dragonnovel since 2016 and even if I end up printing it on my home computer, there will be an ebook or PDF. All patrons will also get behind the scenes updates and extra content like playlists and previews (spoiler alert: Lorde is on a playlist). I’m still going to write little short stories and things too, as a break, so there is still early-access to those. Oh and I’ll always name a character after patrons, because I enjoy naming characters hugely.
I’ve done some research and did a soft opening of the new page for friends and apparently it all makes a lot more sense than the old one did, so have a read and bask in the glory of my reward tier names. I also got rid of all tiers above $5, because who has more than $5 spare every month, and added some cool rewards. I’m not really ever expecting to hit 10 patrons but if I do, you guys better prepare yourselves for some excellent fan fiction reading.
Over the weekend Maggie Stiefvater wrote about the implications of book piracy and, when the Internet told her off, told a story about dealing with book piracy. You can read them both at your leisure (the story is worth five minutes of your time for its sneaky genius alone). Today I want to talk about the questions it threw up for me both as a reader and as someone who posts writing on the Internet for free.
First off, I work at a literary consultancy a day a week so I know a minuscule amount about publishing. I know a little more about writing and way more about reading. But I do know that publishing fiction in 2017 is not the easiest of things. Books are luxuries and household incomes are not always at luxury-buying levels. Savvy publishers will buy a book whose content or author has a reasonable chance of making them a profit before they consider some left-field niche wee book from a new author. My Everyday Acts of Murder series, currently available for everyone on my stories blog, probably won’t get an ISBN-d print edition until I have 8 million Twitter followers or have been to the Olympics or something. So yeah, books are hard to produce and expensive to buy. People are broke. So let’s think outside the metaphor and share art and make money in other ways?
Enter: me, using Patreon to offer readers an early release of my stories, plus some other little perks I can feasibly create with no budget, from one US dollar per month. You guys get free content, I get money from those of you who care enough to pay me, everyone is fulfilled!
Maggie points out that ‘if you take away a paying-for-art model, you end up only getting art from people who can afford to work in their spare time or art that is supported by patrons — both models that we have seen before, both models that end up giving you art produced by and for a homogeneous and upper class group’. But Francesca, you’re thinking, you aren’t upper class and homogeneous, we aren’t upper class and homogeneous and we know you can’t afford to give your work away for free! True. I had to double-check what ‘homogeneous’ means, for one thing, and for another I don’t give any other type of my work away for free – not my marketing services, not the stationery I design on Etsy (or not since I made my watermark uncroppable, anyway). So why did I go for the free-content-with-paid-perks-available model?
Before I opened up my story blog I spent several deeply unsatisfying years trying to find a job that allowed me to say ‘I’m a writer’. Eventually I decided to just go and be a writer. Running my own blog gives me the freedom to make what I want and when. I’m always working on something, because a blog can go on indefinitely, and I can interact with my readers in real time. No one directs me (I do have a critique partner, though, I’m not a complete heathen) and it’s my space, just like this blog is. Although you can have a character named after you for a dollar (one dollar!) or suggest a story prompt, I choose what I do with your name and your prompt. F r e e d o m!
Am I removing piracy’s power by putting everything online myself for free, like Maggie did by flooding the Internet with her own book, or am I ripping myself off and lowing my own standards? If individuals personally gave me hundreds of dollars of their own money, could I still claim to be completely independent? Would I feel beholden to them and their ideas? When someone throws a tantrum on this blog or Twitter, I can comfortably tell them to fuck off. What happens when that person is paying for my car insurance? Were I to publish a full-length novel, would anyone buy it or would they assume I should post that for free, too? I could conceivably follow the route of never charging up front and rely on people buying perks on Patreon forever, but there’s an economic theory I can’t remember the name of which stipulates that people will pay what they think an item is worth. If your price is low or non-existent, as I have learnt with my Etsy, people will assume it’s not worth paying for. If you demand money, they know that what you’ve got to offer is worth money. I feel like that applies to the book industry as a whole – if I offer my work for free and a person who happens to be a fan of The Raven Cycle likes it, will they resent Maggie for not releasing her work for free as well? Am I devaluing books everywhere? Will I become exclusive and homogeneous? Am I ripping myself off? And is it a new level of narcissism on my part that I read about a New York Times bestselling author’s experience with piracy and immediately worried about my own work, which as an audience of about a dozen people, being pirated?
This is the bit where I tell you I once read a pirated copy of The Dream Thieves. I could offer the excuse that I was in a bad state mentally at the time, which I was, or that I had the book on order from my library, which it was. But I know better and I could have exercised restraint. I just didn’t. Sorry, Maggie, it was a dick move on my part.
Book piracy is easy and free and right there. It’s not going away unless a lot of people grow a conscience, which isn’t likely, or until enough authors or publishers or agents find ways to beat pirates (ha) at their own game. At the moment, me sharing stories on a blog is also easy, free and right there. I like it. I feel like I’m working hard to create fiction I’m proud of, and I know I can be proud that I’ve tried another way of making money from something I enjoy and am good at. Karma probably exists after all, because I earn one dollar a month on Patreon and will realistically one day have to send a cease and desist to a shitbag on Etsy who thinks they can copy and paste my designs. I haven’t even talked about second hand books today, because unless they’re advanced reader copies someone paid for them originally, but would publishers be less inclined to cut a series due to low sales if they knew how many second hand copies were in circulation? Should second hand sales count in sales figures given that most people who can’t afford a new book will go to their library and/or favourite second hand bookseller before looking for a pirated copy? Would less people pirate books if we had more libraries?
I don’t have the answers – I barely have coherent questions – but I feel like the only way any of us are going to keep seeing books in shops is if we keep talking about what books are worth, and what writers are worth, to us as readers. Some people will never place value on other people’s art, and instead of debating whether piracy is inevitable, we should probably just concentrate on making it really, really difficult. So tell me your thoughts on free art versus paid art and all of that versus piracy. Tell me how you would end pirated books. Have you ever confronted someone you know is pirating books? I’m kind of done with repeating the word ‘pirate’ even if it is Halloween…
(If I ever show signs of becoming remotely homogeneous, you have my permission to punch me in the face.)
Happy new financial year! I weirdly feel like it’s a fresh start, because even though we’re already one quarter into 2016 and nothing has changed since Tuesday, I have a new spreadsheet and a new folder and so far I’ve stuck to my to-do list because this will be my year goddamnit.
Speaking of making things mine, I have been s l o w l y carving out time for myself to write and practise writing (which really just means more writing) and buyoed by new year optimism I thought I would give my Patreon page a spring clean. I still need to make a proper video (I nearly had one a while back until I realised my eyeliner was smudged during the whole thing, and it wasn’t a fashionable smoky eye smudge either), but I’ve re-worked my rewards. As it stands as of now, all $3 patrons get a 100 word story on their virtual doorstep every time I review a book, $5 patrons get to see their name in lights, aka on the sidebar of this very site, and $50 patrons will have their name in the thank yous of every book I publish indefinitely. There are tiers between $5 and $50, by the way. Lots of choice.
I haven’t chosen April’s book yet, because I’m in a Raven Cycle reread frenzy before The Raven King comes out on the 26th, but I’m definitely going to have something done before the 26th because afterwards I will be a mess of Maggie Steifvater-loving (or hating, depending on the conclusion) tears.
Okay my allocated blog time is running out and I have five more things to knock off my list before I sit down with Mini Eggs in front of assorted TV dramas later, so I am going to massively hint that this is the link to my Patreon page and remind you that by supporting my work you not only keep this blog wheezing its way into its seventh year but you also help fund my travel and technical expenses, thus leaving my wages free to propel me into the next income bracket and fulfil my desire to spend less time marketing other people’s work and more time making my own. Like blogs about Mini Eggs.
This review is the first that feels a little like cheating because I had actually seen bits of the film on TV, about 10 years ago. All I could remember before starting the novel is that Hugh Grant’s in the film and so’s that guy who went on to be in Skins (I think?). So my memory didn’t spoil it for me and I won’t spoil it for you.
My copy of About a Boy is courtesy of a university I considered attending long enough that they sent me free things. The parcel contained a letter from Nick Hornby advising that every misstep is not, in retrospect, a misstep (coincidentally I have been clinging to this notion since I decided not to go to university). The book itself follows that concept, predominantly through its two protagonists, Will and Marcus. Will has a life most of us live at the weekends. 30-ish and unattached all but the Countdown schedule, he spends days inside cafes and hours in front of the television, and has a work/life balance of pretty much 0% work and 100% chilling out. Marcus, a 12-year-old boy who’s just moved to London with his mum, has a happiness/life balance of about 30/70.
I can’t tell you how Will and Marcus meet, because it’s one of the funniest parts of the story, and I can’t really tell you too much about the supporting characters, because a lot of them hinge around the plot too. I can tell you that the novel contains a dead duck, Kurt Cobain, Christmas songs and some hilarious one liners that made me miss being 12. (Petition to start allowing adults to say exactly what they think just as much as children.)
The story takes place in the 1990s, and it would be quite different if it were set today (who are the 2010s equivalent of Nirvana?!). It was nice to read something that didn’t mention Facebook, actually, but my favourite thing about the book is that the two protagonists are about as different as two people could get while having quite a lot in common, and it was the alternating of points of view that turned the book into a very gripping story. There are a lot of ironic moments, and a lot of sad moments, because Will is judging Marcus at exactly the same time as Marcus is judging Will. All the characters are quite normal people you would expect to meet out and about, so of course they are actually all bonkers and more fun to read about than most superheroes. So go read.
My previous reviews are here; you can support my work by funding me on Patreon every time I review a book here.