Book Review: Damn You Shameless


How important is book titles?

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
How happy are you, with the state of your writing? We're all readers, an activity that, on the whole, makes us happy—while occasionally causing steam to come out of our ears, as we wonder how this piece of crap ever got published! :mad:

As with any emotion, there are levels of happiness. At the moment, I'm five chapters into my WIP, the fifth novel in my Cornish Detective series, and I'm in a peculiar state of heart and mind, in that I'm satisfied with the opening, but slightly frustrated at the word count. This is because I've chosen to do most of the editing as I go along, rather than leaving everything until I type The End. I know this method works better for me, for not only do I winkle out more errors and stylistic lapses, but staying in the moment of the situation deepens my understanding of what's going on in my characters' minds, strengthening how I portray them. It's a wise way for me to work, but wisdom seldom brings elation!

Nevertheless, writing is addictive, and I'm happiest when actually adding more to my story.

Overall, I have a sense of contentment with how my writing career is going, for I've completed four novels in the last three years, as well as creating eight fresh short stories in 2017. I knew, when I started out, that it would take ages to achieve recognition, but, for once, I turned my stubbornness into an asset. In entering the jungle that is the world of publishing, I didn't expect to find an easy route to success.

Of course, there are tons of frustration and uncertainty, but I have faith in my abilities and I look forward to learning more about my craft. I'm happy to say I'm a writer when strangers ask me what I do as a job, though that usually encourages a blizzard of daft questions, that makes me wish I'd said I was an accountant. If you've written anything, then you should be proud of yourself: thousands of people say they've "got a book in them", but do nothing about it.

As far as I've gone, it's all been good, even scaling such steep learning curves as how to format an ebook. The idea of being commercially successful as a writer makes me more doubtful than happy. I'm not even sure that chasing a traditional publishing deal is the way that I want to go, so should a book company make me an offer, I wouldn't be ecstatic, I'd immediately look for the catches, as well as doubting their sanity. :confused:

Famed editor and writer William Maxwell observed, in one of his short stories, that:

Happiness is the light on the water. The water is cold and dark and deep.

(I wish that I'd known him and his wife.)

This certainly applies to how I feel about creating my stories, which float as sunbeams upon the impenetrable world of publishing. For me, writing stories isn't a means to an end, that of fame and financial reward. I can't not write, but whether my novels will ever delight a reader is unknowable. I'm simply glad that they make me happy. Some would say that's delusional, but fools are often merry.

You need a sense of humour to be a writer. As singer and actress Reba McEntire advised:

To succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.

One thing that parents often advise their children, is, "do a job that makes you happy." Few children recognise the wisdom of that advice, instead chasing jobs that they hope will make them enough money to buy things that will make them happy. I've always had a way with words, but apart from a period in the 1990s writing instructional articles on house renovation and classic vehicle restoration, haven't devoted myself to writing in a way that's pleasurable.

Does writing bring you happiness?

What makes you unhappy about writing?

For me, it's editing, which is why I've gone over to tackling it in bite-sized chunks. Having admitted that, I view editing in the same way as I do querying literary agents—they're irksome tasks, but necessary ones—sure, your ego takes a few knocks, but it's like fighting a boxing match. If you can't stand cuts and bruises, don't get in the ring.

Does your being a writer make your friends and family happy? I've dedicated my novels to eight different friends, three of whom acted as readers for me; I was surprised at how moved they were by this tribute.

Liking your latest post Paul. I agree but you need a thick skin too and accept rejections most of the time are subjective. Even if you don’t feel fully convinced they are so. ‘Rejection is the sand in the oyster. The irritant that ultimately produces a pearl” - Burke Wilkinson :)
And for me strangers are the best readers as they won’t spare your feelings. As they say true success happens beyond home :)
Happy? A good header for a posting, @Paul Whybrow, and an interesting thread as always.

As for your question: 'How happy are you with the state of your writing?'

Well, not fully. I've got an idea, a title, a synopsis and some character bios, plus the last 1000 words, but so far not a single word to set me off on my track. I'm doing research, and even though I know it is essential, the fact I'm NOT putting a single word into 'word' makes me feel I'm not actually writing a book. Currently, if a strangers were to ask me about my chosen career, I would have to say I'm a writer who doesn't actually write anything. This made me realise, I'm only happy when I'm typing.

If only I could make a living from it. (But maybe not as a typist).

I guess happiness comes and goes, and is fluid like everything else in life. We can't have one without the other.
Am I happy with my writing?
I am happy when I write. Sometimes. Ish.

It is a satisfying pursuit, when it goes right, but I am not the kind of laidback person who is just writing because I love to write. It is a means to an end, but that end seems further away everyday.

Right now, as I mail out my YA novel to the disinterested, I am finally sitting down to finish off the trilogy I began, years ago. The first two parts were self published and people have been nagging me to finish it. Finally getting around to it and actually wrapping up a story that began in my head, decades ago, is very satisfying. The fact that is will languish in self-published hell, never to be so much as seen, is wildly disheartening. So: good and bad, but mostly just frustrating.

In a nutshell, I find writing to be the only thing I've ever done that challenges me completely. I would love to do it as a career, but fundamentally, I am not going to beat my head against this frankly obnoxious door forever. The fickle whims of publishing agents are nothing to live a life by.
Happy is a word like love or god. No one knows what it means. Sometimes, we decide what it means to us. Which is different, isn't it, than actually knowing what it means.

But a lot of the time I think the word is thrown around.

I'm as happy writing as I am doing almost anything else. My favorite thing to do when writing is surprise myself. Without the surprises, it wouldn't be much fun.

The part about writing that makes me unhappy isn't new. Getting paid to do it often means having less fun doing it.

Family and friends, not all of which are readers, all agree I can write. But this doesn't mean they support my writing. My brother doesn't have the attention span to read anything I've written. I think that only means I have to work harder to keep his attention.
Hi Fellow Writers, have you ever payed a game called ‘Play Your Dice Right.’ You can purchase them on amazon co.uk or amazon.com. It’s basically two coloured dices you buy. I invented the name and the game. You give them a role and whatever words they land on you have to write a short story or a decent paragraph there and then. And only include the words once no more. Great to get your creative juices going and to help with writers block. But I’m a firm believer if you frequently suffer from writers block in regards to your current stories and submissions it is due to lack of research and background of your characters etc. Like they say when your read your prose out loud and suddenly it stops and feels unnatural, review needed.
@Paul Whybrow, I was so happy to see you mention William Maxwell. His novel So Long, See You Tomorrow is one I re-read every other year. He had a life that was in many ways so rich, satisfying productive, a deeply loved and admired man. The irony for me is that he, to paraphrase the line from Ammons' poem, 'had a life that did not become'. His mother died in the Spanish flu epidemic when he was very young and he was always haunted by this loss. So much of the power of what he wrote drew on that hidden wound.

Writing, reading, revising and any close language work is all on a continuum for me. I love to see text that has been skilfully edited. At its best, editing and proofing is invisible mending. And rewriting is such a delicate movement between stripping back, excising and layering, following extended metaphors, making connections between Chapter 3 and Chapter 8, an aside in Chapter 2 that becomes significant only in Chapter 5. It's demanding, impossible, meaningful work. Who needs happy?
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Book Review: Damn You Shameless


How important is book titles?