And that was the first lesson I learnt in Novel writing. Apparently, you have 3 minutes. Probably less. In that time the words on the first page of your first chapter need to have reached out, grabbed the reader by the collar and shook the life out of them. Beat them. Spat on them. Raped them. Abused them. Or lured them with the promise ofâ€¦ anything that isnâ€™t normal. It seems people are less willing to spend fictional time with normal people, let alone fork out Â£7.99 to do so.
All first drafts are excrement said Hemmingway.
Mother finally rejected my Draft Novel in 2006. The rising cost of paper. I didnâ€™t keep that rejection slip. It was my third attempt.
Enter Pete Kalu [what shall we call him?] and my fourth attempt. Of which you are now part. Welcome. You will be with me until publication. Loosen your seat belt.
He looked at my 250-odd pages of toil, sweat and brilliance and called me into his office when no one else was in. He locked the door behind us and directed me to the chair closest to the wall. My manuscript was slammed onto the table between us. He sat opposite me, saying nothing. The manuscript in all its whiteness suddenly looked unclean. I wanted to disown it.
â€œIf you ever waste my time like this againâ€¦â€ he began.
At best, he said, the first 30 pages were salvageable. A short story perhaps. The rest â€“ Excrement. My Mission â€“ A satisfactory rewrite.
The words hovered in the air like plumes of atomic dust. From his lips, they entombed me in the explosive cloud. I chocked. A satisfactory rewrite, what did that mean?
Semantics. I was back where I started.
Tip for those behind me: The trick question is: Are you writing a Memoir or a Novel?