Con weighs up his new novel. Extract from Written Off.
Mar 04 2016
Con Buckley checked the word count on his manuscript. The menu bar read 75,069. He typed ‘The End.’ Was it now 75,071 words, or didn’t the sign off figure in the tally? He pulled out his baccy tin and rolled himself a celebratory joint. Just a small one, to mark hitting land. Christ, he’d done it. It was finished. He’d only gone and written a book. In the gathering gloom of the late afternoon his computer screen blazed like the tunnel to Paradise, bathing the shabby furniture of the Kilburn flat in golden effulgence. The End? This was the beginning. Sparking his blunt he scrolled to the title page and highlighted the word count figure. He amended ’00,000’ to read ‘75,000 words’. That would round it off nicely, and account for the title page as well. Immediately he began to fret, not for the first time, that the book might not be long enough. He’d Googled ‘typical novel length’ on numerous occasions and had initially set himself a target of 100,000 words. But some sites said as long as he hit 60,000 words it would be classified as a novel. He certainly didn’t want to fall into ‘novella’ territory but then he didn’t want to run the London Marathon only to finish at Tower Bridge while all of the agents were waiting at Birdcage Walk. In the end he decided his piece of string would be as long as it needed to be. Surely 75,000 words was ample? 80,000 words would have been better though. He took a draw on his micro-joint, sucking the THC deep into his lungs. No – it was finished.
Anyway, describing his work purely in terms of its length – ’75,000 words’ – struck him as being inadequate and misleading. Why not 448 KB as a measure? It was equally descriptive in a factual sense. Or 426,542 characters (with spaces)? Or 297 pages? They denoted size, but what else? It was like quoting a woman’s vital statistics. You say 36-24-36 and it’s a combination that automatically unlocks an image of a beautiful, young, curvaceous and nubile goddess. Add your own hair colour. But that was crazy because 36-24-36 could also adequately describe a 90-year old wizened leper dwarf with one leg. What about the value of what he’d produced? They didn’t ask you to start giving them information on that. Never mind the quality, feel the width. And as for all that crap on presentation formats he’d had to research – how tiresome had that been? Times New Roman, 12 point, double-spaced lines, page numbers, title on every page, indentations and start a new para for each speaker. Well, tick those boxes. They wouldn’t catch him out on any of that.