Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guest Post by Curtis Jobling author of Wereworld!

See, when I hear about “blogoversaries” I suddenly feel tremendously old. Just as I’m getting a handle on the plethora of babblings that is Tweetspeak, along comes another online notion that makes me feel my age. Regardless, I’m persevering with this seeing as the lovely Melissa asked me so kindly to participate.
As I’ve got total creative freedom on what I blather about in this post, now seems like the perfect opportunity to write an expose on the seedy, sinister goings-on behind the scenes in children’s television. OK, maybe not. I’ll save that for Melissa’s next blogoversary then.

A fine thing for me to discuss would be making headway into the creative industries, especially as a writer. Although I’ve had success as the designer and creator of various famous television characters, that all counted for nought when I pitched my manuscript for “Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf” to publishers. Even my success as a picture book author and illustrator held no sway over editors. As lovely as it was for me to have a background in publishing, this was a completely new adventure for me, writing a novel.

The first novel is a labour of love. One might hear mention of “advances” that cover your expenses during the time it takes you to write it, but that’s very rarely for a debut novel. One can expect monies after the first novel is picked up. To begin with, you’re writing for nothing. The first novel is a vanity project, it’s an author getting his or her story out there. Is there an audience for it? Who knows, one certainly hopes so. But it’s written for oneself first and foremost, and this involves a lot of sacrifices.

I can only speak from my own experiences. “Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf” was written late each night, after my deadlines had been crunched on my various other projects and the kids had been put to bed. The coffee was on, the bourbons were munched, BBC Radio 2 accompanying me into the wee small hours as I tippety-tapped away on my laptop. It was a tiring process, but an enjoyable one. That first time novelist always harbours the hope that an audience will be waiting once the manuscript is finished, a bunch of people who will accept the story with open arms. For me, I was enjoying the story, discovering that characters found their own voice as I wrote and the tale began to take unexpected twists and turns. With the momentum up, I looked forward to writing every evening, even during the day when time allowed, keen to find out where my characters were heading.

Nothing ever leaps, fully formed, onto the page. One has to be prepared for changes along the way as you polish and improve the script. Same point can be made throughout most creative industries.
As a case in point, look at the below image of “Bob The Builder”, the first design for Bob I submitted (my infamous past includes being the designer of said show). I thought I’d nailed it with this – to be fair, its still a design I’m very fond of, but I had to make concessions to my original submission. There were quite a few changes to make:

- The feet were too small and he wouldn’t be able to stand up on the set as a puppet.
- The hands were too small and he wouldn’t be able to hold his tools.
- The nose was too sharp.
- The moustache was too creepy (apparently preschool kids are scared of facial hair – whodathunkit?
- And finally, I thought it’d be hilarious if, when taking off his helmet, he was bald but for his sideburns. The studio disagreed. I gave him hair…

So there you go – the finished Bob who appears on screen isn’t a million miles away from my first submission, but he had to change to make it work. The same goes with manuscripts 99% of the time.

The first draft of “Wereworld” was turned down by the first publishers I showed it to, as they told me that although they loved the first act, the second and third felt too similar to other stories. So I rewrote it, taking on board their comments (which I agreed with) and binned 70,000 words. When I resubmitted the new story it was passed over once again, but I didn’t mind, because I knew the manuscript was that bit stronger after I’d made the huge changes from the first draft. It was the fifth draft before Puffin finally picked up the manuscript, with much to-ing and fro-ing in between; the finished story all the stronger for it.

Melissa mentioned I could put a few of my favourite links here, but to be honest if you’re an aspiring writer I’d like to send you in the direction of Stephen King’s marvellous “On Writing”, a great book to read before one thinks of committing a word to the page. At a push I’ll give you two other shameful self-promoting links – http://badablingthing.blogspot.com/ and http://www.curtisjobling.com/ , my blog and website respectively.

But if you’re after stuff and nonsense from someone who works in television, animation and publishing, and has just embarked on a new career as a novelist, then look no further than on Twitter where you can catch up with my ramblings daily.

My closing comment is that it’s never been easier for folk to reach out to their favourite creatives, be they animators, directors, novelists or designers. The internet didn’t exist back in the day for me – I had to make do with sending letters to folk introducing myself. Letters, that’s right! Never heard of them? Ask your Ma! I only wish I’d had the internet at my fingertips twenty years ago when I was starting out. If you want to get ahead in creative industries, start knocking on doors, real or virtual. It’s never been easier.

Bada Bling!


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