This began when I determined to start sending my thriller novel out again, but ultimately decided not to after reading the first chapter over and discovering it was, well, not very good. There was a time when I thought it was good, and there was a time when it was as good as I could do, but that time has passed.
What I began to ponder was the talent that people like Ian Rankin and Stephen King have, which allows them to write such sterling prose, while people like me sorta suck. How did they get it? Where does it come from? What do I need to do to develop it? Can I, in fact, develop it?
Then I saw a movie called 31 North, 62 East. This movie was made in Sussex and Horsham (and a bit in Lebanon) on a budget of about a quarter million pounds and was shot in a matter of weeks. Also, it was the production company’s first attempt at a major motion picture, or a motion picture or any kind, for that matter.
On a purely artistic level, it was rubbish, but when you take into account all the mitigating facts from the previous paragraph, you cannot but admire them for pulling it off, and pulling it off rather well. (Again, all things considered.)
The acting was wooden, the plot contrived, the set unnatural and obviously staged; in all it was like watching an amateur theatre group doing a movie, which in a large part it was. But there was a story there, and the clever devices they used to suggest climatic battle scenes without actually having to spend the money on them won my grudging admiration. (It also showed that people like Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep may demand huge fees, but they have that “something” that makes them worth the price.)
So what do we do, us people writing sub-stunning prose and producing movies that are so bad reviewers go out of their way to find good things to say them because anything less would be like tripping a crippled child? How do we bridge this gap? How do we go from thinking, “Okay, I wanted to produce something great, but this is crap,” to “this is what I had in mind, and I’ve pulled it off”?
These people actually got their moving into some prestigious cinemas. They are making no secret of the fact that this was a stepping stone to the next movie; the one they really want to make. So even if watching this movie was like watching a dog dancing—the amazing thing isn’t that they are doing it well, but that they are doing it at all—they may be closer to the mark in their next effort.
So, taking my cue from them, should I continue to try to publish my thriller novel, even though I know I have outgrown it already? Would it do me any good to get it published and have reviewers trash it? Or should I just call it a stepping stone and, by standing atop it, reach higher next time.
It’s sort of galling that these folks got their “throw away” project some major attention while my book, which took me longer to write than it did for them to conceive, script, film, edit, produce and release their movie, is consigned to the dead file. But if publishing it at any cost would mean people might start comparing me to a dancing dog, I think it might be best kept there.