When is enough enough?

When is enough enough? How often have we read that in writers and editors blogs?

I remember years ago sitting on a friends yacht, looking around at the interior and wondering when he was going to finish it. A clamp and a wire coat hanger held the single burner stove in place. The three small draws from an old Singer sowing machine table formed the only closed storage. Piles of books and magazines were held in place by bungee cord. I asked Nick about the fit-out, and if he intended to finish it sometime.

He went on to explain how when he was building this boat — on a remarkably skinny budget — he had seen a picture in a magazine of a beautifully finished yacht. It was something like a Cherubini, with twelve coats of perfectly laid varnish on the handcrafted Burmese teak interior. The caption read ‘Note the matchbox holder in the galley. The sign of a finished yacht’

“So,” Nick said, pointing to the box of Swan Vestas, held in place by a small piece of spring steel, “I fitted a matchbox holder and went sailing.”

By that time, he had successfully completed two circumnavigations.

Not many people could have sailed that way in such basic conditions, but Nick is a special case. He gets away with it.

I have wondered how one could apply his philosophy to the world of writing. If there was a way to skip the twelve coats of varnish and get to where we wanted to be.

It all comes down to; do you want to build a boat and go sailing or build a boat that one day somebody will want to buy. Not many people would buy Nick’s boat.

And so it is in the world of books. Many writers have great fun and get much personal satisfaction from writing a book in their own style. But when it comes to marketing and selling they are a long way from the start line. The wind and current is against them and no matter how devious the matchbox holder, nobody is going to see it.

I have always been a hands-on DIY type and like Nick, I built my own yacht and circumnavigated. I started out with a couple of things held in place with clamps and a vice grip or two and refined things as we voyaged.

Now, with my second manuscript complete, I have concluded that to be commercially successful, I need to wax the hull, start sanding the interior and call in a good brush-hand.

Whichever course you take, I wish you well…

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Author: A.J.

I have written as far back as I can recall. Until 2011, that writing was just for me, or as rambling letters to friends and travelogues to the family. I never thought about why, or if others did similarly, and the thought of publishing never entered my head. Since I left England in 1979, I have been collecting experiences, people, and places. From the blood-soaked streets of Kampala, the polluted dust bowls of the Sahara, or the pristine ice floes of the Antarctic, I have gathered and filed them away. Some have recently squeezed through the bars of insecurity and are now at large in the pages of my first three novels. Others await their future fates.

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