Gary meets Anneke and Bill (at last!)

Many months ago, a naive and somewhat rejected amateur writer called Gary was wandering around inside a place called Second Life, an online virtual world, when he ran into a goth girl called Anneke. Anneke was a writer type too, and she told him about an in-world magazine looking for stories.

So Gary wrote a short story that he submitted to the magazine, and they accepted it. That was his first ever sale! (He'd won prizes before this, but never a sale.)

Before he submitted, he sent the story to Anneke to see what she thought. Anneke likes critiquing stories, and she has a natural talent for it. What is most amazing is, not only does she have the ability to improve someone else's story, but she can do it in English. Anneke is Dutch. Astonishing!

And so a habit developed. Every single thing I've written since then, Anneke has checked before I submitted. Every time, she's said something that improved the story. For my short stories that probably didn't take too much of her time, not enough that I feel guilty about it in any case. But then she read my novel end to end and sent me a perceptive and very useful critique. Wow! I fixed the ms as best I could.

Her own writing, in English, her second language, is very good indeed, far better than most native speakers could achieve. I hope one day she submits some of her own fiction somewhere.

In the course of time I met another writer friend of Anneke's. Bill Kirton is a Real Writer. Bill has written plays that people have actually put on. He's had piles of short stories published, and two novels, with more to come. He used to teach creative writing (and Fench) at university. It's scary how much he knows about how to deliver a gritty, tight, solid story.

Bill, a professional, offered to read my novel. He sent me a brilliant critique that pointed out important weaknesses, most of which I'd semi-realized were there but hadn't known enough to know they were weaknesses. I fixed the ms again, as best I could.

I owe Anneke and Bill a lot.

There was never the slightest chance we'd ever meet of course, because Anneke is in Amsterdam and Bill is in sunny Aberdeen. But then I announced I was visiting Europe, so we agreed to converge on London. Which we did, and I, for one, had a wonderful time meeting friends I never expected to be with in person.

I'll have to update this later with a photo; they're all on Anneke's camera.

Bill, the ultimate gentleman, insisted on paying for lunch. He also gave Anneke and I signed copies of his latest book, Rough Justice. I read it that night. Of course I already had a copy of his first book, Material Evidence, on the shelves at home.

What I like about Detective Chief Inspector Carston of the Cairnburgh force is he's a regular guy who just happens to catch killers for a living. Not a trace of detective eccentricity to be seen, but plenty of realistic characters and a murder you can believe in.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Oh dear, the mutual admiration society's meeting in Le Garrick seems to have extended further. Gary, your comments are very kind and omitted just one thing - that reading and commenting on your novel was a pleasure and that you're a real writer. For those of you reading this who weren't there (i.e. all but three of the world's population), we each tried to outdo the others with compliments. That sounds cloying, sycophantic, cringe-making, nausea-inducing and altogether a good excuse for never letting the three of us share a space anywhere ever again. In fact, it was a hugely enjoyable meeting of people who seemed to have been friends for ages. Gary's right about Anneke and it really is time she wrote her novel (in Dutch and/or English). Her stories are terrific and waste no words and the sharpness of her critical vision is remarkable.
You'll be able to judge for yourselves how good a writer and story teller Gary is when his novel appears but, unlike us, you may not have the chance to discover that he also has an uncanny (and infuriatingly accurate) sense of direction, a broad cultural awareness (skulking beneath that smiling, Bill Gates-ish exterior), and (despite claiming to know nothing of economics), a grasp of the British and international financial situation that, in one charming and seemingly ingenuous response, undermined totally the solution a friend of mine had proposed to restore economic equlibrium.
We had a great day and it went by far too quickly. When Gary's rich and famous, I look forward to being invited to stay in a hut on a corner of one of his estates (in Switzerland, Bermuda, St Tropez, California or even Sydney) to spend some more time in his company. Especially if Anneke's there too.
Enjoy the rest of your trip and thanks for taking the time out to meet us.