Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Some notes on Hell and Highwater

I've never written a novel before. I wrote Hell and Highwater during National Novel Writing Month 2007, see here. The novel itself is here. Enjoy it.

The story stands on its own merits, so I won't attempt any justification of it, but I will mention that it's still a work in progress and I might change it.

23 December 2007: I added the Preface and a number of revisions. The novel is more or less stable now. It's time for me to find another project. If you read this novel, please leave a comment so I know you were here.

3 January 2008: I smoothed out a couple of awkwardnesses in the plot, renamed the Preface to a Prologue, and added a couple more jokes. It's definitely time for me to find another project now, or failing that to get back to work for the New Year. If you read the novel, please leave a comment so that I know you were here.

20 January 2008: Unless I think of any improvements so drastic that Stephen Spielberg will offer me millions of dollars for the film rights to Hell and Highwater, this is the final version of it. If you like what I write so much that you want to read more by the same author, look at the Usenet newsgroup talk.bizarre to which I contribute both under my own name and pseudonymously. I could probably spend the next five years making small improvements to this story but it's better that I put it down now and do something else. Maybe later I'll write another story of the same main characters.

27 February 2008: Added two more jokes.

Please leave a comment so that I know you visited the page. Click on the link at the end of the story. This really matters to me.

Some other stuff

Copyright. Please respect my copyright on this piece of writing. Please ask me and get my permission before you copy it or redistribute it. If you make a profit out of anything you do with this work, I want a share.

Names taken from life. In this story, the company Bitco, whose name is similar to that of the company which at the time of writing employs me, is completely fictitious. The events described in this book did not happen there, or anywhere else as far as I know. I just thought "Bitco" was a nice name.

I have referred to several government departments, companies and individuals by name with satirical intent, without their permission. If you find your own name in this story, then firstly, thanks for reading it. If you are pompous enough to object to being satirised on a web page that has fewer readers than an editorial in Which Pencil? and has less influence over your public standing than a mashed turnip, then you should behave in a way that does not inspire public, and my own, hatred, distrust and ridicule. That way, you won't be satirised on web sites and those of us who write satires will have to find a different job to do. Is that too much to ask? Your reward will be in Heaven — to claim it, just cut out this coupon and bring it with proof of identity and 3d for postage to the jewellery counter in Watson & Crick, behind the plane trees on Darwin Square. Open Monday to Saturday, 9.00 until 5.30, early closing Thursday.

Now read on.

Ken Johnson


Madan said...

I enjoyed reading the novel. For some reason, I concluded hell is better than heaven..)

Merc said...

I posted a comment on the NaNo boards about this, but here it is as well.

The coincidences are almost scary. :D :P

One of my '07 NaNos is urban fantasy (which started a series), and the small business where the MC works was named "Hell and High Water, Inc.".

Weirdly, the MC's girlfriend had the name Angela, too. :o

LOL--imagine my double take when I read your post title here. :P

Not that either the names are unusual; playing with a cliche phrase will do that. I just thought it was funny, and now I think the MC's girlfriend needs a new name. *chuckle*

I'll check out your novel later tonight.


Merc said...

Hi Ken,

Some comments.

Prologue thingy (whatever you've named it)--

Usually I'm not keen on this kind of thing, but since the blurb indicates that the news items, the thefts and suicides, will be plot important, I think this could work. Good thing it's short.

One idea is to maybe put the news heading (name of the paper or source) at the start of each snippet? At first I thought it was normal prose and was a bit turned off at the dry, statistical style; once I realized it was a newspaper clipping (so to speak), I didn't mind it.

Chapter One--

Unless in Hell they give the inmates something to slow their brains down, I think Peter should figure out where he is a little sooner than having the train master announce it. ;) As it is, Peter comes across as a bit stupid (more so than being in denial, if that were the case)--in particular after he learns he's dead and all the talk of the Circles.

I think if chapter one could be tightened up and trimmed down so Peter 1.) figures out what's going on sooner and 2.) has a reaction to it (even if more of his reaction at finding himself in Hell is reserved for later chapters), it would improve the opening.

Things kind of dragged a little too much because, as a reader, I can see from the start where he is--it's amusing at first to watch him try to figure out what the hell (I know, sorry--couldn't help it :P) is going on, but I'd have liked him to get a clue earlier and I'd like to see how he really reacts to that, rather than placid, "oh, well, that's different I guess".

I think there is material in here to make a strong opening--the fact that so far hell doesn't seem that bad amuses me--but it waffles too much with the queue lines and Peter puzzling over what happened and where he is.

Anyway, the premise of the story is interesting. I'll see what happens in chapter 2.

(By the way, on a layout note, why pink? :P lol I just found it a bit glaring and hard to read--but then again, I'm so NOT a fan of pink…)