One day until The Mask Collector is released! According to my own forward projections, it is going to sell roughly 2.8 billion copies and I’ll finally be able to quit my job and write full time.
Do you know the story of The Mask Collector? Let me tell you about it.
(The paperback snuck out the gates a day early so you can be one of the first people on Earth to have a copy if you get it right now. It’s only £3.99, but won’t be for long. Monday the price is going up).
A BANK HEIST GOES WRONG WHEN ONE OF THE HOSTAGES TURNS OUT TO BE A WANTED SERIAL KILLER.
Pat Caine—locally famous retired bank robber—has come out of retirement to do one last job with a gang of local rogues.
The plan is simple. No high-concept, Ocean’s Eleven, heist nonsense. Go in, wave a gun around, get the money, and leave. Quick and easy. In and out.
A cashier recognises Pat. She’s read his book. Knows he believes in a victimless crime. Calls his bluff and presses the alarm.
Pat and his gang are forced to take hostages. Unfortunately, one of the hostages is the wanted serial killer the papers have been calling The Mask Collector. He is loose in the bank and wearing the face of one of Pat Caine’s gang.
SURROUNDED BY POLICE, SAFE FULL OF MONEY, TRAPPED WITH A MANIAC.
Many of you will already know that on my birthday this year, the 12th May 2022, I attempted to write an entire novel in a single day. I succeeded. The novel is called The Mask Collector. At 7:30am on the 13th May, tired and weird, I wrote the Author’s Note that will appear at the beginning of that novel. I would like to share it with you here.
This novel is the product of a single frantic day at the keyboard. I sat down at my desk at 9am on the 12th of May 2022 and I was still there at 9am on the 13th May (I’m actually writing this with an hour and a half still to go, but I know now that I will make it to 9am and my brain needs a break from the fictional).
I had a goal that I didn’t achieve. I thought I could write fifty thousand words in a single sitting (an idea born from The Bestseller Experiment podcast.) I was wrong. I managed half of that.
I mean, I didn’t really think I would be able to do it. I just wanted to try. 50,000 words. It’s an absurd number. It’s short for a novel, which average around seventy thousand, but the average novel takes a year to write. I was trying to do it in a day.
I both failed and succeeded. I told the whole story. It was complete when I finished. It was just much shorter than I had hoped. I ran out of road.
If I were to attempt it again (very unlikely—though it wasn’t an unpleasant experience), I would probably not adapt a screenplay. I thought doing that was a clever trick to save on having to think about what happens next.
I wrote the screenplay of The Mask Collector during the first Covid lockdown. A complete feature-length film. And a good one too. In the words of Mark Stay, it had blockbuster potential.
When the idea came to me to attempt this feat, adapting it seemed like the obvious thing to do. A screenplay is basically a very detailed outline. The problem is, it’s too detailed. I was caged in. I couldn’t let go and fly. It was a machine job of mechanically re-describing scenes that already existed with little scope for improvement, as it had already been worked and reworked in its original format.
If I had come up with a completely new idea and given myself a far looser outline, I might have been able to get in the zone and lose myself in rapid fire prose.
But I’ll be honest. The goal of reaching a big word count is a shallow one. Story is king. That’s the most important thing. Authors often forget that. We get carried away with what is expected and don’t let the story tell itself at its own pace. I didn’t succeed in writing a novel, but I did succeed in writing a novella. A lot of my favourite books are novellas (The Great Gatsby, Animal Farm, The Metamorphosis, The Heart of Darkness, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Body, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, The Langoliers, The Mist, The Rats, The Hellbound Heart, War of the Worlds—should I go on?) and I’ve been writing a lot of them recently.
Under the penname, Elwood Flynn, I’ve been intentionally writing thirty-five-thousand-word pulp westerns. I love reading them and I love writing them. I like the leanness of the prose. The challenge of pairing the language back to its most raw form. It’s no wonder this ended short.
One of the great things that came from this was that I got to rediscover The Mask Collector as a reader. I had forgotten a lot of the script. I hadn’t realised how much of it I had forgotten until I started this experiment. It surprised me. What surprised me more was how entertained by it I was. I felt the suspense of the intended viewer/reader as I adapted it. I fell in love with the characters all over again.
A lot of the people reading this were there with me the day I wrote this. So many fellow authors and readers rallied around me and tweeted all day and night cheering me on and offering support (you got it to number ten in the horror charts between Stephen King and Stephen King, and it hadn’t even been written yet). It was a great day. An excellent way to spend a birthday. I was doing what I loved with the people that I love. The teenager was at her mother’s studying for her GCSEs, which start next week, but Rachel and the cat were here, cracking the whip (and making me coffee).
When things got desperate, at about 3am when the story was done and I didn’t know what to do to make the book fatter, I had a radical idea. The main character in the book is Pat Caine. He is a famous retired bank robber who wrote a very successful book about his life of crime. That was it! I could write chapters from his book, from his point of view, and place them randomly throughout the book! Problem solved.
I wrote two chapters. Told two stories from his early life. In one, Caine is fourteen and getting up to some thieving hijinks involving a milk float. In the other, he is twenty-four and planning his first bank robbery.
When it came to placing them in the story, all it did was slow down the pace. They were jarring. I have included them at the end of the main story for your amusement. They were written by an exhausted mind at an ungodly hour.
So, without further ado, I present to you, The Mask Collector. It was written with passion and sleep deprivation. I think it shows. I hope you enjoy it. Be kind with your reviews.
I think you will like DCI Conrad. I’m sorry there’s not more of her. Another book maybe. Another time.
Andrew Chapman – 7:45am, 13th May 2022, Bournemouth
I was listening to the Tim Sullivan episode of the Bestseller Experiment podcast (really good episode, very inspiring) and it got me thinking. The idea of writing a whole novel in a day came up… and I’ve decided to give it a bash.
It has been done before. When I published my first book back in 2011, there was another indie author skulking around the forums who did it. Nick Spalding wrote Life… With No Breaks in a single sitting. It was impressive and it did very well, launching an incredibly successful career.
I’ve been doing a bit of research and it’s proving difficult to find other examples. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne was written in two and a half days. That’s the shortest time period I’ve been able to find (in an admittedly brief Google search).
I’m going to aim for 50k. That means I’ll have to write just over 2k every hour for 24 hours. No sleep. Short breaks for food. A lot of coffee. And a pillow for my arse which will no doubt be aching by the 12th hour.
I have an advantage. In order to do it I’m going to be adapting a screenplay that I’ve already written: The Mask Collector.
There is a very good reason for not starting a story from scratch. The thing that slows me down most is trying to work out what happens next. All that thinking has already been done. If I were to start from scratch and force my way through a first draft of something new I would end up with a very bad incoherent first draft that would need a complete rewrite and so be pointless.
Prosatizing a screenplay (that’s a new word I just invented. I could have used “adapting” but prosatize is way more sexy) still requires creative juices and enough mental capacity to write something worth reading and not just a stale transferring of words with the tenses changed. Novels are a very different beast to a no-nonsense script so it will be a serious challenge.
I don’t know if I’ll succeed but I’ll be bashing out words to the final second of that 24th hour and hopefully I will start my 38th year on this planet with a new novel under my belt.
12th May 2022 (my birthday). 9am to 9am the following day (which is Friday the 13th 😳). The Mask Collector will be reborn as a novel.
I’ll be sharing my progress on Twitter and Instagram. I am @AndyChapWriter on both.
We just watched The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent in the cinema, the new Nicholas Cage movie.
Holy crap it was amazing. The audience was young and noisy and at first I thought that was going to be annoying but I’m so glad there was a lot of energy in the room. It reminded of what cinemas are for and why watching a film in that setting can be so great. The whole room was laughing and audibly responding to references and surprising twists and whatnot. Perfect way to watch a brilliant and weird and unique film.
I’m talking about the audience because I don’t want to talk about the film. Not a bit.
The best way to experience it is to avoid all knowledge of it. Don’t watch the trailer, don’t Google it, don’t read the comments on this post in case somebody gives something away. Just book a ticket and go. You will thank me and you will have experienced a future cult movie in the best possible way.
We booked three films to watch at the cinema this week. The first was The Batman, the second was this Nick Cage film, and the last one is Unchartered, which we are watching tomorrow morning. Out of all of them I had no expectations for the Cage film. I didn’t even watch the trailer. We just went in blind thinking it was going to be another one of his random trash thrillers he’s been putting out recently.
I was so wrong. It might be one of my new favourite films.
It’s out on the 22nd April (we booked an early screening).
Watching Sonic Highways on YouTube. They have full episodes on there.
I was lucky enough to see Foo Fighters a few times. The band had two front men. They were brothers. Comrades. Soul mates. I can’t imagine the heartbreak Dave Grohl must be going through right now.
When you imagine Taylor Hawkins you always see him with that big childish grin. The guy loved being alive. You could tell. He didn’t take it for granted.
Today will be a day of nostalgia, rocking out, and fondly remembering a band that shaped my teens and the man I became.
When I watched Sonic Highways back when it first aired I really loved the New Orleans episode and knew I had to go there and see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in person. The following year I was in New Orleans, on New Year’s eve, stood in that cramped room listening to the best live Jazz in the world. It was great. The Foo Fighters gave me that.
5am is a good time to write. Blue Pulp is getting exciting. The western is an underestimated genre. When you strip everything out, all the things that distract us in the modern world, so all you have is the man and his thoughts, you can get deep and frightening with the human condition.
I know you can’t buy any of these books yet but soon you’ll be able to. This is book three and I’ve got one more to write. I think I’ll be done by spring.
I was reading a western last night. A slim novella. Less that 200 pages. There is something engaging and lively in the telling of a shorter novel. Something I embrace in my own writing.
I can wait for you to read this. If you’ve never read a western before maybe it’s time to try it out.
I’ll be posting covers and release dates right here over the next few months.
Book recommendation! (No spoilers outside of what is written in the blurb on the back of the book).
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz.
This was a rare thing for me. I don’t usually grab a book off the shelf in the supermarket just because of the cover. My tbr list is already so long I try not to add to it. But something drew me to this one. I was walking by and it caught my eye.
I read the back of the book and the first page in the store and felt the rare excitement of discovering a voice that I connected with. It wasn’t bland or generic storytelling. It was something more interesting. It was compelling. Jean knows how to put words together in that rare and satisfying way.
People get bored of authors making the main character of their book an author. But as an author, I get it. She captures the writer’s life so well. It rang true for me. Maybe a little too true. I felt seen.
In the story the main character, Jake, teaches writing. One of his students, a particularly arrogant man named Evan Parker, talks about having a plot that can’t fail. Jake disregards him, thinking he’s just an overconfident and inexperienced novice. Until he is told the story, and gets to read the first few pages. The plot really was a rare thing. It was unique. A story that has never been told before. A guaranteed bestseller. The holy grail of story. Even the worst writer couldn’t fail with this plot. And then Evan Parker dies, taking the plot with him. The novel unfinished. Barely started even.
Jake decides to use the plot. He writes the novel and becomes hugely successful. The book is called Crib.
The problem is, somebody knows what Jake has done.
A lesser writer could have set herself up to fail. Jean Hanff Korelitz now has to deliver on the goods. The fictional plot in her book has to be believable as unique and great. I figured, as I was reading, that maybe we would never find out what the unique plot was. But no. Jean doesn’t shy away. Over the course of The Plot there are chapters of the fictional novel, Crib, within. We get to read parts of the unique novel. And by the end of the book we find out what the plot is.
I loved this book. The standard of writing is exceptional and I was kind of sad when it was over. I’ll be going back and looking at Jean’s previous books for sure.
My brother visited today and brought his Maine Coon, Odin, with him. He’s still growing (the cat, not my brother) but our own adult cat, Calcifer, looks like a kitten next to it. Odin wanted to play but Calcifer, understandably, wasn’t into it. Probably because one false move by Odin could accidentally remove Calcifer’s face.