10 for 10: a not so Secret Santa

I was going to write an article about the politics of language for today. About gender and race and exclusion and imperialism. But it’s the week before Christmas and maybe that can be left till the Twelfth Night hangover at the fag end of New Year.

So what I want to do is very simple. Everyone’s talking about 10:10 – reducing their carbon footprint by 10% in 2010. This is Year Zero’s 10:10. I want us all (and by all I don’t just mean us ni Year Zero – i mean everyone who’s reading) to list 10 things we want from writing, or the arts more generally, in 2010. Specific things (not “success” or “my book to do well”). I want it to be something to focus our minds as we go into the New Year, and to which we can return again and again as we lose our way in the flabby month of May.

I also want to suggest a very small pledge we could make. In 2010, let’s each give 10 hours – over thecourse of the year – and pick one of someone else’s targets, and give those 10 hours to making it happen for them.

So, to kick off, here’s my 10:

1. Year Zero to get written up in one of the UK Sunday broadsheets

2. One of the Year Zero live gigs to get reviewed in the mainstream media

3. To sell 200+ hard copies of SKIN BOOK

4. To be approached with an offer by an agent or publisher, and to say no

5. To have an article of mine about Year Zero published by a mainstream mag/paper

6. For Sarah to have, however small, a UK exhibition, or Penny one in the US.

7. For sales of Songs from… to top 100

8. For one of our books to have sales topping 1000

9. For one of us to win a prize for their work

and most important of all:

10. For everyone who’s part of Year Zero now still to be part of us this time next year.

Over to you all:

~ by yearzerowriters on December 19, 2009.

54 Responses to “10 for 10: a not so Secret Santa”

  1. This is fun! Keep in mind that it’s early and caffeine has not met my bloodstream yet. After rereading, I’m embarrassed to see that it is all about me. But I do wish for world peace and end to hunger, etc. too 🙂 So this is my wishful thinking:

    1. To write a short story for Narrative Magazine

    2. To win a Narrative Magazine contest prize money

    3. To have the winning short story published in Narrative Magazine

    4. To write and write and write without second guessing myself

    5. To write articles that get published in mainstream media

    6. To be self-supporting

    7. To have fiction published in the New Yorker magazine

    8. To write a book, have it published, and well received

    9. To travel

    And finally:

    10. To be able to embrace success as well as I do failure

  2. Thanks Marisa. Would be nice to use this thread as a place we can come back to through 2010 – don’tforget to keep us updated when you tick them off!

  3. 1) To have one of my word bastardizations to enter the OED or failing that, Urban Dictionary
    2) To debate the future of the novel on BBC radio
    3) To finally figure out what I mean by non-linear writing
    4) To reduce the word count in any edit rather than increase it
    5) To take my balaclava off in videos
    6) To write a relationship
    7) To learn German well enough to be able to write in it
    8) To crowd surf at a reading
    9) To have editions Gallimard pick up “A,B&E” and provide them with a way of getting back at the British
    10) To convince the Literary Establishment to replace the concept of character with that of voice


    what is it with smiley emoticons and the number ‘8’ on WordPress?

  4. 1. To see all 7 Year Zero novels on prominent display in an indie bookshop somewhere
    2. To see at least one Year Zero novel reviewed favourably in a UK or US mainstream newspaper/literary review
    3. For Amazon to stop fucking misrepresenting the RRP of my book and to stop over-charging customers
    4. For sales of the print version of Glimpses to reach 100. (Linked to 3)
    5. For free downloads of Glimpses to top 1500
    6. To see Year Zero feature in an article in a print newspaper or magazine, as well as on-line
    7. For Anne Smart to sell most paintings at her 2010 exhibition, and begin to get proper recognition
    8. To start actually writing my next book, instead of making notes
    9. For at least one of our group to receive the recognition they deserve

    Finally, with Dan:
    10. For everyone who’s part of Year Zero now still to be part of us this time next year, even if they’ve been approached with an offer by an agent or publisher

    • Larry, number 6 sort of happened today, but not on quite the scale we’d like. My alumni mag – Christ Church Matters (oddly not subtitled “no it doesn’t”) ran a half page story on Songs in its publications section, and Year Zero got a mention.

      A little birdie tells me that something’s in the pipeline, though

  5. Good luck, Dan, I hope all 10 of your goals happen. number 4 made me smile. You really do inspire me as a writer!!!

    • Hey Sabina – if I was approached and I said yes I think I’d eb trolled off every site in cyberspace 🙂 And you’re one of the two or three people who genuinely inspire me because there’s not a sold-out cell in your body.

  6. Thanks for this, Dan. This is really fun. I already spend more than 10 hours per month promoting other writers’ work. Hopefully I can have more time to extend this in 2010. See, this is one of yours completed already, Dan! 🙂

    Now let me see: I haven’t thought about this, so this is all from the top of my head.

    1. (And this is a common one, I can see). For at least one YZ book to feature in a mainstream bookshop.
    2. To have published and sold at least 1,000 copies of Sunday’s Child.
    3. To have ‘How to Spend Less’ and ‘A Model’s Guide to Losing Weight Without Dieting’ stocked in my local libraries and supermarkets. (To also have the second one taken up by South Glous. council as a guide with their active card promotions).
    4 To be established as a speaker in both areas (above categories) in my local area.
    5. To publish ‘How to Raise Kids to be Responsible Adults’ and my Baby handbooks.
    6. To have more members of YZ who write non-fiction so I don’t feel so unwanted.
    7. To do such a great job editing the magazine (I’m editing a free magazine – voluntary basis – from Feb) that I can finally get a paid editing job.
    8. To establish my relationship column and start actually getting paid for the advice I give.
    9. To have everyone here still here. (Like Dan and Larry have already said).
    10. To be earning a reasonable amount monthly from all the writing I do.

    How does that sound? I had fun doing it.
    Anne LG

    • Don’t feel unwanted Anne, you’re one of the original members and part of the team! But publish Sunday’s Child through Year Zero. Actually, that’s my number 11 – to see your book come out as YZ.

    • Anne, I can’t imagine you ever being unwanted anywhere. Certainly not here


    • I’m writing a cookbook without recipes! It’s intuitive cooking instruction, plus anecdotes from my days in the kitchen. Hardass view of cooking, in other words. It’s written actually, I just need photos and layout. And I have to publish my novel first, and also get 29 Jobs more publicity. I can’t do this list by the way.
      So yeah, I’m totally non-fiction all the way! (and 29 Jobs technically is non-fiction, check it out!)


    • I do non-fiction! I have two non-fiction projects started, but they’re both historical and take a lot of reserach I don’t have the time for right now. One I will probably be working on until I’m a senior citizen (after I’ve learned many dead languages), and the other is just about writing/creating historically accurate characters.

    • Thanks, guys.

  7. Dan –

    ‘4. To be approached with an offer by an agent or publisher, and to say no’

    Would you really? And if so, why?

    • Yes, it’s something I’ve realised over the past 3 or 4 months. The reason for saying “yes” is financial. we’re in debt, and have no way of increasing what we earn, to the point where at some point over the next two years we will probably be forced to move somewhere so small my wife has another full-scale breakdown, and an advance would stave that time off – for a year maybe. But I’m never going to get the money from a publisher to give up the day job or get us out of trouble completely, so actually, what would I gain? And what I’d lose would be control over my work, over the direction it takes. And I’d lose being part of this place – and to be honest, if it IS going to happen it’s going to happen here. It sounds odd but I genuinely believe there’s more writing talent here than in any indie press. And I think we’ve got the ideas to give us a better chance of breaking out as authors here than we do in the mainstream.

      As for why I would like to be approached – that should be obvious, I hope. Words are cheap,and I know there are people who think it’s all very well for me to sayall that becasue I have no choice. That and the general feeling that self-publishing is a fall-back rather than a first choice. And why shouldn’t people think I’m only saying it because I have no choice? Words ARE easy. It’s choices that really make it mean something. And it would get column inches for Year Zero, wouldn’t it?

  8. Okay, here goes. I’ll only do six, since I agree fully on Dan’s 1, 8, 9, and 10.

    1) To learn how to write without form, but still saying what I want to say
    2) To really understand what you guys are writing between the lines. As a non-native I sometimes struggle at this a lot.
    3) To furnish something to this forum that spurs another member on, or encourages someone outside YZW to start writing.
    4) To let Tulagi Hotel loose on the world and then take whatever I get, negative and positive.
    5) To finally believe myself when I tell myself I can do this.
    6) To try writing in Finnish too. After all, it might work.

    And that concludes my list, with which I wish the best of all possible Christmases to all members, and all of the readers we have too!

  9. thanks a lot, dan, now my insomnia will be THAT much worse as i go over in my head the succinct 10 point roster to-do list as a writer. FUCK.

  10. I’d like to…
    1. see Year Zero mentioned in a newspaper or magazine that I’d actually buy
    2. see one or more Year Zero books top some sort of chart (you only have to sell 2,000 books to be an Irish best seller)
    3. work at getting in those 10,000 hours
    4. write outside my comfort zone a bit more
    5. finish my novel
    6. screw up the nerve to read in public
    7. be offered work by a certain editor…so I can experience the joy of saying, “Fuck off.”
    8. come up with some new brilliant way to promote Year Zero
    9. hear something Year Zero-related referenced by someone famous (Nick Nolte?)
    and finally….
    10. Next Christmas, every gift I buy will be indie.

  11. Hey – this is a magic board! Another one of my wishes came true tonight – Amazon have corrected my RRP AND dropped their retail price by £17! So that’s a good omen for all the YZ wishes posted here! (Because Amazon never correct mistakes, so if they can move so can everyone else.)

  12. They’re insane.

  13. Actually can mine go up to 11?

    Like to add seeing 3 nights a week programmes on TV discussing literature and ideas like they do in France.


  14. This is my one true wish for 2010, and I can’t stress it enough.

    1. To be recognized as an author first instead of an artist.

    You have no idea. I have an insane amount of passion for my novels, and that’s what I want to be known for.

    But these goals are okay, too.

    2. To do a reading somewhere [cool] of pieces from Beautiful Things and Improper Love Poems
    3. For someone else to understand or just love Improper Love Poems
    4. To finish the art of Beautiful Things that Happen to Ugly People
    5. To publish Beautiful Things
    6. To finish Where the Sun Never Dies (my magnum opus!)
    7. To start a decent rewrite of The Gate
    8. To become a better graphologist
    9. To meet another YZ member in person
    10. To grow to be a legitimate 5′ 3″

    I see 2-10 happening, but not 1. Consider this a prophecy.

    • Sarah, please let us promote Where the Sun never Dies – number 1 WWILL then happen. Well, it’ll happen anyway with your writing, but we’d like to bask in your reflected glory. I’d personally like to make enough money to fly you over so I can meet you AND you can hedline a reading.

      • I’m trying to make enough money to get to where you are! Don’t come over here, it’s a snooze.

        I just have to finish the third draft of WTSND . . . which has been on my to do list for three years now. Crossing my fingers now.

  15. ‘Yes, it’s something I’ve realised over the past 3 or 4 months. The reason for saying “yes” is financial… And what I’d lose would be control over my work, over the direction it takes. And I’d lose being part of this place – and to be honest, if it IS going to happen it’s going to happen here. It sounds odd but I genuinely believe there’s more writing talent here than in any indie press. And I think we’ve got the ideas to give us a better chance of breaking out as authors here than we do in the mainstream.’
    – Speaking for myself, what a publisher would offer is the resources I don’t have to get my book reviewed nationally and on the shelves and tables of bookshops throughout the country; to get beyond groups of writers to readers. To do that sort of on your own with a literary novel is very hard – marketing, PR, distribution is all work, which, one way or another, means money.

    You’ve done amazing work already with Year Zero, and I can only congratulate you, but the key question to me is how you get beyond the circles of writers and their peers into the big world outside.

    In terms of freedom to write what you want, I don’t think you or I are ever going to mainstream, but if an agent was interested, it would be because they like the sort of stuff we write – no publisher is going to attempt to turn Dan Holloway into Dan Brown. At the same time, a sensitive first class editor (rare creatures) would be something I’d actually appreciate.

    I always thought the next stage was for Year Zero to become a publisher, but I think we always disagreed on this.

    • Roland, with ever shrinking budgets, mainstream publishers via agents aren’t going to significantly help an author with PR & marketing. Yes they will get your book into the chains, but if it doesn’t go literary viral, you will probably be dropped after your 2 book deal. The chances of your book going viral (and by this I mean only 2-3000 sales), I don’t think having an agent/publisher will significantly increase them – yes they will lie on tables in shops more than POD ever can, but there is little more impetus for them to move off those tables and shelves into the hands of readers. It all lies with the authors’ own efforts and Year Zero represents marketing economies of scale in that quest.


    • We only disagree on Year Zero becoming a publisher because my experience is that the moment financial bonds are involved the freedom and creativity cease to flow quite as well, and axieties creep in about all kinds of things. I would much rather be a freelance impreario for the Year Zero cause, and leave the money-making to what I can get for my own books, articles, and invited speeches.

      I think where I have a differnt outlook from you is I just don’t see carving a name for myself as being about writing a book and selling it – it’s about building a relationship with readers over the course of many books and many years – it’s something that happens slowly and organically. I’m happy to amke fans ten or even one at a time, and see how it grows from there. And I guess it’s an unhealthy arrogance, but I DO think I can, given practice, deliver a live show that will win over new fans – and combining the shows with music is exactly how to reach new people.

      Leading on from that – I’m not so worried what an agent/publisher would do with Songs. It’s what they’d expect me to do next. And the fact is there would BE an expectation of what I’d do next, and for me that’s a no-no. If I look at where I could be a year from now witha n agent/publisher, of course I expect I’d be ahead of where I would be without. But 10 years from now if I had an agent/publisher? I’d either have been booted out for poor sales, and any self-publishing would be desperately tarnished as sad attempts to recapture past inglories, or i’d be stuck midlist. And without? I’ll probably still be in a crappy day job writing weird shit no one wants to read. But where I COULD be…

      And I don’t want to leave this place – I can’t imagine another place as exciting to be.

  16. Marc – by ‘mainstream’ do you mean all commercial publishers? The ‘literary novel’ is a minority interest from the start, and I would rather be with a small publisher with a focussed list than a big publishers who takes on a lot of authors and drops them (as if I have a choice…). But I think a presence in bookshops is crucial (it’s still, I believe, where most books are sold), as it getting your book reviewed. Yes, it’s hard for a commercial publisher to sell a literary novel, it’s even harder to do it on your own. You could well be right, but having self-published, I haven’t given up my attempt to get an agent.

    It occurred to me yesterday that in some ways it’s easier here to sell a debut screenplay than to sell a debut novel, despite the fact the UK hardly has a film industry, (I have a few friends who are screenwriters). This is because publishers, and therefore agents, are unlikely to make money from a unknown debut author; there’s little incentive to take you on. In film, however, most audiences are unaware of or have little interest in who the screenwriter is – if a screenplay is strong, it has potential to make money, whoever wrote it. I mention it, not to encourage everybody to try to write screenplays (which are deceptively hard), but just to highlight what is becoming increasingly apparent to me – the literary world is one of the toughest areas of the arts or media to break into. Yet somehow people have the idea it is polite and gentlemanly…

  17. Dan – ‘I think where I have a differnt outlook from you is I just don’t see carving a name for myself as being about writing a book and selling it – it’s about building a relationship with readers over the course of many books and many years… And I … DO think I can, given practice, deliver a live show that will win over new fans…’

    I think live performance is great – I love going to live shows – but I see it very different from writing novels. Novels aren’t the only thing I’m interested in (I’m not even sure I’ll write another one, but don’t tell any potential agents) – I’m still a filmmaker at heart – but if I’m going to have one, I’d like it to be in bookshops. Performance interests me too, but I’d want to include music and images if I were going down that route…

    All of which suggests our ideas aren’t so different. The literary novel is in a weird place in our culture at the moment; the last decade and half hasn’t delivered the sort of cult/zeitgeist novel we’ve always had around in the past (Kerouac/Heller/Pynchon/Amis/Gibson/Murakami/Coupland/Welsh//Self/Houellebecq) and to which most of us feel some sort of connection to in our own writing – or if it has, I’ve been unaware of it.

    • Apologies -I was reading a position onto you – there are so many people who write a book and then try to sell it, and for me that’s just wrong. For me writing is something I’m in for the long haul, and it’s about building a following and relationship with readers – which will happen over the course of many novelas and years, and will be done in many ways – and I’m happy to “sacrifice” novels I write now to build a following long term – heck I can always release them as back catalogue later! I write just over a novela year, and I expect that to continue. I wuold also hope I’ll keep getting better – so being precious about selling lots of copies of THIS novel just doesn’t compute to me – it sounds like the sort of thing soemone would say if they were frightened they didn’t have another book in them. So apologies – I shall make that a general point rather than a response to you.

      Yes, literary fiction is ina very strange place. I was HUGELY heartened by my meeting with To Hell With First Novels – there ARE people who care about the future, but yes, there hasn’t been a great novel that the youth (and yes, it IS the youth, teh students who adopt books) have made their own, have made a cultural icon. I think Generation X is probably the last, in terms of UK authors it was probably The Wasp Factory. But increasingly – away from the cynical cyberchatrooms – I get the impression people are waiting for the next one. There’s a feeling that it’s time. And that’s exciting. It makes me want to get writing on teh off chance it could be one of mine.

  18. Wonderful challenge, this list. As if I didn’t have enough distractions keeping me wide awake at 2:44 am! Thank you, Dan, for blurring the line between “readers” and “writers”. In 2010 I want to be more about writing and supporting other writers, than just being a spectator or consumer. Since coming across this post yesterday, I’ve come up with one target so far (+1 counting the pledge of 10 hours): finishing my “Nomad Child” project.

    This I know is totally doable, and yet totally scary, like most things that are ultimately of great value.

    • That reminds me what we should all have included but didn’t – getting a full night’s sleep at least once a week!!

      Thank you for posting about your Nomad Child project. We willa ll now be here to harry you through the year and hold you to it 🙂

    • 1000 words a night. it works. promise.

  19. I’ll be back to type my 10 at silly o’clock.

  20. 1 Put together the book idea @dijeratic & I are discussing, using pages from my notes/sketchbooks + DJ’s music.

    2 Keep working toward the big thing – it comes to me in snapshots – its hiding in my head. To get it on paper I’ll have to cut the safety ropes, experiment more, abandon ship – but it must retain some sort of shape because I want it to be a piece I’d bother to read myself.

    3 Finish & document the ‘word wall’ idea I’ve been fiddling with for past 18 mnths. I’ve cut out letter shapes from Vogues, each letter from a single, full page, in caps. They’re stuck all over my walls & we use them like fridge magnets, to write messages that mark the seasons (they’re arranged all the way around the livingroom in a border of gibberish & tinsel right now). I want to clear a wall to make a ‘mood poem’ with them = shapes/words/colours. That was my intention & I must do it.

    4 I want to try a live reading. Would love to love it.

    5 But I’m even more trepidatious about recording myself reading Temporary Passport & House. I’ve gone past the deadline I set myself for this. If I can do it without ruining them with my skwawking duck voice it will be a miracle. (I sound like John Cooper Clark if he’d grown up in SE London & got his balls chopped off).

    6 Following on from what Dan said about SLEEP – I want more time. Bibi pointed out the huge purple shadows under my eyes yesterday. I wrote Bone Dust on the bus, in the kitchen whilst waiting for pasta to simmer & in wee hour sessions & all nighters throughout her recent mixed bag of illness. She starts ‘big school’ in Sept 10, which will mean: no more school run!! This will free up 2 daylight hours a day. Before then though, I want to fix a date to meet Dan for coffee & not have to cancel & also, meet Chris Boyd, maybe even get to bloody Liverpool – another miracle I’m askin for here. I want to be able to read more – here on YZ blog & in general. I’m a bookworm but I haven’t worked out how it fits into my work routine yet…. which leads to…

    7 Get more organised. Including – buy a big bunch of black Bics & position them about my person & home. Again, Bone Dust – I wrote whole piece with Bibi’s ‘Violent Veg’ pen & her glitzy golden wand. Have made my apologies & bought her a new set for Christmas.

    8 Write the Girly Goodheart & Jonny Sausage story. It is ever expanding in my notebook & on backs of shopping lists & gas bills. This ties in with no.2 & the general need to simply WRITE.

    9 This is highly unlikely: Devise a dastardly strategy to side-step the big hollow.

    10 See YZ EVERYWHERE! In neon! Flashing!


    • What a fantastic insight into the world of Penny 🙂

    • I love John Cooper Clarke and his voice is mesmeric when he reads his poetry, so don’t be shy about reading. I think I’ve got a really limited range in my voice and it’s rather uninteresting, but it’s the personality you can get across by the whole performance thing, not just voice. GO FOR IT, the material you have is so strong the crowd WILL fall in love with you and be seduced.


    • Brilliant! But it obviously suits you to write with a purple pen while the pasta is boiling – don’t change a thing. It produces work of genius. Stay as busy as you are.

  21. You’ve also met me and mine isn’t. Still, what the hell…


  22. Outrage is the right word! Haha. Thanks for geeing me up, guys. I was practising in the kitchen earlier & shocked the hell out of myself by bursting into song. I was singing: ‘…this lounge will always be curtains drawn – to shut out the glaring percussion of noOOOWWw…’ in tone deaf operatic hysteria. Oops.

  23. Taped voices sound different than we expect ourselves to hear because it is a recording made without the intercession of other vibrations which we have when we hear ourselves speak. A taped recording is heard purely through our ear since it is an external broadcast. When we speak however, we also hear ourselves through the vibrations of our talking jaw bon which changes the quality of our speech – we experience it internally as much as externally through our ears.


  24. My speaking voice is kind of annoying. At least, when I hear it recorded, it is. I’ve never been told this. And when I get nervous, or am trying to be polite, I gain an accent.
    – Sarah

    • I’m SO intrigued to hear what you sound like – half of me expects you to sound like someone from the OC, and half of me expects Barbara Stanwyck – ooh! Idea – if you’re ever ata meet up we should make ita Barbara Stanwyck party – the very finest of film noir.


      • Who ARE these people? I’ve never seen the OC.
        I sound like a twenty year old Californian, pretty much. I will have to go find someone to describe my voice.
        – Sarah

  25. Okay, mother says I sound my age when I’m just speaking — having a normal conversation. But when I’m reading/acting/giving a speech, I sound older. And then I asked about my sarcastic voice and she said ‘eeeuuuuughhh it’s kind of grating’. Ha ha. Now I don’t know what bugs her more, the sarcasm or the actual voice.
    – Sarah

  26. Who’s Barbara Stanwyck? She IS film noir! Double Indemnity et al

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: