Year Zero Writers has existed as a group since January. Which makes writing a progress column one of those “where on earth do I start?” exercises.
So where I start is this. A twice-weekly column. On Tuesdays I’ll bring things up to date with the “why” and the “what” of the group. And later in the week I’ll take things forward from where we are now.
Rather Like I did with my 10 commandments, I’ll start out with one of those contents-page type columns to give you an idea of what’s coming up over the coming weeks. So, here we are:
1 (this one!) What do Year Zero Writers stand for? What’s our manifesto?
2 How do you go about setting up a collective? What were people’s responses to the project?
3 Why a collective?
4 We are not a small publisher. We are a group of self-publishing writers with common goals and a common theme to our writing.
5 Marketing – how do you get the economy of scale of being a group without losing individuality? How do you decide what to do and what not to do?
6 Quality control. What does it mean? How important is it? How does it work in a collective?
7 Tip-toeing through legal minefields
So, this is our manifesto:
The Factory: agents, editors, media arbiters of taste, publishers. A chain of filters that takes raw fiction, cuts it, sells it on, cuts it again until the street product peddled to readers is weak, toxic, and addictive.
YEAR ZERØ exists to eliminate the impurities and deliver prose in the pure and raw.
Pushing the boundaries of substance through new technologies, YEAR ZERØ provides prose just as addictive, in many cases just as toxic, but with a powerful, instant high that will stay with you for life.YEAR ZERØ is not an industry. YEAR ZERØ is not a group of writers. YEAR ZERØ is not a set of beliefs. YEAR ZERØ is an approach to culture.
· Culture is the breath we suck from each others’ lips.
· Culture is not alive. Culture is life.
· Readers and writers, like all producers and consumers of culture, cannot exist apart from each other. They exist only insomuch as literature flows between them. Inasmuch as The Factory exists to separate readers from writers it exists only to bring death, to create ghosts and hollow men.
· Culture speculates; culture takes risks; culture hijacks every human artifice and structure in the name of life.
YEAR ZERØ exists as a conduit for this process.
We are not YEAR ZERØ. We are some of its voices. You are its heart.
Why? I hope the thing that’s come through more than anything else in this blog is my belief that culture is a conversation. It’s about readers and writers talking, about the living, breathing, dynamic relation between them. The more I talk about writing, the more I read from my own writing in public, the more I know that something happens when this relationship is direct that just can’t happen in any other way. Which doesn’t mean books aren’t for curling up with in the bath. But that when you curl up and block out everything but the sound of the words on the page, you somehow have to know the only voice you hear is that of the author (that’s sort of rhetorical – I’m not making a statement about POV :-)).
I have a feeling, though, that literature for me will always be about more than words on the page. Having just come back from a conference where I got to take part in a writing workshop with one of the most inspiring writer/teachers I’ve ever met and to give a paper based on my novel – watching the audience’s faces as they listened, I will always want to do it in a way that gets people excited by words and stories in an immediate way.
All kinds of writers can share these goals. Next week I’ll explain how we arrived at our current 20 members.