The Weekly Man – What Is the Coffee Break Novel?

CoffeeNovel

Everyone needs a coffee break. It’s that period of time during the workday when you say to yourself, “If I don’t have a coffee right now, this minute, I’m going to kill somebody.” Not that you particularly want to harm anyone (unless, of course, telemarketers have your work number) but, you know, it might be Monday. It might even be Monday morning. On the other hand, it might not be a weekday. It might be Saturday or Sunday and you’re sitting on the beach under a beautiful blue sky thinking, “Damn, I’m missing my coffee break. Why don’t beaches have coffee?” I do this all the time and I’m sure you do as well.

So, now that we’re thoroughly covered the topic of coffee breaks and their contribution to a healthy (and alive) workforce and their absence from beaches, let’s talk about coffee break activities. Some people read newspapers because they hate trees and want to see every tree in the world turned into a newspaper with stories about the shocking conspiracy to deforest the planet by sending the rain forests off to the printers. Some people like to talk to their co-workers about what they watched on TV the night before. This used to be Game of Thrones episodes. Now, it’s arguments about what happened on old Game of Thrones episodes, especially the finale. Some people like to just sit and stare. I’m seeing this more often and it kind of scares me. But we won’t get into that. Some people like to transport themselves out of the workplace and into another world (not the ones staring…they’ll be doing that all day) through the medium of story.

And that brings us to the coffee break novel. I scoured the internet for over a minute and the only mention I could find was a Kijiji ad posted by me. So…I guess that leaves it up to me to make up…I mean, define the coffee break novel.

Let’s start by listing some characteristics. First, it’s intended to be read during the reader’s coffee break. This can be problematic given that some people might be missing two coffee breaks each week because their employers refuse to let them work seven days a week, forcing them to take weekend coffee breaks at home so that they don’t miss any of the story. This could actually lead to dysfunctional activities like sneaking into work on weekend mornings but I’m sure that most people will opt to create a reproduction of their workplace in their basement or spare room so as not to miss a single episode. Others might do some speed reading Monday morning.

And speaking of episodes…that’s another characteristic of the coffee break novel: It’s parceled out in episodes…each with just enough reading to get you through your morning java fix. The Weekly Man is just right for this. It’s naturally broken into episodes following the lives of seven characters, each with their own day of the week to tell their story. There is one spot where this runs awry and may require a three to four day break before plummeting head first into the dazzling conclusion but that’s a few months away and, by the time it comes, I think all two of my readers will need a short break.

The coffee break novel should be mostly light-hearted as in humorous. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be serious, heart-breaking, soul-blistering, tear-prodding, existential moments, of which there are a few in the novel, but these are introduced for the sole purpose of pacing the story like a roller-coaster. There will be no flat lining in any of my stories. I mean, even Mary Poppins had her down moments. But for the most part, it’s going to be humor and lightness of being because it’s your coffee break and you don’t need to be crying and borrowing tissues from your co-workers on your coffee break. (WARNING: The first episode of The Weekly Man is not humorous. But it has a sort of happy ending.)

There has to be a strong element of weirdness so that the novel is able to compete against the news of the day, which keeps getting weirder by the day. And besides, I’m weird and it’s my invention, so I’m calling for weirdness.

All coffee break novels should have more than one character. This makes it much easier to create things like conversations, conflict, plot, human interaction and all those other elements that might cause a story to become interesting. Plus, there has to be both male and female characters because that’s more like real life and we’re all big fans of real life, aren’t we?

Words. The coffee break novel draws on a list of easily recognizable and commonly used words with careful attention paid to correct spelling and usage. I’m seeing less and less of this in most of the world’s published content, either online or in print and I think this is something we all need to enthusiastically gossip about in all the right places…because we all know that meeting a challenge with gossip is more effective than meeting it with thoughts and prayers. Hopefully, The Weekly Man will lead us out of this barbaric mire of editorial carelessness.

Well, actually, that probably won’t happen, but as long as there are coffee breaks, there will always be a need for something to do during the coffee break…and now the world has one more thing designed specifically for that.

It’s called the coffee break novel and The Weekly Man is the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel.

Back When I Was An Ebook Germ

 

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Many long grueling years ago, I was invited to give a presentation on ebooks at the University of New Brunswick’s prestigious Maritime Writers Workshop. The presentation was held in a large theater with tall stained glass windows before an audience of students, instructors, professors and anyone interested in literature. The room was packed.

I stood before the audience and talked about how ebooks were the coming wave in publishing…how they cut distribution and production costs, put more control in the hands of authors, lowered the cost of books….you know, the things we take for granted today. Pretty much the entire audience seemed enthralled by this concept, especially the aspiring writers.

I seem to recall one of the professors showing some interest, but the others stared at me like I was a stalagmite of bacteria sprouting out of the floor. One of them seemed offended that I was talking this sacrilegious nonsense on the last day of the venerable workshop, poisoning the minds of promising writers and despoiling the honorable repetition of Canada’s longest running literary workshop.

To be fair, the early days of ebooks were a chaotic scramble. Try to imagine a bumper car ride filled with drunken drivers on meth. This was before Kindle, Kobo and Nook. The standard methods of delivery were the PDF file, the floppy disk and the CD-ROM. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that Stephen King serialized a novel delivered on the Glass reader, a piece of software that, thank God, drowned in the advances made by other ereaders. The Rocket Ebook and Softbook suffered the same fate.

Writers who’d been turned down by every publisher on the planet because they couldn’t write a complete paragraph without insulting the rules of grammar and showed their dismal lack of storytelling ability were paying hundreds of dollars to have their books published electronically by scam companies proliferating across the literary horizon. Fortunately, few of these writers knew anything about marketing and most of the scammers offered marketing services that the writers couldn’t afford.

On the other hand, there were those who embraced the new technology with enthusiasm and the belief that epublishing was just as important as the advent of the printing press.

But…back to the workshop. I received a generous round of applause from most of the audience, but lukewarm from that area where the profs looked at me like I was something awful and hopefully not contagious.

After the presentation, I did some mingling, answered a few questions and was just about to leave when one of the profs approached me and said, “So you really believe that these things are actually books?”

Before I could answer, he went on to say that ebooks were a passing fad and that serious writers and publishers would never accept them, as though any book in ebook format was automatically not good writing. So I asked him if The Sun Also Rises (which I’d just read for the second time) were to be published in as an ebook, would it still be a great novel? He gave me that bacteria look, scowled and just walked away.

I’m not sure how he feels about ebooks today, but I do know that The Sun Also Rises is available in ebook format and it’s still a great book. In fact, I might just read it again on my Kindle.

I think the discrepancy in thinking here is confusion between content and format. Granted, the early days of ebooks were iffy on some fronts, but what we’re really talking about is the writing itself. Good writing is good writing whether in print or digitized. Bad writing is bad writing whether in print or digitized.

Our attitudes have come a long way since then, given that we’ve become more of a “content-based” society willing to accept alternate presentation methods as long as the content is good, but I still come across people who look at me like I’m a germ when I pull out my Kindle in a waiting room or plane. I’m tempted to look across the room or aisle and say, “It’s The Sun Also Rises. Have you read it?”

WARNING: I read both ebooks and print books…ebooks early in the day and print books before bed. The reason? Screens emit blue light, which inhibits the production of sleep-inducing melatonin and puts your brain on alert status. So treat your ereader like coffee in the evening.

(Shown above is the cover for my first novel…cover artists Brock Parks and Paul McNeil. It was first published by a law firm in California in PDF format and then by Jacobyte Books in Australia in print-on-demand and CD-ROM formats.)