3 Hours and 41 Minutes until my self imposed deadline, so this is a v quick post to bring you into my world at a pretty crucial moment.
If I had any sense, I'd give myself until last post tomorrow to finish these submissions. When I set up this deadline, however, I obviously felt that would be an indulgence so I've got to finish everything before I get to bed tonight.
Editing is horrid and impossible and editors should be paid twice as much as they are. I am currently editing from my two favourite edits - side by side on a rocking chair - one's annotated in blue and the other in red. I'm ticking the changes from the blue one in red and the changes from the red one in blue.
I honestly thought I couldn't edit any more than I already had, so I handed the latest version to Mr W to read and he pulled out two errors I hadn't even seen. I knew how the words sounded in my head and I'd read them that way even though the words weren't even there. Aargh!
Right. No more chat from me. Back to work. Hope agents realise I'm happy to edit again if I've screwed up in any way. Well... 'happy' might be pushing it. :) Let's say I'm happy to be advised and willing to take whatever steps I can to make my work wonderfully publishable.
3 Hours and 41 Minutes until my self imposed deadline, so this is a v quick post to bring you into my world at a pretty crucial moment.
I'm starting to wish I hadn't made this deadline public. Had to really though didn't I? It helps to know there is a literary mob waiting to beat me up verbally if I don't stick to the plan :)
Am I going to make it? Of course. I'll make the deadline because I always do. Never quite sure how it happens but it does. The question is: will I make it?
A number of publishers have been jolly nice to me of late and that's surely no bad thing but it's not necessarily more than a pleasant thing either. If my work isn't up to standard then no amount of friendly chat will save it from the bin.
Is it? My work, I mean, Is it good enough?
So far I've jumped through the following hoops:
1/ Learnt English
2/ Had car accident, fallen into coma, emerged from coma unable to speak
3/ Learnt English again
4/ Got Degree in English
5/ Did lots of research about publishing and novel writing
6/ Written novel
6/ Written sequel
7/ Set up online presence
8/ Built up following of writers, readers, publishers, agents, editors and other media people and a couple of celebrities
9/ Got feedback on my writing from best selling authors
10/ Edited both books. Re-edited first book.
11/ Got agent.
Ha! Fooled you! Didn't get to point 11 yet. This is the bit I'm scared about. The rest of it was in my control but the next bit is not. It's a big, black hole of potential disappointment.
Over the last year, I've taken to reading a few novels by authors doing very well in the 'contemporary commercial women's fiction' category - which is where I think my two books would fall. Some of their work has been great but on more than one occasion I've stared at a page for many minutes, unable to go on, thinking:
'What? That's not right! How on earth did they manage to get THAT published?'
There is one book in particular that sold incontinently well and I could not get past the first chapter for months because of one horrible sentence. It was just ghastly. I'd love to quote it in all its ghastliness as I'm sure you'd agree but it wouldn't be fair to the author so I won't. The thing is that I know this author would have no problem churning out this substandard level of text for huge sums of money for the rest of their life. Maybe their own sense of pride in their work will cause them to improve but even if that doesn't happen, publishers will be happy to continue publishing them.
That isn't something I'd want. I want to be REALLY good. My dream is to find an agent and publisher that take me on because they believe in my work but they won't let me submit anything sub-standard. Even when it becomes really sale-able I wouldn't want someone 'blowing smoke up my ass' as I think you say in America. I desperately want to find a group of people I can work with to get the best possible work published as commercially as possible. Will it happen though? Have I done enough to help it to happen?
The last few years have been intolerably hard for many reasons and it has been a real work of determination to get these books written. There have been times when we've gone without food or without warmth so that we could afford the electricity for me to get words on a screen or the ink to get words on paper. My husband has put as much into these books as I have. Maybe that's why I'm freaking out a bit at the moment. If I don't get published, I'm not the only person I am letting down.
Part of me thinks that I have done as much as I possibly can to give my work the best chance of success but another part of me wonders if that could ever be the case. Is there something I missed? What else needs to happen before Monday to help my words onto the bookshelves at Waterstones?
Dear Readers of From Brain to Bookshelf, The success of my Twitter page has taken me by surprise and as the deadline moves closer, a number of publishers and agents have made themselves known via both Twitter and this Blog. What I do next is crucial so I'm after some informed feedback. I'm writing fast so grammatical errors and cliches are inevitable - skip over them. Published authors, editors and general writing professionals currently following this blog: lend me your ears. The other point is that if I wanted to be an agent, I'd become one. As I want to be an author, it makes sense to let someone else be the agent or else when am I going to write? Jamie Ford sent me an email yesterday making a good case for agents too and he's a New York Times Best Seller so who am I to disagree?
Well, the timer's counting down and right now it's flashing '4 days, 14 hours, 43 minutes' at me. My novel's going to leave the house.
I said I'd take you with me every step of the way so I suppose I can't bail out on what's happening right now - which is blind panic by
In my mind, my ideal scenario is to establish a working arrangement with a really good agent first. I'm pretty determined, and not completely clueless about business, so I could probably do a fair amount of the business and media side of things myself but I'd rather have someone on board who specialises. I know some writers think this is daft as you're giving away your earnings but I think it's worth the money. If an agent wants to earn a hefty commission, they have to get you a really kick-arse deal after all. It's in their best interests to look after your best interests.
Given that I want an agent, that should be my first port on the next leg of the journey. When the timer hits zero, I should send off my first three chapters to agents only right? This is where I stumble. There are many publishers following me right now. What if they're keeping an eye on the timer too? Will they be cross if I don't also write to them?
With the logic bit of my brain switched on, I think they might not, as they generally prefer doing business with agents rather than authors from what I've read. The logic bit says 'contact the agents first.' The author bit, however, says 'but... they're publishers... and they're following you... send out so many manuscripts that you have to spend the rest of your life planting trees to make up for it.'
What do you think?
Dear Readers of From Brain to Bookshelf,
The success of my Twitter page has taken me by surprise and as the deadline moves closer, a number of publishers and agents have made themselves known via both Twitter and this Blog. What I do next is crucial so I'm after some informed feedback. I'm writing fast so grammatical errors and cliches are inevitable - skip over them. Published authors, editors and general writing professionals currently following this blog: lend me your ears.
The other point is that if I wanted to be an agent, I'd become one. As I want to be an author, it makes sense to let someone else be the agent or else when am I going to write? Jamie Ford sent me an email yesterday making a good case for agents too and he's a New York Times Best Seller so who am I to disagree?
Confused of the Cotswolds.
P.S. With a bit of luck and a following wind, I'll be in the London Evening Standard today... Cross fingers for me.
Overwhelming amounts of potential goodness. Can't say much as the last few days have been a lesson in keeping my trap shut in case things don't go as planned but... Ooooh! This could be good! A number of very nice things MAY be about to happen. They mightn't but they MAY. If they don't, I will need a strong cup of tea but if they DO it will be HUGE!!!
Will say more when I know for sure one way or the other. I will need your overwhelming sympathy or thinly disguised envy shortly. :)
I know I have a largely American readership on this blog but if the 'Jools and Mimi' episode of Sex and the City taught me anything - and it taught me many things - it was that you chaps get a certain amount of our state-sponsored telly, so I'll share this nugget with you on the off chance. You can download BBC progs anyway so you'll probably be able to get this. English readership... just ignore the previous paragraph and prepare your goggle-box for mischief.
Back in the day, I attended a glorious tutorial establishment called Southampton University and one of the many things I did there was to learn how to act. The funniest chap on my drama course was a bug-eyed genius called Marek Larwood. Said genius has just messaged me the following:
We are Klang Show Imminent
As you read this blog Marek and his sketch partners are filming an excrutiatingly funny (if past form is anything to go by) TV show due to air in October. Fans of Marek and his friends will have enjoyed him and/or them in 'Rush Hour', 'The Inbetweeners', 'Laura, Ben and Him', 'Extras' etc, etc, etc... Tune in for more laughs.
I still expect to find Narnia when I open the cupboard under my stairs - hasn't happened yet. Marek's sense of humour has warped my husband's mind. Every now and then he giggles and mutters 'mind rent.' Wonder how Marek's new show will extend the vocabulary of his comedy Tourettes.
Molly Smithson had always been a tuning fork for gossip, with every newsworthy whisper that reached her environs tuned to the perfect pitch for the next recipient. Of late, Molly had refined this craft with such expertise that she had graduated from tuning fork to Gossip Alchemist.
As Molly strode to the village shop, down narrow streets that wound between the cottages of Uppish-On-The-Wold, she pounced with panther-like stealth on all her fellow villagers to devour the latest news. Although they all complained about her nosiness, the twinkly blue eyes that peered out from behind dark lashes had a way of pulling news out of them. Specks of gossip flew towards Molly like metal filings to a magnet and, in no time at all, she had smelted them down and turned them into pure gossip gold.
‘No Gerald,’ said a female voice, ‘she won’t be able to stop here long enough. William and Harry are at the Royal South West on Saturday. They’ll need to get home.’
Molly gasped. The Royal South West was a huge country show. She knew Zara, the cousin of the royal brothers, had competed there in the past and the two princes were known to attend almost every year. It couldn’t be true, but it must. Princes William and Harry were coming to the duck race on Saturday before they went to the show. Just as Molly thought she could not be more excited, she remembered another part of the conversation. There was a ‘she’ in the sentence that had been whispered with such reverence. Who could it be but...
‘The Queen!’ Molly blurted as she reached the counter.
‘Pardon?’ asked the shopkeeper.
Molly looked around. The two others had left.
‘You’ll never believe it Mr Stafford. Something amazing is happening this weekend.’
‘The duck race? Well, it’s nice and all but it happens every year Love.’
‘Yes it does. It does. That’s why she is honouring us with her presence no doubt. The duck race is important to the community. It is a symbol of all it means to be British.’
‘Well, now, you’re pushing it there. It’s some plastic ducks and a stream. It’s for the kiddies.’
‘Yes it is. It’s for the kiddies, as you say. It’s our way of sharing the village with the next generation and that’s why the village is now so important to the people at the top of the country.’
‘People at the top? What are you blathering about now Molly? You mean the politicians? Do you not watch the news? My Council Tax is a blooming scandal. Why would they care about a duck race?’
Molly sighed with impatience. Usually she had a bit of time to spin an elegant tale and she felt the gilt was wearing off her golden gossip.
‘Not the politicians Mr S. The Queen.’
‘What?’ Mr Stafford looked rattled. ‘This weekend?’
‘The very same.’ Molly smiled as her gossip hit the bullseye.
‘But why? Who said?’
‘It’s very hush-hush. I heard it from a reliable source. It is being whispered that both the princes will be here too: William and Harry!’
‘The young princes? In Uppish-on-the-Wold? Would they come into the shop do you think?’
‘They might. In fact, they will. We should have a big party. I’ll organise it.’
No sooner had Molly left the shop than Mr Stafford had the ‘back in five minutes’ sign up on the door as he searched through the old boxes in his storeroom for the strings of bunting he had saved from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. They’d enjoyed a brief dusting off for the village Millenium party but this time he planned to give the bunting a really good clean. The Queen was coming to Uppish-on-the-Wold.
Mr Stafford walked through to the shop and looked at the wall behind the counter. He would move the health and safety notice and the poster urging people to buy local sausages. That would make space for a huge photo of him, the Queen and a bunting-bedecked Uppish Stores.
By the time Molly had returned to her cottage, she had already told three more villagers about the imminent arrival of their monarch. Donna Warren had a friend who was a florist. She would almost certainly provide them with some flowers and Donna’s own garden was brimming full of roses and sweet peas she could pick and bring into the street to decorate the post box and lamp posts. Hannah Burlington had already offered to bake cakes for Duck Race Day – there was no harm in her baking a few more. Mr Finch offered to bring Humbug – his old black and white cob – down from the farm. He’d throw a harness on him and polish up the old trap.
‘Her Majesty could go for a ride down the street in the trap if she wanted. It’s no Cinderella carriage but it’s good for a laugh.’
‘Absolutely,’ Molly agreed. ‘Of course both William and Harry will be here and they might want to, even if the Queen decides not to. Bring Humbug along Mr Finch.’
Duck Race Day finally arrived. The bridge over the stream where the race was to take place was covered in beautiful flowers from Donna’s garden. Her florist friend had brought in boxes and boxes of flowers which decorated everything from the telephone box to Uppish Stores. Bunting flapped joyously between the lamp posts and all along the main street, trestle tables covered with paper tablecloths were laden with cakes, homemade jams and yellow marzipan ducks. She had even invited Hetty Barboury-Bassett and her friends. She was going to be the talk of the villages for months.
Molly liked to think that she had organised the whole thing but secretly she knew that the moment word got around that the Queen and Princes William and Harry were coming to the village nothing would have stopped them putting together the best party in the county.
Lady Amsptonford was due to open Duck Race Day at ten o’ clock. Molly was desperate to see whether the Queen would be with her or not. As the Bentley approached, Molly could see only one other passenger in the back seat. The princes were certainly not there and she could not make out whether the person in the back was the Queen as she was almost completely obscured from sight by a large box on her lap.
The village was poised for their royal guest and, despite appearances to the contrary as the car parked, Mr Finch stroked Humbug’s neck in anticipation of what could be the horse’s greatest moment. The local television and radio crews positioned themselves for the big news story. Molly had been certain they would want to capture the moment so she had called them. She nodded to the school band who began to play ‘God Save the Queen’ as the rear door opened. With all cameras pointing at her, the visitor emerged from the car. It was not the Queen.
Once Lady Amsptonford had made her speech on the bridge and complimented the villagers on the outstanding displays of food and flowers, she introduced her guest.
‘It is with great excitement that I introduce a surprise guest today. Mrs Highfield is, as some of you may know, a prize-winning breeder of Aylesbury ducks and we are very grateful to her for bringing with her two of her finest to compete today. They can’t stay for long as they need to get ready for their competition at the Royal South West this afternoon but I’m sure you’ll all give a warm welcome to... William and Harry!’
Molly wanted to disappear. She felt sure that the whole village would turn on her for her mistake but instead they just laughed. Hetty patted her on the back ‘daft old mare’ she said to her friend. ‘Come on, let’s race ducks’ and they threw their plastic ducks into the stream along with all the others.
In the end, Harry and William didn’t want to race. They were quite content bobbing around and quacking at the locals. Humbug was happy to ferry giggling children up and down the village, and the cakes and jams all sold out. Everyone agreed it was the best Duck Race Day ever.
When Molly next went into Uppish Stores, she couldn’t help but grin as she saw the photo behind the counter. Mr Stafford smiling proudly in front of his bunting-covered shop with William under one arm and Harry under the other.
©Rebecca Woodhead 2009
Okay chaps and chapesses, I'm going to put up a wee bit of fiction. This isn't a serious literary tract - just a bit of light reading for you. It's a short story I wrote in a couple of hours last week after watching Trumpton and Camberwick Green (old children's progs featuring 'perfect' English villages in which everything runs smoothly. There is full employment and much playing of brass instruments.) I think this shows through :)
Made me giggle while I was writing though, so I hope you enjoy it too.
Crossing the International Punctuation Line - Could the Wrong Punctuation Put a Full Stop to Your Dreams?
Last week, I entered the introduction of a short story into a writing competition on an American blog (didn't win but got 4 stars/'crawfish'!) I received a mini-crit which was very useful and generally positive but one thing jumped out and slapped me: punctuation.
I made it through a secretarial qualification and BA Hons degree with my current distribution of spaces and marks but I admit that I had a moment of worry. The person who graded my entry is incredibly knowledgeable and a publishing professional. She knows her stuff. Maybe I was wrong. Double spaces after full stops = bad. Double inverted commas around speech = good.
A Tale of Two Tales
I picked up the book I'm currently reading - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet sent to me from America - and gasped. It was tricky to make out the spacing after the stops but the speech marks were twin lines. I grabbed the book I read previously - an English book. The spaces after the full stops were clearly double and the marks around speech were loners.
'Aha!' I thought (or should that be "aha"?) 'It's a cultural thing.' A bit of research online confirmed my suspicions. To add further to the international flavour/flavor of this post, the single space after a full stop, now preferred by some in America, is apparently called 'French Spacing.' Double spacing after a full stop is actually called 'English Spacing' or, confusingly, 'American Typewriter Spacing.'
There are even separate British and American rules on where to put punctuation around speech marks. I find this even more confusing and seem to jump between American and English on a regular basis. I am not using a passport to do this teleportation so I may be in breech of any number of laws - linguistic and geographical.
Do you Feel Lucky Punk-tuation?
These rules seem to be in flux and there are exceptions on both sides of the pond. Doubtless, the internet is throwing a spanner in the proverbial grammar factory and it's anyone's guess where the goalposts are - or how they're spaced. I'm all for establishing a new set of transatlantic rules for publication. The question is: are publishers? If the words are good enough, will publishers overlook eccentric spaces or is the tolerance policy zero when the spacing is double?
First Ebury Publishing and Now Bloomsbury - The Publishers Sending me Pressies in the Post this Week
I assumed that the first time a full manuscript-sized envelope dropped through my door from a publisher it would be the manuscript of my debut novel with an 'unfortunately' letter enclosed. Not so. First, Dim Wit fell through my door from Ebury Publishing and now I await the arrival from Bloomsbury of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Seriously folks, get on Twitter if you want some free goodies.
Get Involved with Publishing
Obviously, I'd love you all to be telling people about my writing and blogs but I'm not the only writer on the face of the planet and we're in a recession so it's only good publishing karma to help out the authors already in print isn't it? If they do well, the publishers will do well and if the publishers do well they'll be more likely to take a punt on new writers.
Let's harness the power of our own little networks to see how much we can move things along. It's good practice for when we all get published ourselves after all. It's all well and good for us to be navel-gazing and pondering endlessly on our would-be-author status but the fact of the matter is that some of us will be published soon *shock!* and when that happens, we'll need to know what to do next. Part of that is the business side of publishing - marketing and what-not - so let's have a go at it!
If you look at my previous post, you'll see I've started to promote Dim Wit using the hashtag #dimwit on Twitter. The people at Ebury Publishing have already put a link to that post here on the blog.
This is the point where I appeal to your inner 'but-it's-a-recession-why-should-I-help-anyone-else?' brat. If you're not feeling charitable, have a moment of self-interest. They are publishers. They will be keeping an eye on how various marketing strategies are working. If, when they search for #dimwit your name comes up as a retweeter of a book they publish then maybe they'll check you out. Worth a tweet on the off chance eh?
When I've read the book from Bloomsbury, I'll put up a review and we can all do our best to spread the word. In the meantime, if you're on twitter, look up #dimwit and get retweeting. I'll put up some shorter quotes so retweeting's easier. If you're not on twitter, cut and paste the quotes from the left column and put them on your blogs and social networking sites.
All we need to do is start a bit of online chat - not tough is it? Also, don't forget Jamie (Ford.) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a stupendous book and I'm loving every page of it. Jamie's already on the New York Times Best-Sellers List and published in new countries every week but still there's no publishing deal in England. We've got to turn this around. It's great that Toad sent me a copy of the book from America but I want to see it in my local bookshop and think 'that's my chum's book. Isn't it pretty?' Let's see how much of an international ripple we can create for all these authors then - when it's the turn of one of us - we'll know what we're up to.
Ebury Publishing furnished me with this book in return for my provision of a truly awful joke which, for the sake of your sanity, I won't repeat.
Dim Wit is a romp through the brains of the daft, their handlers and observers. Huge laughs are guaranteed. Perfect to read in the bath or raid for twitter-friendly quotes to brighten your online world.
This is the kind of book that begs to be retweeted so I plan to let it speak for itself through regular tweets from its pages on http://twitter.com/rebeccawoodhead. If you're on Twitter and you find these quotes as hilarious as I do, please retweet them with the hashtag #dimwit so its fame will spread further.
If you're not on twitter, the quotes will appear in my twitter feed in the left column on this page so you can simply copy them onto your blog giving credit to the book and Rosemarie Jarski. If you put a link back here or to my twitter page too, that would be hugely appreciated.
Here's a little writing-related taster to get you on your way:
'A chrysanthemum by any other name would be easier to spell' - William J. Johnson
Most important bit first... If you've been following the blog, you'll know how utterly impoverished the good ship 'Woodhead' has been of late. This became even more the case when the company my lovely husband worked for went down at the start of the year and he was made redundant (not glamorous 'we've put money aside for our employees' redundancy but statutory 'here's some pennies from the government to buy some gruel' redundancy.) The months have stretched out with only part time employment for 4 months until this morning. Hubby has been offered a full time job at last. It pays peanuts and I'm allergic to peanuts but still... it's a job! There is much merriment in the house and we are about to settle down to a celebratory feast of porridge and golden syrup.
The other bit of grin-inducing news is that Stephen Fry sent me a direct message. Can this day get any better?
A Twitter Trial
For the last four days, I have conducted a very scientific trial into the benefits of Twitter to the marketing plan of a would-be novelist. Here are my findings (in 'bad news first' format)...
The Case Against
- I love it! This is not as good as it sounds. It is totally addictive and as impossible to ignore as a ringing phone. Every time I feel it is safe to leave the Blue Bird of Twitterness for a few hours and go back to my editing, I notice a new follower and feel compelled to log back in to see who it is. This is BAD. Don't do this.
- It may not necessarily be the best showcase for your blog. This starts from the basis that your blog is the perfect place to show off your writing talent. It may be. If you write fiction and your blog is dedicated to sharing this fiction then you have a point. If, like me, you devote your blog to writing non-fiction and connecting with your followers then maybe not. Blogging is conversational. It lends itself to fast hang-the-grammar-and-who-cares-whether-it's-passive-voice writing. Not the kind of writing I'd submit to an agent or publisher. That said, a writing blog is a wonderful thing. You connect with your readership. This has a couple of great payoffs. First: you build a readership for your published/soon-to-be-published work. This is handy from a business sense (it helps the writer, agent, publisher and retailers) but also from the reader's perspective. Not only are you more likely to buy and promote books written by someone you actually know and consider to be a friend but you'll also have more fun reading them.
This brings me to the final bad point about Twitter.
'Hang on!' I hear you cry. 'This sounds like good news. Didn't you tell us it would be bad news first? Bad writer. Go to your room and think about what you've done.' Aha! I'm one step ahead of you. The good news was about the blog. I was establishing for you the good-news-ness of blogs. Blogs are great news. This post is about Twitter - the sting's in the tail. Twitter may not help your blog. For one thing, through my time on Twitter I have not gained a single smiling face on my follow board here at From Brain to Bookshelf. Twitter is not an extension of your blog. It's a whole different country.
- It is not a country to which everyone has - or wants to have - a passport. If you want to connect with your readers, you'll need more than Twitter.
The Case For
- I love it! I'm fairly sure I can conquer my addiction. It'll lose its new car smell pretty soon.
- It may not be the best showcase for my writing but in only four days I already have more followers on Twitter than I've pulled to this blog in the last six months!
- There would be more but I've blocked a load. It turns out that marketing in any obvious way on Twitter is a giant bore so I kick off those aggressively offering to make me rich etc. You may think I'm leading up to something that should go into the 'points against' section: you can't sell on Twitter. Not so. It doesn't matter that you can't - or shouldn't - sell on Twitter because you can do so much more.
- What you can do on Twitter is: start a conversation; make a connection; have 'normal' chats via direct messaging with agents, publishers, readers and celebrities. This is something I've managed in only four days!
This is the biggest thrill. He's my fave celebrity - as fans of the blog will know. Many years ago, I had a wonderful evening of pizza and chat with Mr Fry and a couple of his chums. It was a bizarre experience and utterly utterly charming and fun. A few years later, we met again at the BAFTAs and although it was quite obvious that he didn't remember me, he bluffed his way through the experience and was just as charming. Imagine my grin when I scrolled down my followers on Twitter a decade on and found that I am now able to direct message Stephen Fry. Thrilled.
So - Twitter: Writer Friend or Writer Foe?
London Belle passed on a little nugget of disgusting wisdom the other day that I think I will now share with you.
'procrastination is like masturbation, at first it feels good but in the end you’re only screwing yourself.'
In short, the enemy is not Twitter but procrastination. If you feel the need to procrastinate then Twitter is a terrible place to go. If you're a procrastinator and you have a deadline to meet then STAY AWAY!
Twitter is a drinks party. You go in, meet some people, have a chat, scoff some cheesy-nibbly things and have fun. Maybe you stay for a few minutes. Maybe you're drunk in the kitchen after all but a few die-hards have gone home. It's your choice. Much as I'm fond of drama, you know I'm going to hit my self-imposed deadline. I always do. Twitter doesn't scare me. Just one more glass of virtual Pol Roger and I'm off back to my manuscript.
My name is Rebecca Woodhead and I'm a Twitterholic.
I thought I could handle it. They say Blogger is a gateway drug that leads inevitably to Twitter but I thought 'no way, I can handle it Dude. I can handle a few puffs of blogger. I'd never shoot up Twitter...'
It's an old story. The instantly addictive Twitter has found its way into my veins. Help. I am writing utter drivel. The evidence is right here (recent twittering garbage is in the left column.) Poor Alan Davies. He doesn't need to tell me about his tricky middles. What was I thinking?
Do me a favour. If you see me leave more than three tweets a day, pop across and tell me to get back to my editing. You don't have to follow me on twitter to do that (though you can if you want) and I will be very grateful. Addiction is bad. I must nip this in the bud.
Well, it's a little over two weeks. Eighteen days from now I will trek down to the local post office with bundles of manuscripts.
Those of you who've followed my blog since day one will know how seriously I take my self-imposed deadlines. Over the last few months I have edited, researched, lost 28 pounds and generally psyched myself up to start my new life as a professional author.
Of course, there's the statistical chance that I won't be successful and that I will have to tolerate years of being turned down before my books make their ways to shelves but... what if that doesn't happen? What if the years of preparation I've put in are enough? What if an agent sees my work and thinks 'I like that'?
Would you go to an interview for a job you really wanted and think 'there's no way I'll get this'? Of course not. That would be daft. You'd do everything in your power to prepare yourself for the interview and give it your best shot. That's my theory with my career as a writer. It's too important for me to assume I'm not going to succeed. I have to. I'll keep going until I do. When it happens, I'll be ready for it.
Background to the Blog
For about two decades I bought Writers' & Artists' Yearbook every year but it wasn't until a couple of years ago, when I'd been through so many adventures and jobs, that I finally thought:
'What am I playing at? This is how I want to spend my life.'
I did some research and read lots of articles other authors had written about what the life of an author was really like. I went and saw some best selling authors speak and took loads of notes, then I set myself a challenge. I would live as if I were already published for a year. I would assume I'd been given a deadline by which to write a novel and I would complete the novel by that deadline. More importantly, I'd write a novel before I turned 35! The deadline arrived and the book was written.
Challenge - The Sequel
In my original plan, this was the point at which I'd approach agents but the plan changed. I had a great idea for a sequel. I knew I wanted a career as a novelist and I needed to prove to myself that my book-in-a-year hadn't been a fluke so I set myself a deadline for the same day the following year to complete the second book.
Then Came the Blog
On the last stretch of the journey, I set up a blog. This blog. I wanted to reach out to potential readers and build a following for my work before I started slogging my manuscript around. What I didn't anticipate was the support that I would receive from this and the other blogs on which I write. Nor did I anticipate how much I would learn from other writers online. I'm not scared of failure because I know that there are hundreds of readers and avid writers I can speak to who will give me honest feedback and support me through my trials and tribs on the journey.
Here Be Dragons
The next leg of the journey is going to be an adventure. I have no map for it. There may be storms. There may be dragons. I don't care: I'm sailing in anyway.
Over the next couple of weeks I will be going over my short-listed agents again; checking out their news and websites; looking at the performance of their authors etc. When I've picked the ones I feel most matched with, I'll put together submission packages for each of them and send them off. From that point until I get an offer, my little cottage will be Submission Central. I won't stop until I've got an agent.
My husband - who was made redundant just before I finished my last novel - still doesn't have full time work and I'm unemployed too so the process of pulling together cash to send off manuscripts is necessarily slow.
As the company Hubby was working for went under completely, there was no redundancy package so we had to fight for statutory redundancy which is low and takes an age to get. Family members aren't able to help financially. It's tough but there's no point getting all cross about it. I'm lucky that even in the midst of all this my husband is supportive of my writing. Much to be grateful for.
The Challenge Continues...
While all that is going on, I'm starting work on novel number three. I love putting my characters in tricky situations but this will be the trickiest yet. By this book, my readers will be familiar with (and hopefully love) the core characters and in this novel they'll see what happens when they're really thrown into the mire. I can't wait to start writing it.
How I Write Novels
Usually I do the 'brain writing' between February and June/Julyish. This is when I allow my subconscious free rein with the idea for the next book (which I sketch out in the five minutes following 'the end' on the first draft of the last book.) I dream about the characters, imagine their lives etc. It's all very 'early Brontes' except my own Bronte sisters are my husband and some fish. Not much call for floaty dresses.
In the summer, I write a bit every day and work out a rough plan for character and plot development (which always goes awry by the tricky middle bit), then the weather changes. I write progressively more in September and October but 50% or more is written between mid-December and mid-February. I don't always write my chapters in order because I find the different paces of writing produce different effects so I write the bits of the story most suited to the pace of writing. Some people might find that a tricky way to work but I find it works brilliantly for me.
Permission to Nag
Well, that's quite enough from me for today - phew! Long post! If I haven't posted about sending off manuscripts in three weeks do me a favour and tell me off. Time to let them go out and fend for themselves.
The Best Bit of the Recession so Far was when... I bought 1 iron, 1 ironing board, 1 laundry basket and 20 wooden hangers for 20p!
Small recession related celebration on the blog today. I found a load of TESCO vouchers I’d been hoarding and managed to sort out all my laundry needs for the cost of a couple of chunks of chocolate. In these downturn days, the joy of a tremendous bargain is so very sweet.
The floor is open. How’s the recession treating you? What are the best bits? Have you started hoarding vouchers, making food from scratch or renting DVDs from the library? Discovered Freecycle? (We did and someone gave us a free TV!) Maybe, if you’re also a writer, you’ve lost your job and found more time to write. Whatever it is, banish the doom with a bit of recession celebration.
Finish the following sentence:
The best bit/s of the recession so far was/is when....
Life in the Big Ocean
As an Author-in-Waiting the thing I am most often warned to prepare for is rejection. Every writing book or magazine maps out the hugely competitive ocean that you venture into when contemplating a swim in the waters of the fiction novel.
Evidently, agents are out to get you and publishers plan to humiliate you. It seems that everyone is looking for a reason to say 'no.' They are the sharks and you are the lowest possible bottom-feeding scum.Logically, I know this is B.S. as the entire system is dependent upon the scum at the bottom of the food chain. Immortality of a kind may be obtainable in print but taxes aren't the only inevitable consequence of life. Sooner or later, old authors must shuffle off elsewhere and whilst a cash cow can bring in healthy numbers and column inches, a dead parrot can't attend book signings. Sooner or later, the sharks must look lower in the food chain for their next meal.
This brings me to the point of my argument. Eventually, they'll reach you. Eventually - with a bit of luck and a following wind - you'll be looking into the eyes of the sharks and weighing up their offers. This is where the story finishes right? You get a deal and it's 'happy ever after?' I'm not so sure. In my experience, failure is easy. The tricky thing in life is success.
When you evolve from a 'would be' to an 'is,' things change. Expectations and deadlines must be met. Your ability to determine your next move becomes a thing of the past. As an Author-in-Waiting, you can dream the dream but as an Author, you must live it. The real world is never as fluid as the imaginary one. Just as there are unlimited possibilities for a story when you first start to type but the options are few when it comes to your final edit, so your options when starting on the journey towards publication stretch out before you like a never-ending red carpet but once you've been fished out of the ocean, you can only be served up to the public in a finite number of ways.
Dish of the Day
The general guidance is that you must become a brand. Your particular style of writing must be labeled. Once attached to your own name, this style is the one in which you must continue to write. You are branded 'literary', 'commercial', 'chick lit novelist', 'crime novelist' etc and that is where you must stay. There are exceptions to the rule but they are relatively few. The sharks want their brands and you must become one.
Welcome to the Goldfish Bowl
You want fame? Really? Why? Personally, I want to be successful. I'd love my work to be enjoyed and maybe even admired but the only fame I want is for my work not myself.
Of course, it doesn't work that way. People are interested in the people behind the books. They want to know how much of the work has come from your imagination and how much is the bubble-and-squeak leftovers of your own existence. They want to be able to say:
'You know Mr X in that novel? That was based on Mr Z from down the road.'
The idea that writing is a creative endeavour suddenly disappears once you are published. Fiction fails to exist. Everything is autobiography. Hunger for the 'real' back-story means your personal life is up for grabs. Bye bye anonymity.
Steps to Success
You can't fight all this. It's a business. It's a machine. Without the publicity, the books won't sell. Without the sales, the publishers won't survive. Without the publishers, we all have to work much harder by going the self-published route.
I can't change it, but I can prepare for it. I've thought through my good and bad points; worked out the markets on which I'm best placed to focus, and put aside pennies for an outfit for my first interview. When success and I finally meet, I'll be as prepared as I can for the next step. Will you?