Rewrites

I Love them. Really, I do. Especially really long ones.

My main project at the moment is a follow up book to my novel, The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book, and I’ve nothing much else to edit at the moment as the afore-mentioned 158th is finished (sort of) and I’ve started the agent-ensnaring process. So, I was thinking of another project I can dip in and out of, time allowing, during the day.

About seven years ago, I started a book called ‘Going Out in the Midday Sun’ which grew into a trilogy, was edited many, many, many times and was then self-published – (by myself.) I picked up a copy of Number One a few days ago, read a few paragraphs and mentally stepped back in surprise. I wrote this? Of course I did, but everything about it seemed so alien – the way people moved about, the dialogue, the jumping scenes. That, I suppose is what happens if you write something, don’t look at it for several years and in the meantime have written several other book-worths of words, phrases and paragraphs. A good thing. It must be. If it all felt as familiar and comfortable as morning tea in bed then something would be wrong. No advancement made.

So. Rewrite. Yes please! I’m on about chapter seven of the first book and it’s a wonderful and addictive exercise. I love the very different challenge of my main morning writing too but that’s not at all the same thing – for me anyway. No framework; rowing out into a vast sea of possibilities. The rewrite has that nice wide playing field with the fence all around – chapters already laid down, characters in place, story charging away in front of me and I just have to lasso it, reel it in for a while, give it a good checking over and let it free again.

The trilogy: ‘Going Out in the Midday Sun’ is currently on Amazon as paperback and kindle. Second edition coming up . . .

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‘Why hasn’t your agent…

… got you a film deal for this book’?

‘I haven’t got an agent’.

‘Well, get one, then’.

An exchange I’ve had several times with regard to my novels. It’s great to receive positive feedback, and great to realise that people think the work would transfer well to a screen, but they generally have no idea how difficult it is to even find an agent and get a book published, let alone entice anyone to make a film out of it.

‘Don’t worry, think of J.K Rowling, Stephen King, William Golding, James Joyce, Le Carré, etc. They were all rejected many, many times . . .’

I know. I know. I’ll keep trying. I have done it before after all – about 17 years ago. I was approaching children’s book agents for ‘Alfi Beasti, Don’t Eat That’, and was about to give up when one of my hand-made little concertina ‘Beasti’ leaflets caught the eye of an agent. ‘That would never get published’ she said, ‘but you’ve got something. Come and see me’. And I did, and the book, after much work, was published by Puffin. So based on my eventual luck with that idea, I thought I’d apply it to adult literature agents.

My ‘hunting’ session was pretty elaborate – hand-tea-dipped ‘letters’ from my future, post-apocalyptic characters, which I took round personally to each agent I had singled out – before I sent in the actual submission. It took me hours as they were spread out all over London, one in some eerie, flyover-infested distant outpost of the city. In fact it was such a weird, empty-looking place, I suspect it was a decoy, and my little pen and ink envelope is probably still lying in a disused lobby next to double-glazing leaflets and unpaid bills from failed companies . . . sob. Anyway, nothing happened except rejections and one slightly pissed off-sounding email from an agent along the lines of -‘I don’t know why you authors go to all this trouble and expense of trying to engage us agents. These sort of tricks don’t work. Goodbye.’

OK. So, nothing fancy then, just follow the instructions. So, I am – researching each person and their preferences; writing a separate and detailed letter; no blanket submissions, no just changing the name on the email each time and hoping for the best.

I’ve found I rather enjoy it. Each submission has become a project in itself – they take time and now feel more ‘crafted’, every one a little different and tailored to the person I’m writing to. I’m probably still making mistakes and there’s much to learn about gauging each agents likes and dislikes when being approached. The rejections haven’t started coming in yet, but when they do – I shall write this out in quill pen script and stick it on the wall of my writing den.

Each rejection is a chance to improve the next submission, and, like buying a scratch card – you never know, that could be the one . . .

 

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‘Stuff’ from my failed ‘hunting’ session: map of where my chosen agents’ offices are, tea-dipped letter of introduction to Londonia 2070, and letter ‘seals’ featuring the East-End church where, Hoxton, the heroine of the story lives.

Now agent-hunting for two novels: Hoxton, and The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book

 

Word, and other distractions

Finally, after about two hours, several you-tube tutorials and much swearing, I managed to create a try-out for the cover of my newly edited, ‘Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book’.

Now, to attempt the even more complex (for me anyway) Lulu Publishing Cover program.

Then to attempt the almost impossible task of ensnaring an Agent . . .

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Sixth review for the Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book

Katherine has read, I think, everything I have written and is always generous with her time, giving very useful feedback and writing reviews for me on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. I still use her early reviews for ‘Alfi Beasti, don’t eat that!’ and the ‘Going Out in the Midday Sun’ trilogy, and in fact for most of my books as she has a knack of, without waffle, creatively encapsulating the elements of the writing.

 

“If you found a book that contained your entire life from beginning to end, would you read it?”

Such is the dilemma, one of many often posed on the internet, which is faced by the protagonist in ”The Hundred and Fifty – Eighth Book”.
 
Hamish, a Bloomsbury bookseller, stumbles upon the red leather bound volume during a quiet morning at his shop. On opening the first chapter it seems that the narrative bears an uncanny resemblance to recent events in his life.  From this mysterious beginning, the reader is propelled into a fast paced and curious romp through 1980’s London, where it soon becomes clear that there may indeed be more than one version of this book.
 
Hamish’s adventures are deeply rooted in the era and place.  The sights, sounds and smells of 1980’s London are beautifully evoked by an author who clearly knows her patch and the setting is further enhanced by her own atmospheric drawings. Ms Hardy has a strong eye for detail, for the small everyday things that are easily overlooked but are very evocative of a time or place.
 
The characters are so affectionately depicted that one feels they must be at least partly based on real people of Ms Hardy’s acquaintance! I particularly liked Hamish’s mother and Evan, the Yorkshire chapters in which they feature forming a poignant contrast to the rest of the narrative.
 
This is a cleverly woven and most enjoyable tale. “To whoever picks this up” hang on to your hat!  You are in for a colourful and intriguing ride!
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Fifth review for the 158th book

Penny avidly read my first books – the trilogy, Going out in the Midday Sun, and loved them. Less keen on the futurist duo of books – Hoxton and Smithi, and always honest if something doesn’t work for her. Along with other friends she has been generous with her time: checking endless synopsis attempts, agent grovel letters, etc etc. Critical but always positive, and as a photographer she appreciates the visual slant to my books. I was so happy when she responded this way after she had read the book.

I can best describe this novel is a quirky page-turner. It took me a moment to care about Hamish, but once I did, I was hooked. The book is full of odd but believable characters. The descriptions so deftly bursting with detail – at times poignant, and others downright hilarious –  that I found it to be far more than the holiday read I expected. Towards the end I couldn’t put it down. I’d love to see it turned into a TV film.

From the many extracts I’d like to quote, here’s one.

 

The young woman eyes me with a smirk. “Didn’t quite do the job?”

“Sorry?”

“The lilies – half an hour ago. Or . . . is it for another lady?”

Suppressing an urge to make the flower shop assistant into a sculpture of buckets, moss and delphiniums, I smile serenely.

“Yes, it is for another lady – the one I will make crazed, sticky and overheated love to after I have presented her with the bouquet that you will fabricate for me from those pink roses over there.”

She stares at me for a moment – which I would have done too.

 

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Fourth review for 158th book

From Ruth, great friend, grammar expert and reader of my stuff from the first early drafts. If she winced at my terrible comprehensive school English she did it internally, and kindly steered me in the direction, along with other generous friends, of communicating what was in my head onto screen and paper.

A roller-coaster of a read with never a dull moment. Life mirrors fiction in this fantastical novel; at least it does if you start reading one of the five copies of the novel ‘Five’. Each has a different ending, so, as our hero discovers, best to avoid owning or reading a version with a not-so-good ending. The twists and turns chart his progress from when he first realises that what he reads in ‘Five’ will happen to him. The action is set against an atmospheric backdrop of 1980s’ London – Liberty’s, Muswell Hill, Chelsea, the East End – and Yorkshire too – pubs, beer and dramatic landscapes.

Descriptions of places and settings are keenly observed: colours, smells, décor and scenery flow from the text like a film.

The fantastic elements of the novel can be wonderfully crazy: our hero – broke, but given money by a dear elderly friend to spend on something frivolous – does just that: a Citroen DS (opal green). These are the details I particularly love.   Who buys an Armani suit in a Bond Street store when facing bankruptcy? Our hero does. To block out worries of losing his shop and his home, he reads more of ‘Five’. True to the text, he falls in love, immediately!  The story dips in and out of his relationships with friends, his mother (and her new man) and sister, his ex, and –  of course –  his new love.

It’s an entertaining read – great fun and wonderfully romantic!

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Third review

For the 158th Book from supportive friend Claire who has both liked and sometimes disliked my work and is always reliable for the truth. She had handed the MS back to me with a smile and had said: “That really works. Loved it.”

 

Kate transports us, once again, into an intimate and quirky world, mostly of the mind, but also filled with piercing physical details, whether these be poignant period references or seductive descriptions of, er… seduction!
Hamish, the awkward, prickly, but utterly endearing and reluctant bookseller, is a well-drawn character, whose wild, unpredictable story helps us to empathise deeply.  The premise of the story line is brilliant – just the right side of fantasy, but imbued with the unexpected at every turn.  It is impossible not to want to turn the page.
The complexity of the plot and the links between characters makes for much fun, and a very pleasant “need” to keep up with what is going on.  At the end, you will find yourself wanting more, and it is to be hoped that Ms Hardy will give us just that sometime in the near future!
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