Nearly four months on

Long time no post.

A tricky few months with life-stuff swamping most creative activity but yesterday while sighing over another other small problem that had arisen, an email plopped into my inbox which pushed all frettings aside. My lovely agent has found a home for my novel. Details still sketchy and a few days to wait to finalise but, Yow, what a difference a few words can make. All the years of writing, editing, culling piles of manuscripts, agent-hunting, receiving rejection letters, starting afresh, crying, raging and laughing are all totally worth it.

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One project that has been a constant over these afore-mentioned months has been getting my other blog – Writing and other stuff – (nearly ten years worth) into BOOKS. Yes, real hardback books . . . A surprisingly easy process – half an hour or so (after all the weeks of editing) and the Blog2Print site showed me a screen mock-up to flip through.

Wondering if the Real Thing might be a slight disappointment, I was utterly delighted with the three beautiful volumes that appeared within a couple of weeks – they had said within a month – even more impressive. Husband Mark commented it was a bit like ‘This is Your Life’ and it is somewhat, but in this age of us no longer making up photo albums, as we did before the digital age, they are a wonderful, and will be, a treasured documentation of our family, dogs, garden, projects and our home.

 

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The small and leaky boat of indecision

I seem to have climbed into it this morning and shoved myself off from the mooring without oars.

That’s what happens – to me anyway, if I don’t write for a few days.

It’s been a long and enjoyable summer with our son being at home from art college; days concerned with running our small bed and breakfast, socialising with family and friends, but always writing, every day. First thing.

I’ve just taken the lad back to college, including a road trip of a few days so the laptop and notebooks got rather abandoned. Now back at home, the other half is back at work and suddenly everything feels very large, empty and a little worrying, with winter jobs looming – stacking wood, organising chimney sweeps, fixing broken guttering, etc etc. I know what I have to do. Start writing again and immerse myself in the next project. My on-going novel is with my agent and I have a choice of which way to go next – a follow up? It’s written but as the main book has gone through so many changes, the back half is now not relevant. I’ve started re-jigging it but . . .possibly best to wait and see what happens with the first one . . .

On a long hike yesterday, Mark (afore-mentioned other half) suggested I should start something new. I think he’s probably right. There is a story that’s been hovering around my mind for some months, based on a short I wrote called, The Panto-horse End. Like all my tales it will have links to the other books so I’ll feel safe in this new world ready to be created.

Just have to jump into the sea and tow the boat back to land. Starting this afternoon.

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Nothing to do with oarless, leaky boats but I just had to post this beautiful image

Usefulness of Google

While trawling for a cover picture of my back-catalogue kids’ book, Alfi Beasti Don’t Eat That! I found this delightful photo of someone reading to their appreciative offspring. An image like this makes all the process of writing, illustrating, editing, endless meetings, and waiting totally worthwhile.

Thank you, ‘Red Rose Mummy’, for posting that image.

 

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16th August 2018

A memorable day for me as I signed and sent off a contract agreeing to be represented by Sandra Sawicka at Marjacq Scripts in London.

Wheeeeeeeeeee!

After a silence and an occasional tentative email prod from me over the last few months, Sandra wrote to me a few days ago saying she would love to take me on and work with me on my novel. There’s still quite a way to go with editing, discussing and finally tidying before the book can be sent out to prospective publishers, but this feels like a massive step forwards.

I was struck by Sandra’s enthusiasm for my work when she first asked me to send her the whole MS, compared to the other replies I received back regarding initial chapters. I had a feeling that she would be the right champion for it, even though at that stage there were many changes to work on for her to truly consider the book.

So, what have I learnt from the process of trying to find someone to take me on, and what could I relay to anyone else involved in this often spirit-crushing task?

Number one – you have to be able to bin large chunks of script that you may have felt perfectly happy with, and feel able to take a lot of constructive criticism from someone who knows a lot more than you do about how the industry works. Of, course this may not be the same for everyone but I feel I am continually learning by taking on big edits and re-writes, and cannot imagine the process ever being very different.

Number two – Hone and hone and hone the letters and synopsis, synopsises? synopi? to be sent out. I cringe now when I look at my early attempts. – far too much waffle about my past, typos, badly-summed up plots, etc , etc . . . it’s worth taking the time and it can become enjoyable (!). A few posts back when I was attempting to approach agents with an earlier version I turned the whole process into a sort of art-performance piece, complete with dropping off hand-inked, tea-dipped letters off to my chosen ‘prey’ before sending the chapters out. It was an interesting exercise but failed utterly – one response being ‘I don’t know why you authors go to all this trouble and expense. We don’t appreciate it’.

Number three. Never give up – if you feel writing defines who you are and what you want to be.

So, his morning, I will slip my agent-contacting book away on a shelf, clear up my writing corner and start editing with a feeling that my efforts have been validated – officially. Feels . . . great.

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Three months on . . .

 

Following last post. I haven’t done much other than write, eat, sleep, be slightly sociable and deal with all the usual life-stuff that we all deal with. Half way through this re-write, I’d emailed the (potential) agent to say: ‘I’ll be sending the new draft through, end of April,’ and I will. A deadline, even if self-imposed is a good way to stop, reflect, and hope what you’ve been hunched over for many weeks is at least better than the last draft.

I’ve read through five times and three folks are reading at the moment; and I’m about to scoot through it again. There are still mistakes and my made-up language to improve on but . . . time to stop – for the moment – work on some of the illustrations whether they’d be ever used by a publisher or not. I feel the book needs a few of the visual elements camped out in my head, so, I’ll put the laptop away for a few days and concentrate on ink and paper.

 

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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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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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Editing and re-write time

This morning I typed in a sentence, checked the word count and clopped the lid of the laptop down – end of the first draft of The hundred and fifty-eighth book. There’s a vast plain stretching out ahead of corrections, continuity problems, dates to check, characters to complete, people to beguile into reading, etc etc, but it’s always an interesting feeling – to step back from making up a world in your head and re-join normal life without the ‘so what might happen when Hamish meets so and so’ stuff going on, at least quite so much.

I’ve started imagining a follow-on story, as is often the case when I’ve grown fond of a character and it seems odd to wave goodbye as if from a train disappearing around a bend – ‘wait, no! let’s get together again – soon, a chat, tell me how it’s going . . . we could work on something else perhaps . . .

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One of the photos I will make into pen and ink drawings for the book, taken on a frigid January day 2017

 

Christmas present

From Lulu (publishing) My first edit copy of Smithi, and I’m pleased with the way it looks after a quick glance – cover not developed yet. There is something so totally amazing about receiving a book through the post after you have loaded up a PDF and sent it off some time back – bye, onto the next thing, almost forgotten, and then wow! a book, of mine! pages, words, paragraphs . . . mistakes, lots of, no doubt, but it’s so exciting!

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Finished? Nah . . .

Well, possibly, or at least certainly moving in the right direction.

 

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Latest version of the manuscript being sent off with its own aged map of the East End and foreword by Jake the Prophet.

I found what I think was ‘draft six’ this morning while having a shelf clear-out – a slim-ish volume of about two hundred pages. I can just about remember thinking when I unwrapped it, fresh from ‘Aunty Lulu’, ‘Yup, reckon this is the one’ . . . then ten minutes later finding about fifteen faults and knowing the whole process will have to start again. It usually takes about a day to settle in, this realisation; a slight gloom drifting over me until the ‘sorting it out’ urge kicks in and I’m away again, happily typo-hunting and adding/subtracting needed and un-needed chunks of prose.

 

It’s an odd (and some would say lonely) thing, writing, not just the actual pen to paper, digit to keyboard but all the other stages: rounding up a rampaging idea, rough drafts, fairly solid-looking spiral bound manuscripts, a trial copy, re-writes, BIG edits, small edits, typo edits, adding chapters, etc. But in the later stages when people really start reading and commenting, adding useful thoughts and sometimes suggesting vast deforestation (a tad disturbing at the time but usually 99% invaluable)  it becomes less of a lonely occupation and more of a team effort. Recently I’ve had some excellent help; suggestions that made me wince a little at the thought of the amount of manuscript archaeology that would be involved, but it’s all good stuff, brain-flexing, writer-muscle building and laying down work practices for the next tome . . .

On the same dust-ridden shelf, I also found my first ever (or at least one that Mum kept) story book. Written in pencil (and coloured pencil!) in a khaki-green school exercise book, this particular tale describes a crocodile eating a small boy – with a correction by Mrs War (I still remember her, with fear) for not using the past tense of eat.

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