It’s Still A Waiting Game

Sculpture in Canterbury.

Even with a Literary Agent by my side, waiting for a publisher to acquire my novel is still a painfully slow journey. I had been warned, but even so, I hadn’t anticipated just how arduous it would feel at times. I did wonder if it was because I’m an unknown name until I heard an inspirational and uplifting talk by Kirstin Chen, who came to The Novelry via Zoom (what a wonderful invention!) to discuss her writing process and her experience of being published.

Chen’s first novel, Soy Sauce for Beginners, initially received nineteen rejections from publishers, and it took her agent eight months to finally sell it, then a further two years before it was published. Chen went on to become a New York Times best-selling author. Her third novel, Counterfeit, became a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick and a New York Editors’ choice, as well as numerous other illustrious accolades.

The fact that Chen’s journey had an arduous beginning gives me hope that all is not lost for my novel, Margot Baker Knows Best. However, this doesn’t mean that the wait is any easier, but I have a better idea of what to expect.

So, to keep me from checking my emails too frequently, I’m writing my next novel, reading avidly, and feeding the wildlife in my garden – the fledging blackbirds and starlings are looking nice and plump!

I am delighted that writing brings me so much joy, so I’m happy to sit at my desk five days a week, creating characters and plotlines, and then typing up my handwritten notes over the weekend. But there are no hard and fast rules. Find what works for you, and don’t judge yourself harshly against what other writers do. Ha, if I could adhere to this, I’d be delighted! I’m quick to judge my writing every time I read a new novel, and never in my favour. But that’s another blog post altogether!

I am fortunate to have a few friends at The Novelry in the same boast, so we are supporting one another through this nail-biting time. I have removed the bottle of fizz from the fridge and put it back in the cupboard for now, as seeing it every time I opened the fridge door reminded me that I didn’t have the right excuse to drink it.

If you are waiting, at whatever stage you are at, remember you are not alone. Write something new, read, go for a walk, or whatever takes your fancy. Glass of fizz anyone? No…I didn’t think so

Happy Word Flow One & All

The First Draft Is Always Sh*t

I spent around two years writing Margot Baker Knows Best, during which time I wrote eleven drafts before finally sending it to my agent. I am now writing the first draft of a new novel, The Quiet Room (working title), and I’m currently on 45,000 words.

The issue with a first draft is it’s always sh*t, with plot holes gaping at me, parts lacking in energy to move the story along, not quite hearing the characters’ individual voices, and so on. I have a constant negative voice in my head telling me that what I’m writing is rubbish and that no one will want to read it anyway. On the notice board above my next, I have the comic strip (pictured above the wrong way around, but my IT skills don’t go as far as changing it to landscape) by Tom Gauld from August 2018 in The Guardian, which really says it all about my writing day.

Yes, the story is pants, and I’m writing words which will be deleted in the next draft. Yes, I must do all of my chores before sitting down to write. Yes, I can easily get sucked into social media, especially Twitter (but for how much longer?), and my new favourite Instagram (do join me via the Instagram button above, if you want to see photos of Alfie, our rescue cat and photos of all the books I buy and read.) And yes, I used to be a great fan of napping in the afternoon, but I seem to have overcome this issue most days now, thankfully.

The mantra I need to repeat to myself is, yes, the first draft is sh*t, but that’s okay – the story will develop, as will the characters, and I can rectify all the worrying issues in subsequent drafts (although hopefully not the eleven as I needed to do with Margot).

So, for now, I must sit at my desk (which is messy today, so I’ll tidy it after posting this on my website) or in my local indie café, keep the faith and get those words down, especially as I prefer editing to writing the first draft.

Does this chime with you, or have you mastered the art of muting the negative voice in your head? Let me know, and I’ll see if it can work for me!

Happy Word Flow One & All

Taking A Break

We’ve just had a few days away visiting Amsterdam and Antwerp, our first holiday abroad since the COVID times.

A few weeks before taking this break, I had been attending The Golden Hour at The Novelry via Zoom, where a group of writers would sit in silence and write for one hour. I found that being able to see the others hard at work encouraged me to keep going, and I felt less isolated. In just one hour a day, over fifteen days, I doubled my word count from 13,000 to 26,000. I returned from holiday yesterday and will start attending The Golden Hour again, which is running until Christmas. Hopefully, I will have the first draft of this new novel completed and ready to tackle the rewrite. I am thoroughly enjoying writing in a notebook during this time, then typing up the pages and undertaking the first edit as I do so.

Being on holiday has helped broaden my mind – I even managed to speak French when ordering food and shopping in Antwerp, even though almost everyone spoke English. I spent time reading The Past by Tessa Hadley and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, but only managed to handwrite a few pages of my new novel. However, the break has fired up my brain, and I can’t wait for the hour to begin at one o’clock today.

The photo above is a statue of Nello and his dog, a Belgium equivalent of our story of The Little Match Girl. Nello was homeless and visited the Antwerp cathedral every day to look at the Rubens paintings, which he loved. One winter’s day, both Nello and his dog were found dead in the cathedral. Antwerp is a stunning city, with beautiful Medieval architecture and the cathedral of Our Lady housing some gorgeous Rubens paintings as well as some modern sculpture. I will post some photos below. We also visited Amsterdam, but for some reason, I haven’t managed to upload the photos.

As much as I enjoyed my time away, I’m happy to be back at my desk to work on my new novel; I did miss my daily writing routine. After posting this, I will type up what I wrote whilst away and kick my brain into writing gear.

Thank you for reading this, and Happy Word Flow One & All

Perseverance Pays

A while ago, a literary agent requested the full manuscript of my novel, and I was cautiously excited as I’ve been here before. Then, a few weeks ago, I had a Zoom meeting with the A for Authors Agency, and I was offered representation by Kirstie Long, and I accepted!

It has been a long journey to get to this point. I started writing ten years ago, and my search for a literary agent began shortly after when I naively thought I was ready. Then, I was fortunate enough to have seven novels published by Wintergoose Publishing, which occupied me for five years. I learned much from working with the editor there, but I realised I still had so much more to learn, and the desire to have an agent by my side had resurfaced.

So, I took the Edit and Pitch Your novel course with Curtis Brown Creative and discovered I enjoyed being immersed in learning the craft of writing. Then, two years ago, I found The Novelry, where I worked on my novel by writing, re-writing and editing until I felt I could do no more. And et voilá, I found representation!

To those writers seeking representation, I remember clearly how it felt to receive rejections, but as Sylvia Plath said, see these rejections, they say I’m a writer. So I pinned the positive, personalised rejections on my noticeboard to remind me that I was ‘getting there’ and kept trying.

Of course, getting an agent does not mean that my novel will be picked up by a publisher, but if it is, it will take maybe a year or two before I can hold the book in my hands. After that, who knows what the future holds?

I am still a member of The Novelry, as I love the supportive community, the courses and the guest authors who come and talk to us about their journey and the craft of writing. In addition, I am constantly discovering new books I want to read by inspiring authors. So, along with all the book bloggers I follow on Twitter and Instagram, my bookshelves are groaning!

Fingers crossed, Margot Baker Knows Best will become a book, but in the meantime, I am busy writing the next one.

Persevere, dear writers, if you’re seeking representation, there will be an agent for you. Learn your craft and work on your novel until you feel you can do no more. And don’t be defeated by rejections – remember dear Sylvia Plath.

Happy Word Flow, One and All.

A Bit of a Pickle

Canterbury

When my May 2022 copy of Writing Magazine dropped through my letterbox, I felt one article had been written primarily for me. The article, ‘The shock of the (shiny and) new’ by Gary Dalkin, talks about how to cope with writing one novel when a new idea pops into your head about another book. I read the article with relish as it’s the situation I find myself in currently.

I have written 42,000 words of one novel and 7,000 of another, and I’m enjoying writing them both. They are both women’s fiction, both with an element of suspense, and I’m enjoying writing both protagonists and cast members. I start writing one, then moving to the other, which is utterly ridiculous, as I’ll never get one finished at this rate, dear reader.

So, I wrote a synopsis for both novels and today I showed my long-suffering hubs, my youngest daughter and her partner who have arrived for the weekend, and I’ll show my eldest daughter when she arrives later this evening. So far two votes have gone to the longest novel and one vote to the other one. If my eldest daughter votes for the one which would make it a tie, I’ve no idea what I will do.

You are probably saying, why don’t I continue writing the one which is already 42,000 words, you crazy fool. And yes, that would make sense, but there’s an irritating voice in my head saying, which one will hook an agent? I know I’ve had several books published previously, but my heart is set on finding an agent – perhaps I have a foolish heart. However, two agents who were not grabbed by my last novel said that they would love to consider any future books I write. This, dear reader, made my heart sing.

However, I believe this is the reason I am in this pickle; I feel so close, and yet…

Perhaps I will have my answer come this evening – let’s hope so, otherwise, I risk wasting valuable writing time jumping from one novel to the other. I can, of course, ask my tutor at The Novelry, and it may come to that after this evening, but it’s fun seeing how the votes pan out.

Thank you for taking an interest, and I will update you when I know which novel I have nailed to the mast.

Happy Word Flow One & All

What Stops Me From Writing?

Sitting in my local cafe with a Match & homemade sourdough crumpets.

I write every day; it’s what makes me happy – unless the words aren’t flowing. On those days, the negative voice in my head is telling me the story is rubbish, and I’m a terrible writer. For those moments, I look at the positive comments I’ve received from my tutor or editor at The Novelry, or from agents who, although they have rejected me, are keen to see any further novels from me. These are all printed out and pinned above my desk.

I try to look at Twitter and Instagram in the morning, as I can get sucked into the vortex and swill around without noticing the time passing. I follow so many book bloggers I’m often steered towards Waterstones to add books to my future purchases list, or buy them there and then, especially if there’s a signed copy on offer – my weakness. Thankfully, I’m not a fan of FB, although I have an author page there.

Being at home also means I’m interrupted from writing by the washing machine, dust which is screaming to be swept away, or Alfie, our rescue cat, who wants stroking while he eats, given water from my cupped hands under the bathroom tap, playing with indoors, or company in the garden while he rolls in the soil. I cannot ignore his pitiful meowing or his eyes staring at me until I move and follow him.

There are some days when I’m reading a novel that is so good that I just want to sit and read it until I finish it. Although it’s imperative for an author to read, sometimes it does make me feel that what I am writing is not good enough. Comparing oneself to others brings nothing but pain.

Of course, the news is also taking its toll on my creativity. I watch the news once a day only to keep abreast of what’s happening, but it’s so upsetting that it can be hard to focus on anything positive in life, as there is an element of feeling guilty about how I’m living compared to the people in Ukraine. The behaviour of human beings toward one another is so abhorrent in this situation it is incomprehensible.

Well, dear reader and writer, I hope you are not stymied from writing too often, and if you are, you find ways of dealing with it. Of course, it is good to have a break when things aren’t going your way, and I find nature extremely beneficial in those moments, whether it’s walking by the river, on the common, or sitting or working in the garden. May you all have a peaceful day.

Happy Word Flow One & All