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Having said last week that I was planning to focus on the new idea, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have been working on book two again.

I am flip-flopping between them because sometimes I just need a quick win, and working through the edits gave me that.

I enjoy starting a new story but this time it’s going fairly slowly, and in seven days I managed a paltry 1480  words.  I wanted to do more this week; the revisions for book two gave me the positive boost I needed.

Still, the new book is progressing, albeit slowly.  Because it is unplanned I am making a lot of notes about the decisions I make, and the impact they will have.  I am watching the story grow from the roots up.  It’s like making my very own ‘Fighting Fantasy’ book, turning the page to see what my decision means for my characters!

Of course, that’s only how I feel at the moment.  My view on progress next week remains to be seen!

Other than that, I am on tenterhooks because the second agent should be responding now.  I’m back to waiting, waiting, waiting and I’m not very good at it.  I checked and there’s nothing to say they won’t reply if they’re not interested, it just says there will be a reply; still, I have waited the allotted time and I can reasonably approach alternative agents now.

So this week will be split between novel-writing/revisions/poetry/writing group work/agents.  Well, that’s the plan today!

In other news – I read this article about the return of big books.  There’s no particular conclusion, but I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon anyway.  I’ve read ‘chick lit’ over 500 pages long, and fantasy books of 900 pages or more.  What bothers me is not page length but how long it takes to read.  These two don’t always seem related.

For example, book 2 of ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ trilogy took me 2 weeks, because I found it hard going and only read a little bit at a time.  ‘The Help‘ I read in a night because once I started I didn’t put it down (I was reading it for book club, and only got it the day before the meeting!).

Ultimately, a story should only be as long as required to tell the story.  If the publisher really wants a book to look fatter they can always use smaller pages and a bigger font 🙂

Also – I recently read this article  about the Victoria and Albert Museum buying an archive that belonged to Vivien Leigh.  Vivien Leigh fascinates me; her life was as complex as many of the characters she played, and when you see her perform you can see that complexity in her performances.  I planned to write a biographical piece about a public figure some time ago; with the release of this archive to the public, perhaps it is a sign I should write about her.

And finally – Sometimes, the amount of books an author can produce staggers me.  According to this article, there is a new agreement in place to posthumously publish 160 more Barbara Cartland novels.  In total, she wrote 823 books – an astonishing amount. I don’t believe I’ve ever read her books but I did inherit one when my grandma passed away.   She had published it under her married name, which I thought was interesting.  Maybe it’s time for me to read it; then I’ll only have 822 to go!

I don’t expect to publish that many novels – one would be enough for now…!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week has been all about book two.  I have started transferring my paper notes (from the retreat) onto my electronic copy – in fact, I have archived the pre-retreat version and basically treated the amendments as a new entity.

I always keep earlier drafts of work, in case of disaster!

So now I have white spaces building up in my document; great gaping sections of nothingness, waiting for words to fill them.  Meanwhile those shape-distorting black holes that sucked up and spaghettified my structure are being charted, mapped and reconfigured to give me back my tale.

I’ve read up a lot on plotting and structure but nothing I’ve read so far would have changed my approach, so I don’t feel quite so bad about that at least 🙂  Basically, I’ve concluded that to do the current story justice I’d probably need to write a trilogy – or at least a really, really fat book – and I have no interest in that at all.

I’m feeling confident about the changes though.  I like the way I’ve tied things together; I’ve kept the dynamic between the characters I wanted; I’ve made the is it/isn’t it supernatural element a little more unnerving and less ‘in-your-face’ – it was becoming too evidently weird in the last draft!

It may be that the original elements about Celtic mythology and history that started me down this story route (which have been thoroughly cut!) need a more focussed home in a historical fiction.   We shall see – I do love that period of history, and the potential to explore the pre-Roman period is exciting to me, but it’s a very different style to my normal writing…

All in all, I feel like I’m getting back on an even keel with this story, and will just keep working my way through it until this draft reflects all the changes I need to make.  Then – and only then – will I compare the two stories to see if this effort was worthwhile.

I’m going to keep smiling and hoping for the best!

In other news – I was reading this article about the experiences of publicising a novel and I rather enjoyed it – it’s good to see a writer who acknowledges that a book doesn’t always come that easily.

Also – I read this article about a new genre in publishing – ‘New Adult’.  It’s supposedly for people aged 18-25.  The descriptions sound like a sub-set of women’s commercial fiction, but that genre covers such a vast array of work that I understand the desire to reclassify some books.  What I wasn’t keen on was publishing these books via children’s departments.   There are crossovers – books written for younger people but read by adults – but I think an adult content book about adult experiences should be treated as such.

And finally – on a completely different matter, my first writing group takes place this week; I have sorted out some activities and references and I’ll let you know how it goes!  I’m so pleased I took control of this and did something about the lack of a local group – it just goes to show that you need to get on and make things happen sometimes!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Wow, I can’t believe I’ve made it through to 100 weeks of posting!  Imagine fireworks, celebratory drinks and a marching band 😉

Since my first post I feel like I’ve changed a lot, both as a blogger and as a writer; I’ve achieved things I am really proud of and learnt from the rest…

Like how to take rejection.

I got back from my retreat at midnight yesterday, to be greeted with a returned manuscript and a thanks but no thanks letter.  But you know what?  I didn’t, and don’t, feel discouraged.  First thing this morning, I checked the website of the agent to see if I’d missed any clues: I had.  Nestled in amongst the named authors was a list of their main areas of focus.  From a fiction perspective their main focus is now general and historical fiction.

OK, I thought; my book is neither of these.

Don’t get me wrong – there are bound to be changes I can make for the better, and if I get 85% through my list of agents and still don’t get picked up I’ll really start to worry.  Today, though, I can accept that they have rejected the work as they have a tiny focus on my genre, and could have filled that quota already.  I do not feel the dreaded desolation that I was worried would affect me. If anything, I feel excited to look at the people on the agency list and see who to approach next!  Every rejection=a new opportunity to find the agent who believes in me!

Maybe I’m super-chilled from being away, but this seems like a healthy reaction so I’ll try to retain it!

And yes, the retreat was everything I wanted from a retreat.  It was a tiny flat on a smallholding; in the mornings we’d wander outside, soaking up the colours, the light, the sounds and the fresh air of the mountains.  We’d work – I got through the first four chapters (77 A4 pages) of book 2, and wrote a plan for filling the gaps left by the changes I want to make.  We’d enjoy the silence. We’d go for walks in the evening and watch the sunset change the sky.  We’d talk to the sheep, who rarely responded, and watch the horses gallop around, kicking dust into the air like the plumes of comets.  We ate honey from the bees on site.  It really was valuable.

So valuable, in fact, that we’ve agreed to continue some of out habits – and book a retreat every year!

In other news – I read this article today about JK Rowling writing under a pseudonym; it’s good to see that as an ‘unknown’ she was able to sell a reasonable number of books in hardback (although I suspect the number will dramatically increase now); it shows that people are still willing to try books out when they’ve never heard of the writer.

And finally – Sticking with Ms Rowling as a theme of the day, I saw this article on books that are never finished and it made me smile. I’m one of those who historically has read until the end even if I don’t like a story, although I have loosened up a little in recent years. It’s not just that life’s too short to read things you don’t enjoy (I got through book 2 of the Lord of the Rings book set and it took me 2 weeks; a book I enjoy will take me one evening normally!) but that as an individual you choose what you are prepared to confront. Boredom is a good tool for writers to learn from, but reading something you find unpleasant to read about is not, and I would say it’s unnecessary.

What I have learnt is not to re-read those books I find boring!

I’ll leave it there for today, as it’s nearly tomorrow – happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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As you know, I said I would have done some submissions by today.  Two, in fact.

I have to be honest and tell you I’m nearly there, but not quite. One has gone, and one is in the post for tomorrow. I’ll give myself 75% for that.  But I’ve aged about ten years in the process!

I still think of myself as a new writer, in that I’ve not been published, so I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to others in the same boat that the hardest thing to do is share my work.  It’s easier now with poetry, because it’s mine and I’m not hoping or aiming to make a career from it.  But the novels are my career dream, and my goal is to be published.  That makes sending the book off a horribly difficult process for me.

It seems silly – the wannabe published writer who doesn’t want her book read – but all the time something is a dream, you still have hope.  Now is when I have to face the possibility of that hope being misplaced.

I know the stories of writers who couldn’t find an agent, who were rejected and became bestsellers – they are dotted about through the literary world.  But we don’t hear about the great book that didn’t get picked up or the writer who stopped sending it out.  We don’t hear the other side of that story because there’s no triumphant success.  If I were a betting woman, I’d say the safe bet’s always on the rejection letter.  I hope to beat the odds, and now I’m waiting for the cards to fall as they will.

So yes, this has been difficult.  For anyone else feeling the same worry about next steps all I can offer by way of comfort is that many (UK) agents seem to want e-mail or e-submissions now, and these at least are quick to do.  Waiting for my printer to churn out 44 pages that may define my future was much, much worse that a few copy, paste and clicks.

Now I just have to wait for up to six weeks and see what, if anything, comes back to me.  And dye my hair back from the white this week has caused 😉

In other news – Some while ago (so long ago, in fact, I can’t remember when!) I talked about the reworking of old novels by modern writers.  Well today I read that the same is being done for Shakespeare.  Yes, one of the most famous writers in history is being  updated for modern audiences.  I won’t judge the project before completion but I am surprised that it has been launched.  Shakespeare still forms a major part of the English curriculum here in the UK – I left school a while ago, but we did at least three Shakespeare plays between 14 and 18; his plays are never off the stage; we still use words and phrases of his creation.  It doesn’t really seem necessary to do anything to bring him to a modern audience!   In many respects it’ll be fascinating to see the outcomes…

Also – I have booked a retreat!  More on that next week, but we have gone for peace and space to write and paint, not sunshine and tutorials.  Although we may get sun if we’re lucky – it’s in the UK, so you really never know 🙂

I’ll leave it there for today as I really need to lie down!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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This week hasn’t been particularly productive, writing-wise; to be honest I don’t know where the time has gone!  But I’ve noticed something and I am going to have to tell you about it to force me to face up to it…

I am delaying sending my book off to agents.

It’s not a new story, is it?  As soon as I have to commit to the idea, to the external evaluation of my work, I freeze.  The story has been ready since mid-May, and the synopsis started and started and started – but never finished satisfactorily.  I can blame the broken computer, but that only gives me a week of credit.  I’ve chosen agents, changed my mind, and chosen again.  I now have two people who I absolutely want to approach in the first instance, and a whole host of names should they say thanks but no thanks (or just no!).  I have nothing holding me back.

Except me.  I am creating my own barrier, a wall between me and my dreams.  I have said before that this is nerve-wracking, that this is just the start of the journey, and that I have a long way to go before anything really happens.  I’ve also said before that before sending things off I get nervous – but once they’re gone that nervousness passes and I become quite fatalistic.  What will be, will be.

So why is this so much harder?  Is it because it’s my first book, and because I feel so strongly about it?  Is it because I’ll feel like a failure if no agent snaps it up?  Is it because I am worried that no-one will think I’m a ‘proper’ writer?

I don’t know.  All the above, probably.  But I do know that every day that passes is a day when another writer, with a voice or an idea similar to my own, might get their book out to agents.  That I need to feel the fear, and do it anyway!

So, through the power of this blog(!) I am going to make myself do it.  By 30 June, I will have sent the synopsis and first three chapters of the book out to two named agents, as required, and I will be here, next Sunday, telling you that I have done it.  I will find a way to break through that wall, and I will prove to myself that I have the confidence to try.

In other news – and on a similar subject, I found this article about how successful writers have experienced failure at various times in their lives, and what happened as a result.  It really resonated with me today as I grit my teeth and acknowledge my delaying tactics!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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As you know, my work this week focussed on book 1 – looking for an agent, identifying what they want, getting the synopsis done.

Well – I’m about 50% there.  If you squint…

I had a huge problem on the technology front which has put me back somewhat – this afternoon, my computer decided it had had enough, and I have lost access to my entire hard drive!

Now, I do make backups of my work, but I have to be honest and say my last backup was a few weeks ago – and I don’t have all my recent work on the stick.  I have the vast majority, and am hopeful that a cleverer person than me can sort out the old laptop, but at the moment I have to assume it’s gone.  When it comes to novel one, I have the final proofread document, plus the extra chapter I had to work on, so it’s not a disaster or anything like that, but it’s a bit of a blow because I did a little polishing that I’ll have to re-do.

I have also lost all the work I’ve done on the synopsis.  Again, I have the notes and things I have done manually, but not everything I typed up.  Not a disaster, but not ideal.

All in all, it’ll put me back about three weeks to redo the book edits and the synopsis.  Plus – I had to get a new computer super-quickly!

The moral of the story is make sure you back up your documents every time you work on them…

Still, I have all the agent information on old-fashioned index cards so at least I haven’t lost any of that, and most ask for a maximum of 3 chapters so I can re-edit the first bit of the novel and send it whilst working through the rest.

In other, less frustrating news – I’d like to say hi to all the new followers who have come to the blog over the last few months; it’s exciting to have new connections and I will pop over to your blogs and read a few posts at some point soon!

And also – I have already had some interest in my local writing group, so I’m very happy about that; I’m really eager to get going with the first meeting and see where it goes!

That’s all from me for today – I have to go and download a number of documents and links I had on my old computer.  Sadly, I think my courses will have to be pushed to one side for a while but I’ll just re-enroll for the next sessions!

Happy writing – and don’t forget the back-up!

EJ

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As you might remember, I am sending book one off to agents.

My first choices were all very random, so  I read the guidance in the ‘Writers and Artists Yearbook 2013‘ and the thing that struck me was how important it is to get this right.  The relationship between a writer and their agent is something that could potentially last for years.

There are hundreds of agencies in the UK.  They each have their own rules and requirements so your head can start spinning pretty quickly!  And what exactly should you be looking for, anyway?

I don’t think there are hard and fast rules, and we all need to make our own decisions.  But, as an example, here are a few things I am taking into consideration.

1. What they accept.  There is no point going for an agent who doesn’t represent what you write.  From a genre point of view, I write women’s commercial fiction so it’s important to find an agent who has skills – and interest – in this market.

2. Where they are.  This isn’t important to everyone, but I want an agent who I can reach at their offices in a couple of hours.  I like to know they are accessible as and when I need to meet with them.

3. The right feeling.  I know that’s very vague but it’s important you feel comfortable and relaxed with your agent – and that you can trust them.  If their write-up or website make me feel they are putting barriers in my way, or make me feel dissuaded from sending them my work, I know they aren’t a good fit for me.

4. What they are asking for.  Most agents want a covering letter, a synopsis and a portion of your work.  If they only want a covering letter and synopsis, at this point I will not approach them.  There’s nothing wrong with their approach, but my personal preference is that I want them to read at least part of the book before they make a decision.  The synopsis takes a few days; the book took over a year – I know which one I think is a better reflection of my work!

5. Current clients.  I like to see the name of a writer in my field – I know I may have a completely different agent but the point is that they can successfully work within my genre.

The other thing I have considered is membership of a professional body.  This is by no means essential, but was a filter for the first wave of research.

Even with all of the above, I started with 44 different agencies to look at in more detail, all asking for slightly different things.  I am now going through that list and filtering it even further to see what looks like the best fit.

I am in it for the long term; I hope I can find an agent who wants to share my journey with me!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week has been a long one.  It’s incorporated all the normal elements – work, friends, family, shopping, studying etc – and added a new one into the mix: emergency house interventions!  I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say, it’s been a little bit up and down here.

Still, the main issue as far as this blog goes has been work, and that’s gone pretty well.  I’ve spent a fair bit of time reworking my newest chapter though – much more than I thought I would when it went off to the proofreader last time.  I’m glad I’ve given it the time but it means it’s going back to the proofreader for yet another check.

I am still confident that I will finish by the end of Wednesday: the rest should be smoother by far. I’ll try to think positively and not think about famous last words…!

As always, my target is with myself and if I miss it, life will go on.  I know myself though – sending off to an agent is scary and I have to be really careful I don’t just avoid it altogether (which I know I will, if I can).

Along with that, I’ve committed to attend a poetry reading with a new group of people, all of whom are writers themselves so it’ll be another ‘critically supportive’ event, I hope.  I tend to use the same poems when I do these, as I’m confident in reading them, but I may add a new one into the mix and see the reaction.  Generally feedback on my poetry is very positive so it’ll be interesting to find out if that’s the same with a different style of poem.  Oh, and you may remember I said my friend was reading a few of my poems at an event in Cornwall – well, I got very good feedback from that too.

Hurrah for all the kind people saying supportive things 🙂

In other news – I am getting ready to enjoy one of music’s most cheesy and cheery nights: the Eurovision Song Contest.  I love Eurovision, and even though we generally don’t do very well at all, it’s still a most entertaining experience.  From Abba and Bucks Fizz  through to Lordi, there have been some memorable acts.  For the sake of the event, Europe’s boundaries are a little different, but no-one seems to mind too much!

Also (and much more writing-relevant) – I read this article about grammar rules and it made me smile.  I particularly like point four about the decline of the word whom, which I have defiantly used in this week’s post, whether it’s correct or not 😉

And finally – I’ve talked about the rise of e-books before, but this article really shed light on the growth of digital downloads here in the UK: I know EL James may have had a lot to do with that so it will be interesting to see if the figures are repeated in the future, but for now it’s very clear that e-publishing attracts a huge market.

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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Not a Hobbit’s tale, but a writer’s one.

One of the things I hadn’t expected when I started writing was how many times I’d revise, edit, re-draft and so on – it’s not that I thought everything would be at a high standard straight away, but that I thought a few read-throughs would be sufficient to tidy up the tale, pick up typos and make it quite clean.

The truth, in my case at least, is very different.  I am now on what I laughingly call draft six of the family tree novel (probably more like  9, or more if you count all the notes I wrote before I started it!); I’ve had it proofread twice by another person, and I’m still changing things.

I haven’t even gone through everything from the last proofread yet, and I’ve restructured all sorts of elements.  Little bits that are relatively unimportant suddenly jump out at me as too definitive, or poorly worded, or out of character, or just giving the wrong impression.  I’ll read something and decide it sounds too judgemental and I’ll change it, and then I’ll worry that I’m changing it as me, not from the point of view of the character.  I’ll tie myself in knots trying to justify changing it back, or keeping the amendment – and it’s not even that important in the context of the story.

But there we have the crux of the matter – importance to the story.  My current thinking is that every sentence should have a purpose.  It might not feel purposeful to the reader, but in the context of the story it has relevance.  I don’t always feel like that but I do now.

And now I have re-read the story, and corrected typos and changed sections.  Tomorrow is a bank holiday here so I won’t get much done as I’ll be out and about, but I’ll start re-reading with a more editorial eye to identify issues picked up in the proofread.  I’ll aim to get that all done by Friday.  Then I’ll read again to check the edits improve the flow and remove the issues.

I’ll get to the end, and start again.  And again…

But the day will come when I have to stop.  To say to myself that my adventure with this book’s creation is over, and it’s time to take the next step.  It won’t matter how perfectly useful each line is if I never send it off, after all.

I think this is the hardest part of all.

In other news – I have to say a big thank you to Mandy Eve Barnett for giving me the Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness!  This was a new one for me and just typing it out makes me cheerful – WordPress bloggers are a lovely supportive bunch!

And finally – I saw a brilliant photo of Morris Dancers on Leanne Cole’s blog, and it got me thinking.  We all have access to cultural activities we take for granted and as I’m very interested in this area I thought I’d do a few ‘added extra’ posts about weird and wonderful customs and folklore here in the UK.  You never know what might inspire a story or a setting but there’s plenty of material!  If anyone else is interested in sharing something of their own, please let me know!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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As I feel like revisions to the second novel have taken over my life and my blog posts forever, I don’t want to talk about any more – but I have to give you a brief update because things have moved on a lot in the last week.

Midway through this week, I decided to change the story.  I won’t go into too many details but it just seemed that it was getting more and more convoluted and even straightforward edits were getting difficult to pick out of the dense, thorny mess.  So I got brutal.  Gone were two strands of storyline and their associated challenges – and of course, their associated scenes.  I am now concentrating on getting rid of references to these for this first read-through.  I wish I’d gone through this whole process differently now, but c’est la vie!

The outcome of all this is that, as at the end of the 28th April, I have 35 pages left to review and 2 days left to do it.  It’s looking possible, which is completely unexpected, to be honest!

So what does this mean for my other April targets?

I have my last read-through of the first novel still to do, and then send it to agents; I will give myself until 15 May for this. I have a short synopsis written but that needs extending to meet agent specifications; and I have to do my personal bio bit – at the moment it reads like a CV and that’s not good!

The sum total of all this is that next Sunday I will be able to write about something other than revising this novel.  There may be a parade and some carnival floats to celebrate.  Or (weather permitting) a trip to the beach for an ice cream…  At the very least, there will be chocolate!

In other news – I’d like to say a big thank you to Ellyn Baker for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger award.  As always seems to be the case, these awards come at just the right time, and in particular this came when I was having a rough time with the writing life, and it kept me motivated.  That it the power of positive affirmation!

Also – some of my poetry will be read in a live performance!  My good friend Joanne Louise Parker has asked to read some of my work at a performance in Penzance.  She’s an amazing singer and songwriter and has encouraged me to do more with my work, so I hope it’s well received…

Plus – I am just about to embark on my next round of courses: two start on Thursday, both nutrition courses but from different perspectives.  I expect there will be much cooking to be attempted and I’ll of course be honour-bound to eat it all up!

And finally – I’ve actually managed to make a start on a couple of new pieces of poetry; one is based on Thursday’s revisit to old inspiration!  I’ll probably share this one at some point in the future, but I just wanted to let you know that the exercise worked  better than expected and I will definitely use the technique again.  I love it when a plan comes together 😉

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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