An email has just pinged into my inbox from my new UK Publisher. Hang on a minute. We need to rewind just a few weeks. You need to picture me sitting at this same desk, thinking exactly what many of you will be thinking right now. When will it be me? Will it ever be me? Will I ever get to say those words….My UK Publisher…
Which is the point of this blog. To try to turn my book deal news into a little boost for you, rather than a reason for you to beat yourself up or feel downhearted because it is not quite your time yet.
Because believe me – I’ve been there.
Every single time I heard of someone else’s book deal success in the past – especially after a long slog – I felt immediately delighted for them. Truly. And then in the next breath? I found myself sighing. Losing faith in myself.Will it ever be me? Not so much envy (horrible emotion) but more a tricky contrast which can be difficult to negotiate, especially as the next rejection rolls in…
So I’ve decided- before I announce my UK publisher (get me) – to make this blog a little “top tips” resume for those of you still on the journey.
I am always encouraging other writers to “keep going” and my own story ( an “apprenticeship” in fiction which lasted ten years!) is evidence that this really does pay.
Let's not kid ourselves that I have all the answers! I'm still learning. It's all subjective ( and I change my mind about things pretty much every day. A writer's prerogative, methinks).. But here are some of the things I’ve learned:
- I did a bit of "rave quitting" along the way ( normally after a rejection) but I was ALWAYS back at that keyboard very soon. I learned that I do this because I love it...and because I must. So - try to make it about the love of it - not because you are dreaming of some big advance. Dreaming is good when it is dreaming to be a better writer. It becomes self-defeating (and will show in your work) if it is all about trying to please a market trend or only chasing that deal. I wrote my first novel instead of watching TV for a year. It is still gathering dust…But I enjoyed writing it. I’m still fond of it. And – I learned a lot.
- I'm hard on myself. Bet you are too. Best, I think, to accept that you will write well some days but not others. Similarly you will love your WIP one day and hate it the next. Believe in yourself one day. And lose faith the next. You get my drift. Up. Down. Up. Down.The trick is to just keep writing through it all. This is a proper job and a proper apprenticeship. Respect it and work hard. Don’t be one of those people who talks more about writing…than actually doing it.
- This is a cheeky tip, coming from me, but - learn to plan a bit, even if, by instinct, you are a “pantser”. I like to let my characters lead me and used to launch off, just with a “big idea”. But I have learned that a general plan works better, even if I change a lot as I go along. I am never going to be a writer who plots every chapter in advance (unless my agent and editor are reading - in which case I have wall charts and flow charts, ahem, honestly). But - seriously. I have come to see the real benefits of a good outline. Try it.
- Think long and hard about who is telling your story and why. VIEWPOINT ( I have learned from trial and ERROR) is critical. Readers want characters they can really care about and that means they need to get inside their head. And their heart.
- Remember the quote: Good books are not written…they are re-written. I wrote this debut Recipes for Melissa - which has just been auctioned at the Frankfurt Book Fair - in a mad, passionate four months because I was so convinced by the premise. I then had to do quite a lot of editing before querying!! So be prepared to rewrite and rewrite first by yourself and then to rewrite again under the guidance of others (editors and agents) who are, after all, on your side.
- When you start a new MS, don’t tell people about it too soon. Even a raised eyebrow may throw you off. Knock your confidence in your idea. Don’t let it happen.
- Write regularly and remember that – First drafts don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be written.
- Oh, and - ,make sure you can pitch your book in a sentence. Don’t waffle. Don’t try the excuse that it’s “a complex story”. Practise until you can pitch it in a single sentence. This is important, not only for pitching to agents and publishers but it helps you to focus on what your book is REALLY about. It also means you will sweat less when an agent is sitting there asking you suddenly to sum up your next story.
- Keep going.
- Keep going
- Keep going (did I say that already?)
PS I will share more news soon on my UK book deal. All very new to me. All very, very exciting.