Social Animal

This weekend, for the first in a long time, I went out with friends for drinks. Not a big deal, you might say, and you’re right, it’s not a big deal. But it’s something I do not nearly enough.

Like many writers trying to get their first novel published, I tend to spend all my spare time writing or, if I can’t write, reading. I have an innate awareness of not wanting to waste time. I get itchy if I can’t write, or if I have been coerced into doing something that takes me away from the laptop during my valuable writing time. I am aware of all the published authors, such as Zadie Smith, who advise ring-fencing your writing time and space and protect it against everything and everyone.

So when the prospect of going out on a Friday night with some friends arose a big part of me didn’t want to go. I would an evening of lost time, I would most likely be exhausted the following day and subsequently lose Saturday’s writing time to an early night. And I was right, that’s exactly what happened.

But something else happened too: I had a brilliant evening. Lots of laughter, lots of fun and a great reminder about the world we live in and write about. After all, how can we write about the world without experiencing it and all its beautiful quirks and characters? Like the man so drunk that the only thing we could understand was the libidinous glint in his eye as he slurred at us and spilt his drink. Or the nervous woman with a hairclip shaped like a bird, who asked us eight times in half an hour if our cheese board was alright. I heard the twisting turning tales of my friends lives, and shared a few of my own.

Writing brings out the hermit in me, it fuels my reclusive side. It was fun, and beneficial, to shrug it off for an evening and participate in the world I write about. Just think: future plot lines and protagonists are only a pub away.

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Beware the viper!

Have a little patience, croon Take That in my ear.

Sorry guys, but I have a deep seated tendency towards impatience.

This week I finished rewriting the last chapter of my novel, leaving only a couple of sections further back that I want to retouch before this draft is finished.

My wonderfully overactive, obsessive and annoying brain took this opportunity not to sit back, look at what I have done and think “Hey, well done. You’ve worked hard, you should be proud.” No, oh no. Not my brain.

My brain decided to say, “Hey, you, the smug looking git in the mirror. Think you’ve nearly finished? What about…SUBMISSIONS! Do it now, now, NOW!” That is what my brain is currently shouting at me to do, whilst the sane people in my life are telling to chill the crispy duck out and take it one step at a time, because there is so much left to do before this bad boy is ready to submit.

And, as a wise owl told me (Hi, Simon!) there is no rush.

“There is a rush there is a rush, submit submit submit!” Says my brain. Shut up brain.

Why do I feel the rush to submit? I dread it for starters, and there is definitely an element of wanting to get it over and done with. There is also the fact that it is very nearly ready, tantalisingly ready, so why not be prepared and start thinking about it now? (Because there is a big, a huge, a gargantuan difference between preparing for it and actually doing it.) And then there is the real pin in the cushion, that darling little viper just waiting to bite me in the arse…hope. Because maybe, just maybe, this time will be THE time, the time someone says the three letter word that would make my dream come true.

I have to be patient, I know that, and there is, for the moment, enough fear imbedded in hope’s cheeky bite to keep me far, far away from that send button.

I’ll hit play instead, and listen to Take That demand my patience once more. Or maybe twice more…

Questions, questions.

Since coming clean about this whole writing malarkey I have been asked many, many questions. I thought I would share a few of my favourites.

  • So, when is your book getting published?

Are you kidding me? I haven’t even got an agent, let alone a publisher yet. In my dreamiest of dreams it will be another two years before this bad boy sees the light of day; a few more months to find an agent, several more months of editing with that agent before it goes out to publishers and then, if I’m lucky enough, several more months of editing with the publisher before it gets printed. This road ain’t short.

  • Someone told me that getting an agent is harder than getting a publisher, but that can’t be right?

It takes a lot of bloody hard work to get an agent. A lot of hard work. Let me remind you that if the agent doesn’t like your first line they will read no further. If they do not like your second line, they will read no further. The same goes for the third, fourth and four hundredth line. Every line must shine. (Ha, I’m a poet too.)

  • Doesn’t it get frustrating writing the same story, with the same characters, over and over again?

Yes. At times, it is hugely frustrating. But it is also very rewarding and even when it is frustrating I love it. Sometimes it’s like the best kind of puzzle that has to be solved, or a riddle that only you know the answer to.

  • You can’t be very good if you’ve had to rewrite it nine times.

Here, I want to shout in a petulant manner, “Well, you smell like a dog, so there.” But I don’t, because I am an adult. Instead I say that it has improved with every draft and will keep improving. I then wait until they’ve turned their backs to pull a stupid face and give them the finger.

  • Where do you find the time?

I find the time, simple as that. If my children are asleep, napping or at school/preschool then I write. Try turning off the TV; you’ll be amazed at how much more time you have.

The End is Nigh

As of today I have 12,0000 words left of my current rewrite. It is at once hugely elating and absolutely terrifying. It’s taken five months to do, I’ve experienced more frustration, joy and satisfaction then I could have ever imagined and I am very proud of both the novel and myself.

But I am still (sorry mum) f*****g terrified, because, with the end in sight, the submission process will begin again. And I hate, repeat HATE, the submission process. For someone who spent seven years in sales I am God awful at selling myself. Even with a jazzy, Winchester approved covering letter, a revamped synopsis and a pretty kick ass submission I am still terrified. But why?

Let’s face it; this is not my first time. At the start of the year I went through the whole thing and got rejected twelve times. Yes, I cried after every single one of them and yes, my husband did have to go on many a chocolate run to cheer me up but hey, I survived and it didn’t put me off. So why am I so terrified now?

There seems to be no point to this blog other than to tell you how scared I am. But that is the point in itself, I think. I am scared, but my fear has no point. It has no meaning. More importantly, it has no power.

I will carry on. I will finish rewriting these final words and I will submit my novel. And I will still probably cry at every single rejection but hey, it only takes one person to say yes. And then I will be crying for a whole other reason; those happy, I CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE DONE IT BUT I’VE DONE IT, hooray for me tears.

BRING. IT. ON.

Spot The Simile

As you may be aware I am currently rewriting my novel (it’s nearly ready by the way, which terrifies me) and one of the things I have been trying to do is scale back on my use of metaphors, adjectives and similes. It is incredibly tempting to over describe things when writing and whilst this can be a useful tool in early drafts to cement the surroundings, characters and action in your own head, as a reader it can be tedious because these things, for all their beauty, seriously slow the pace.

So this week I did one of my favourite little games, which I like call “spot the similes” Pick up a book by one of your favourite authors (I chose Blood Harvest by Sharon Bolton because 1. It really is good, 2. I couldn’t remember exactly how it ended and wanted to read it again and 3. It has some of my favourite characters in it; Harry, Evi and Tom.) Take a few highlighters and highlight the text every time you see a metaphor, a simile or an adjective. Here are my results for the first page:

Simile

Notice anything? That’s right; there are very few of the above mentioned sins and all the adjectives are very specific; they either refer to what is new and hopeful, or what is old and dying. It tells us that the book is going to be about just that; the new battling against the old, be it filial disobedience, new comers versus existing residents or the present battling the past. It’s one of the many reasons I love Bolton’s novels; the language is clear and purposeful, keeping the pace super high.

Try it with your own work. Highlight the metaphors, similes and adjectives and delete any that are unnecessary. And if you really love them (which I do) and you find it painful to hit that delete button (which I always do) then write those little literary pearls down and have faith. This will not be your only book. You will write others, and those lovely little turns of phrase might just find a home in one of them instead.