Ill equipped for nonchalance…

This is my sixth attempt at writing this post, because the previous five have been a tad over the top. I’m so used to battling through bouts of self-doubt that, when I have the opportunity to celebrate and show enthusiasm, I can go a little overboard. I am a very excitable person (from the woman who was once told to please be a little less enthusiastic about her job selling coffins. It was, apparently, creepy.)

So what am I so excited about, I hear you ask. Is it that fact that, last weekend, we got two kittens? KITTENS!

Nope. Guess again.

Is it that I’ve had so much delicious cake this week my gut is about to bust? Pflaumenkuchen, coffee and walnut cake with fresh ginger, oozy blueberry muffins, the best banana cake I’ve ever eaten?

Nope, not that either.

It is, in fact, the very thing I have been blogging about for the past…too long to count. I have….drumroll, please… (see what I mean? Slightly over the top to insert a drumroll but I couldn’t help myself.) I have an AGENT.

A real life agent, not one that I have simply made up to cure my own literary fantasies. And not just anny agent, but the wonderful Kate Burke at Diane Banks Associates. A brilliant, intelligent woman who loves the book and has some great ideas on how to make it even better.

It’s so exciting I can hardly contain myself.

There is a lot of work to do, rewriting to get stuck into, character relationships to develop, structural changes to be made, vast quantities of cake and gin to be consumed. My brain is overloaded with ideas for this book and my next.

But before I do any of that I’m going to sit back, hug my children until they squirm for release, kiss my wonderful husband right in his handsome face and enjoy this amazing feeling.

Because that is exactly how it feels: AMAZING. Absolutely bloody amazing!

Advertisements

2nd novels, hide and seek and unexpected inspiration…

This week I discovered the best hiding place for hide and seek; tucked up and contorted on the window sill, hidden behind the curtains in my children’s bedroom. It took them ages to find me. AGES. And, whilst holding my breath and keeping as still as possible so as not to give the game away (I’m horribly competitive. Even in hide and seek,) I was hit with an unexpected bolt of inspiration.

Outside the window, tucked back from the other plant pots, is a terracotta pot of forgotten soil gone, literally, to grass. The grass itself is the long, thin stemmed variety that needles you in the ankle when you to walk on it. But, lacking attention and water, this grass had dried out, the stem brittle and yellowed, seed head pale brown.

Staring at its sorry blades I pieced together a tricky part of one of my character’s personalities, for my second novel

Because that was what I did next (once I was discovered). I Dug out my shiny new notebook, gained from the Chiltern Open Air Museum, found my lucky pen, and began writing the first tentative plans for novel number two. And how exciting that feels to say. There is no self-doubt at this stage, no panic or worry that anyone won’t like it, just the pure joy of creation as I begin to pluck these people from thin air. Or from blades of dried out grass.

And finally I’ve been able to take my mind off novel number one, away from the anxiety of having it read (another agent asked for the manuscript this week, which is always exciting, and always terrifying) away from the worry that it won’t be liked and, crucially, put those niggling doubts that I won’t be able to write another one firmly to rest.

Let the writing begin. Again.

No! Not that, anything but that…

I have a somewhat rare flaw as a writer, and that is my lack of exposition.

WHAT? I hear you gasp, your jaws collectively thudding to the floor. Surely you can’t have too little exposition?

Apparently, you can.

I have long been wary of exposition. I’ve heard the warnings from agents about avoiding an exposition dump at all costs, I have been bored stupid by exposition dumps in novels I’ve read myself (anyone else read The Babysitters Club growing up? Anyone else religiously skip the thirteen pages in every single book explaining each member, their entire backstory and medical history?)

I don’t like exposition. I don’t like reading it, I don’t like writing it. But apparently I go too far. Simon Hall often whipped me senseless (figuratively, obviously) for failing to describe what my characters look like and I regularly “forget” to add scene description.

And agents have agreed. Despite the full manuscript requests I’ve received so far, there has been one unanimous editorial comment: I need to up the exposition. Add to the scene description, add to the protagonists story so you feel their emotion arc.

What has this got to do with Star Trek, I hear you ask?

Hubster International is a sci-fi fan. I’m a HUGE cinema fan. This week, our two hobbies merged when we went to see Star Trek together on the big screen. Now, for another confession: though vaguely aware of it, I’ve never actually seen Star Trek.

I was worried about exposition. This was the third film in the current franchise; were they going to do half an hour of lame ass, boring backstory that I didn’t care to see?

No.

It was BRILLIANT, and a masterclass, via Simon Pegg’s script, in how to use exposition subtly and effectively. The dialogue, action, cinematography and acting throughout gave me everything I needed to know without boring me senseless with background. For example: an exchange between two characters at the start told me a) they used to be in a relationship and b) they were not in a relationship anymore, without once referring to said relationship. It was literally two lines each and talked in the present rather than referring to the past.

It gave me hope that I can do the same in the first few chapters of my novel.

So now I shall go forth, live long and exposite. (I apologise, universally, to Star Trek fans, but I couldn’t help myself.)

What do you want from me?

What do you want from me, now? (Mark Owen taking the lead on, well…you can probably guess the title of this particular Take That number.)

Anyway…

Two separate agents recently advised me that, although they really liked my work, they would want me to change a few key elements to mirror either Gone Girl or The Girl On The Train.

Now, I loved both of these books but I am no Gillian Flynn. And I don’t want to be. I want to be, well, me ideally.

Terribly pig headed, I know.

But, as with all doubts and bouts of self-examination, I wondered if I was being too hasty. Should I change a few of the characters, a few of the plot twists, to mirror something that has proven to be so commercially successful? Do I want to create a more unreliable narrator, or a twist that changes the focus of the whole narrative?

So, I pulled out my notebook, turned to the first page and found just the thing I needed. My agent wish-list, written before I went to Winchester to remind myself of what I need in an agent. It had just two points:

  • An agent who gets it.
  • An agent who doesn’t want me to be anyone else.

I won’t be changing my narrative any time soon.

I’m not saying never, I may well be convinced of its necessity to change by a great agent, but the reasons have to ring true. I don’t want to mimic someone else’s success, I want to make my own and I’m prepared to work damn hard to get there. And I need an agent who believes in me as much as I do, if not more (hopefully more, because let’s face it, sometimes I waiver.)