This is a strange author thing. Well, technically, it’s a book lover thing, but when the words within that precious book came from your imaginings, that makes the sniffing extra special.
Since eBook publication in January, I have over 100 fabulous Amazon reviews, and over 170 on Goodreads (a place that can be brutal but has so far been kind). Plus, I had an Amazon Bestseller Flag! Quite a moment.
Today is paperback publication day. My book is available here
If you have read and enjoyed The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker please consider leaving a short review, pulling it into your local library, or even just telling a friend.
And don’t miss the fab giveaway on my Twitter page @JenniKeer – where you can win a signed copy of the book, a pack of 5 Scratbag notelets and a bookmark. (UK only) Just Retweet to be put into the draw on Sunday 24th March.
Thanks, lovely readers. Wouldn’t be here today without you.
Thursday the 10th January 2019. An insignificant little day in itself. Christmas has been and gone, the New Year has been welcomed in and everyone considers doing Dry January until they realise how miserable the weather is and reach for the nearest bottle of wine.
To me, however, this date marked the official start of my life as a published author when The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was finally launched into the world. (It also happened to be my husband’s birthday but it got somewhat overshadowed this year. I’ll make it up to him…)
With a splendid blog tour organised by the efficient and helpful Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources, the day was set to be busy. In fact, I hardly left the sofa until the afternoon in my desperate attempts to keep up with social media and general messages of goodwill.
Being a weekday, I organised a launch party on the Saturday at the Stoke Ash White Horse – my welcoming and ever-supportive local pub. Despite my initial reluctance to hold such an event (after all, you can hardly sign a Kindle) it quickly became apparent I was either more popular than I’d anticipated or there were just a lot of nosy buggers out there because the number of people messaging to say they were coming was phenomenal. So much so, that by early January I stopped publicising the event, worried we would exceed capacity for the room. In the end, over one hundred people turned up to wish me luck and celebrate my book. It was truly one of the best nights of my life.
As part of the evening, I talked about my writing journey, accidentally embarrassed my husband and gave shout outs to the lovely people who had supported me over the years. It was attended by several authors, who had books for sale (Heidi Swain, Kate Hardy, Carol Cooper, Linda Taylor) and I held a raffle for Dementia UK – as this was a theme in the novel. We raised over £250 pounds and it was so popular we had to do a mad dash for more raffle tickets in the the middle of the evening. I cannot thank people enough for coming, or for their generous and unexpected gifts. (Champagne anyone?)
Nearly two weeks after publication and the book has an astounding 70 reviews on Amazon – all currently 4 and 5 stars – but you can bet your granny’s thermal drawers a 1 star will appear because the book didn’t download to someone’s Kindle or maybe just because my story is not their glass of champers. This is also fine – there is every reason to embrace your 1 stars.
Each time I read a new review I feel emotional. Someone has taken the time to write about the things that they enjoyed about my book. Some people quote lines that made them laugh, others talk about the poignant handling of the dementia storyline. All of them move me to tears. (Possibly too much champagne.)
So as the heady excitement dies down and the champagne wears off (it’s okay – I still have plenty left) my head is down and I’m focused on the structural edits for Book 2. I have a January 30th deadline and it’s going to be tight. However, the socialising never stops and on Saturday 9th February I can be found with some pretty special RNA ladies talking all things romance at The Diss Publishing House – our adorable local independent bookstore.
In the meantime, wrap up warm, stay safe and enjoy snuggling up with a good book xxx
To recap – back at the start of 2018 I was actively seeking to move from part-time to full-time work. My CV had been dusted down and “creatively tweaked”. My latest novel was out with agents and a few publishers. Life was jogging along nicely.
A phone call from Avon Books UK in the middle of March changed everything and, fast forward eight months, suddenly I have a book about to be launched into the world. (It is a surreal moment when you type your name into the Amazon search bar and your book appears on the screen.)
So how have my random tappings on a Word document in my office-cum-corridor become a soon to be published book?
For those of you not in the publishing world, here’s a brief summary of the process…
After picking my jaw off the floor and trying not to over-gush, Avon sent me contract. I didn’t understand it so I called on some grown-ups (The Society of Authors) and they confirmed I hadn’t signed away any of my children. (Although, to be honest, they were welcome to the nearly 17 year old…) I then chased all the agents who still had the manuscript as getting a publishing deal was all a bit scary and hoped one of them might offer representation – after all, I’d done the tricky bit – I’d sold the book.
I was extremely lucky that the agent I wanted, Louise Buckley, agreed to take me on – probably to stop me stalking her on Twitter. I now knew tons about big legal words and boiler templates so was better prepared. So all I had to do was sit back and let my book baby fly – right? Wrong. Turns out, whilst you busily pen your next novel, there are all sorts of other things going on in the background to get your debut novel ready for the world.
Possibly because my book had been through the NWS twice, there weren’t any major structural edits. This is where you might get asked to lose chapters, delete characters, tweak plot threads etc. I thoroughly enjoyed this stage but then I generally adore editing anyway. The copy edits (errors, omissions, inconsistencies, and repetition in the manuscript) were not so much fun but with Louise’s help, I muddled through. THIS IS WHY YOU NEED AN AGENT.
Meanwhile, Avon produced THE most stunning cover in the history of stunning covers and a blurb. I know a lot of authors who don’t have cover-love and wrestle with their publishers over the final design, so I was fortunate. And in between all the edits I was writing Book 2 – not as easy as you might imagine. With a scary deadline, a family health issue, and a massive dollop of imposter syndrome, it’s nearly ready to submit – but that’s another story. (Haha – see what I did there?)
Time-consuming admin that didn’t even occur to me, like setting up Amazon and Goodreads author profiles, reared their ugly heads. Plus, the job all creative people despise – bookkeeping. Real life plodded along and I started to detest book 2, but every author hits a point were they hate their manuscript and it always works out in the end.
In October, Avon sent ARCs (advance reading copies) to book bloggers and fellow authors to garner some early reviews ahead of publication and encourage people to pre-order. Another frightening phase but one I am relatively philosophical about. I’m proud of my novel but it is what it is. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and I honestly don’t mind that. However, so far, all I feel is immense love for Lucy’s story. #oneluckyauthor
So now the final stage – the promotion. I have my knitted Poldark and my locket ready to don at every opportunity. I’m embarking on some intensive social media promotion – probably to the point my close friends will hate me. And I’ve organised a piece in the local newspaper and a local radio interview, along with sorting a blog tour (with the amazingly helpful Rachel Gilby).
The next two months will doubtless be a blur. Three of my boys have birthdays and Christmas will pop up before we know it. I still haven’t decided whether to have a launch party – slightly tricky with an eBook – but it would be sad to let the moment pass by without celebration. We shall see.
In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. For this author – 2019 promises to be one of the best ever.
Yes, guys, in case you hadn’t heard, I’ve got a two book digital first publishing deal! *happy dance with particularly exuberant thrusting moves and a showy-off body roll* So naturally a quick blog update is in order, where I’d like to pass on some words of wisdom to all the disheartened aspiring authors out there, and reassure them that perseverance and hard work do pay off in the end.
A few years ago, I met the very knowledgeable and straight talking Jean Fullerton (award winning historical author and all round amazing lady) at an RNA Chelmsford Chapter meeting, where bookish talk was the order of the day. In conversation, she told me it took her three years to qualify as a Registered General Nurse, a further year to qualify as a District Nurse, and another eighteen months to qualify as a lecturer in nursing. Why, she said, would it take her any less time to perfect her writing skills enough to get published?
Her comments gave me pause for thought. We all dream of an early book deal, with publishers clambering over each other to sign up our amazing debut novel (and it does occasionally happen) but Jean’s words forced me to be realistic about my publishing expectations in those early days, and helped me to plan my long term goals. It was an astute reminder that not many people are fortunate enough to get their first book published. Because Jean was right, writing, like most professions, involves a myriad of skills and it takes time to learn and perfect them.
Fast forward a few years, during which time I wrote four full-length novels, finally got a place on the RNA New Writers’ Scheme, and had two critiques back for Lucy’s Locket. It was duly sent off to agents and put forward for some open submissions. And then knock me down with a violently swinging feather duster – I got a call from Victoria Oundjian to say Avon Books loved my manuscript and would like to offer me a two book deal. I was stunned – partly because I’d totally forgotten about the submission, but partly because although I was proud of Lucy’s Locket, I thought I was still on my journey. As the call ended, I flopped into my chair and stared at the study wall, still in my coat, wondering what just happened, and what I needed to do next.
However, sitting at the feet of so many wise and wonderful authors over the past few years, I have caught the inevitable breadcrumbs dropped from their published authors’ banqueting table. (There were a awful lot of empty Prosecco bottles up there. . . #justsaying) I joined the Society of Authors (highly recommend – they have a legal team which will vet any contracts and they are continually fighting for author’s rights in these difficult times) and was particularly dogged chasing up Louise Buckley from Zeno Literary Agency – an agent who had been very generous with her comments regarding my manuscript in the past. I was delighted when she offered me representation. (Do check out Zeno’s website as Louise is currently open for submissions.)
Cue mucho excitemento and some serious celebrations. *cough – Prosecco* Cue also the serious business of deadlines, edits and the thrilling but scary treadmill of story production. 2018 is my year; an agent and a publisher. 2019 will see “The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker” out on Kindle in January. (Avon Books UK, Harper Collins.)
I’ve had my share of rejections, and written books that will never see the light of day, but it was all part of the learning process. The key is to keep plugging away. Write your book, make it the very best you can, send it out into the world and listen to the feedback you receive. Then write another. And another. . . and keep going until you get there.
Right now, in Jenni-world, everything is new and shiny. So much of what is about to come is unknown but I intend to embrace it all because I know, much like nursing or any other profession, there will always be new skills to learn. And that is an exciting prospect.
I’ve been a naughty bunny and sadly neglected my blog of late. In my defence, I have been writing my little bunny tail off, and now have a completed first draft of Cupboard Love (my dual timeline romantic comedy) which has taken longer than anticipated. This is what happens when you throw a bit of history into your manuscript and have to research the Arts and Craft Movement of the late Victorian era. (Who knew the flipside to The Great Exhibition? Or that irregular fenestration could be so interesting?)
I’ve also been busy job-hunting. We all know authors earn a pittance, but unpublished authors cannot live on Word documents alone, so I’m looking to move from part-time to full-time work. And at the moment, I can’t decide which is worse – not hearing back from a job application or not hearing back from an agent.
*cough* actually, that’s a total lie. We ALL know which is worse.
But you know me? Ever the shiny, half-full optimist (unless the glass contains wine, then half-full is definitely NOT FULL ENOUGH).
So here’s what I’ve been up to
Finally sent off my RNA conference form – whoop! Can’t wait to meet some more of my many virtual RNA friends IRL
Embarked on another round of submissions for Lucy’s Locket on the back of my nearly yes from an agent
Editing this darn manuscript to within a millimetre of its life and ramping up the passion in Percy and Violet’s love story (they really need a slap and I’m the only one who can do it)
Planning to enter the Good Housekeeping novel competition with the new book, Cupboard Love, if I can rustle up a half-decent synopsis in time (keeping it fresh, girlfriend)
Teach myself Excel in the hopes it will improve my job prospects – yawn
Find a job
Get a book deal and fulfil a lifetime’s ambition…
But for now, it’s back to hipped roofs and knapped flint facades, as I return to my manuscript and give wishy-washy Violet a mighty injection of attitude.
I began writing this blog apologising that it was non-writery, because it was a quick account of my trip to Italy, but then I remembered everything I do is writerly. Every fun (and not so fun) interaction I have with my teenage children, every time I have some disastrous domestic incident, and every new life experience – it’s all potentially going to pop up in a book or short story somewhere along the line, so I’m now going to tell you what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks and don’t want any of you thinking I’ve been off enjoying myself. It’s been work every single waking moment…
I have four children. We don’t go abroad. In fact two of the children have never even left the country – and by that I mean not even been out of England, never mind Great Britain. So when an opportunity came up for my husband and I to stay in a very dear friend’s trullo in Italy (https://trullo-tranquillo.com/) it was a bit of a no-brainer. Especially when my phenomenal in laws offered to have my four gangly teenage boys for the week.
I thought about it for a nanosecond… and then I booked the flights.
So on 13th June we flew to Brindisi airport in the south of Italy and spent an amazing week in Puglia (the heel of the boot) – often referred to as the Undiscovered Italy to stay in this little beauty:
The whole area has a rugged charm, and is famous for its olives, wine, fish and, of course, the trulli houses. So all of my favourite things in a hot climate with some of my best friends in the whole world.
Puglia sits between the Adriatic and Ionian seas, which gave us a choice of coastline when we fancied a beach day. We visited several beaches, some sandy and some rocky – but all of them beautiful. My husband launched himself from a cliff, not to escape me apparently, but purely for thrills. (Video proof available.) I wore a bikini. (Video proof unavailable.) We visited the quaint Alberobello, a town full of these hobbit-like houses that the region is so famous for, and spent a day at the picturesque Lecce. I marvelled at the deep rich red soil and the acres and acres of olive trees that stretched as far as the eye could see. The locals were friendly and so generous, considering our limited language skills. It was truly an amazing experience.
Despite travelling around the region during our stay, what struck me was how content I was at the trullo. In fact, I have it in mind as a future writing retreat where I could stock up on the essentials and quite happily lose a week typing away in the shade of the afternoon sun.
I ate too much and drank the perfect amount. And I didn’t want to come home.
But here’s the thing. Book four, currently on hold while I edit book three, has a small but significant Italian thread. Something that was in place before this holiday opportunity came up, so guess who can justify the trip as research now? #smugwriter
I returned from holiday to find my New Writers’ Scheme report had landed and eagerly devoured the wisdom of my lovely reader (thank you to the furthest star in the whole of the universe and back again – whoever you are). She was so generous with her feedback, and I had the real sense that not only was success within my grasp but that she wants me to to succeed. Currently up to my earlobes in edits (headphones on, Coldplay at high volume, wine to hand – you know the drill…) I am doing my very best not to let her down.
As real life plods along in its own indomitable way, and the school year nears its end, I am looking forward to spending the summer with my wonderful boys (their holiday will be in a tent, cooking baked beans on a gas stove, and it will probably rain – a lot *evil laugh*). I am also keeping busy with my new business venture – selling a small collection of rare unused Edwardian marquetry panels. The craftsmanship still blows me away every time I look at them. Our first outing in Colchester at the start of July was incredibly successful and I’m looking forward to future events. (Oh, I feel a vintage themed plotline coming on…)
And the swirly pink icing with glittery sprinkles on top of my wonderful cake of life –THE RNA CONFERENCE – is only a heartbeat away. Doubtless a blog post will follow. But remember, folks, it’s work, work, work all the way.
(Postscript to my children. Mummy does love you really. Sorry she keeps going away without you, but, well, she just does. It’s a sanity thing.)
As I skip merrily towards the end of my first draft of my current work in progress, I thought I’d share with you a recently discovered activity that’s helped me focus and get those pesky words written over the last few weeks.
There are lots of downsides to being a writer, but the solitary nature of the craft and digging deep for motivation when four hundred and ninety-seven other things are calling me, are two that I sometimes need help with. However, I have stumbled across a way to solve both of these issues; the Virtual Write-In. I didn’t invent it – it’s a thing, but I’ve wholeheartedly embraced it.
The idea is you post, via private message or in a social media writing group, when you’re about to write and if anyone else is around, you sit at your virtual desks together, pass around a huge plate of virtual HobNobs and get those words down. I tend to plug myself into a pair of headphones to demonstrate to people in my real world that I’m busy and can’t be disturbed. At the end of a specified time, everyone checks in with their word count or number of pages edited – whatever they’ve been doing.
The person I write with most frequently is the lovely Clare Marchant because we are often writing at the same time of day and are both frantically trying to complete our manuscripts for the New Writers’ Scheme, but I also join in when local online groups run write-ins, or persuade other fellow writers to join me at random times of the day and night. Sometimes I fly solo, messaging friends with word counts that mean nothing to them, but everything to me. And 80,000 words later, I can wholeheartedly recommend it.
So why does this work so well? After all, no-one even knows if I’ve written those words or just posted that I have – unless there’s a webcam in my study that I don’t know about. (If there is, I do apologise for the singing. And the occasional nudity.)
Firstly, the only person I’d be cheating would be myself. If I say I’ve written 1000 words when I’ve only done 70 and spent most of the time making tea, stroking #blindcat and painting my toenails a fetching shade of purple, my manuscript is only 70 words further on, and not the coveted 1000. So I take it seriously. Secondly, the feeling that I’m writing against the clock helps me to focus. My mobile is placed firmly out of reach, I don’t answer the phone or the door, headphones are plugged in and I make every minute count. If I want a wee, another Jammie Dodger or a quick peek at the news headlines, it has to wait until the end. And lastly, it allows me to be selfish, especially when other members of my household are about. They are told I’m on a write-in with real people, in real time, and because I have to check in, they must not disturb me unless their head is on fire.
And it really works. In fact, it works so well I have been known to pop some headphones on and pretend I’m on a write-in, just to be left alone. (Shhh… our little secret.)
Once a week, I also participate in a Work Jelly (didn’t make this up either – it’s also a thing) with a friend who crafts; she makes her beautiful cards, I write. This one involves real tea and less opportunities to cheat – Jacqui will crack the whip if I’m daydreaming. Plus she keeps feeding me huge wedges of her delicious homemade Weetabix cake to keep my strength up.
So with a bit of help from the write-ins (both real and fake) the end of the first draft is in sight for Cupboard Love. It’s a rubbish first draft – they always are – but I enjoy editing, so I don’t feel disheartened. It’s a chance to layer my story and pull it all together. And add some more funny bits.
All the times in between these sociable writing activities, it’s just me and the keyboard. Which is how I wrote the first three novels, so I guess it’s also a valid way to go.
Do add comments below, it’s lovely to hear from you, and let me know what helps you to focus on your writing. (And if you ever need a virtual write-in pal, you know where to find me… )
An author’s life can be a lonely life. Don’t get me wrong – after years of intense child rearing, the solitary nature of the lifestyle works for me during the working day, but I feel it is important – nay ESSENTIAL – to connect with real people regularly, be they writers, friends or family. Because without a healthy social life, I fear most writers would be in danger of spending their days in a faded towelling dressing gown with a half-drunk cold cup of coffee for company.
Oh – and cats. Most authors seem to be surrounded by cats and I’m no exception.
I consider the following types of socialising vital for my sanity; catching up with family, hanging out with friends, and writer-related networking. (There is one person in my life who manages to fall into all three categories, many who fall into two, and I am blessed with each and every one.) But I don’t want you thinking a social life is a luxury – that drinking, laughing, dressing-up, and going to exciting and interesting places is purely for fun. For a writer, every historic monument visited, drunken antic participated in, bus conversation overheard and long-forgotten tale from the depths of family history is potential material for the next book. It all counts as work – right?
So having established the necessity of it all, what socialising have I been up to? Well, 2017 started off with a great New Year’s Eve that involved three of my favourite things; friends, wine and games. You can’t beat a good old-fashioned board game for bringing people together and having a laugh – often at my expense. (Yes, I did once fall asleep wrapped up in a Twister mat, and more recently during a games evening, popped to the loo, totally forgot I had guests downstairs and took myself off to bed. It was VERY late and I might have had a shandy or two.)
So back to New Year’s Eve, we were introduced to the Charades app on my friend’s iPhone, and played it for two days solid. The film category was popular in our household; you guess the movie by describing the plot of the film – preferably without mentioning character names – a great game for a writer. In fact, our New Year celebrations were so much fun that our friends stayed an extra night – even though they only lived ten minutes up the road. Ah, good times.
In January, my friend Clare Marchant and I attended a fantastic writing course in central London – Real People Write Books run by Sue Merritt and Liam Livings. The purpose was to learn (and I did) but again the social element was important; I was with friends and making new ones. Fantastic events, such as this one, remind you that you are not alone. It is a chance to share writing tips and see how other authors tackle the problems all writers face. And, of course, learn from the masters.
Those who know me, know that I enjoy my dancing. Not just the merry swaying about in a dimly lit room clutching a bottle of Old Speckled Hen, but also the very grown up dance class that I attend every week. It brings a whole new group of friends, as well as the opportunity to take exams, earn medals, and perform in front of live audiences. Our group was recently the Grand Finale at a local event – outside the comfort zone for many in the group but we did it, AND we had to wear leggings… (ladies of a certain age will understand how our hearts sank. At least it wasn’t Lycra leotards).
And then to celebrate our fabulousness, we hired a hall and had a party – having failed to find a venue where we could have a drink and a boogie. (Nightclubs were out – we are the wrong demographic, but I’m still secretly hoping to open my own over thirties club one day that serves pots of tea at two a.m.) The party coincided with our dance teacher’s birthday (shout out to Kelly Clarke). She taught some impromptu routines to the husbands – who now appreciate our moves are not as easy as they look. (“Slut drops” are particularly tough on the leg muscles.)
All this socialising and we’re only just into February, but there are more events coming up. (Oh yes – my inner butterfly barely has a chance to spread her wings on the path and soak up the sun before she’s flitting off again.) There are RNA parties and Chapter Meetings that are always a joy to attend. In July I’m going to the RNA conference. Last year was so worthwhile – again from a learning point of view, and a networking one.
But my latest cause for celebration was booking flights for an Italian holiday in June – WITHOUT THE CHILDREN. (I know!) I’m so excited because our holidays usually involve gigantic canvas tents, piles of soggy towels that won’t dry and lots of sandwiches. To go abroad is a treat for us; to go without the children is nothing short of a miracle. We will be staying in a beautiful Trullo in Puglia (https://trullo-tranquillo.com) that is owned by a very dear friend. I feel some Italian storylines coming on…
So with all this essential socialising, I expect you’re wondering about the writing? Well, it fills all the in-betweeny bits that fall outside my heady social life, my job and being a parent. Two weeks ago I finally stepped away from the manuscript of Lucy’s Locket after some lovely beta reader feedback, and let my baby fly. It has undergone a rewrite, been edited within an inch of its life and sent to a few carefully selected agents and an ePrint publisher.
I have also been tweaking the website/blog. Oh WordPress, how I love thee and hate thee by turns. (Why can’t I get the posh swishy layout you tempted me in with? And where do my menus keep disappearing to?) And when that’s finished, I will be back to Cupboard Love – which I am now happily a third of the way through. It’s getting to the good bit…
So embrace your inner social butterfly my friends – be you writers or otherwise. It is good for the soul and, in my humble opinion, absolutely essential to the writing life.
A little update for you all, on this merry, nearly Christmassey-type day.
If you’ve been following my recent exploits on Facebook, you will be aware that, although traditionally a pantser, I have taken the brave (some say foolhardy) step of planning my current book.
Standing back, I can see a case for both planning and pantsing. As long as the damn thing gets written, how you do it is completely up to you. Not everyone works the same way but I wanted to give planning a go – even if it turned out to be a total disaster.
Now, when I say planning, don’t get carried away. Unlike some of my much more organised and efficient friends, I did not produce a highly detailed breakdown of each chapter, but I did invest several weeks researching the idea (especially as there is a historical element), noting down major plot points and writing detailed character profiles.
As a result, when I typed my first sentence at the start of November, I had over fifty postcards, arranged chronologically, with a good idea of what was going to happen in each scene. Thunderbirds were most definitely go.
So is it working? I hear you ask.
Well, I’ve rattled off more words than an over-excited chatterbox at a national Who Can Say The Most Words In A Minute competition. So something must be. But I haven’t exactly stuck rigidly to the plan.
Much like in my pantsing days, I find I don’t really get to know a character properly until I start to write them. Even interviewing them beforehand, whilst it definitely helps me to get a feel for their voice, still isn’t sufficient for me to really know them. So as I was merrily typing away last month, it was only when poor Molly was confronted with each new dilemma, did I realise things needed tweaking. This, in turn, led to some new plot twists and before you could say ‘hey – what about the plan?’ I was skipping off in a random direction.
This means the plan and I are currently not really communicating much, although I have high hopes of playing together again a bit further down the line, as I feel the process of planning has helped enormously – even if the final plan hasn’t been religiously adhered to. It has undoubtedly been beneficial to have a greater sense of where my story is going, and even though I am zigzagging along the path, I am most definitely moving forward.
However, I have now put the new novel on pause because, after a wonderful Christmas meal with the Chelmsford Chapter of the RNA and much bookish chat, I decided that I should head back to Lucy’s Locket and undertake those pesky rewrites. It’s a story I am pleased with and one that’s had positive feedback. Now that I have given it some distance I want to return to it and make it the very best I can.
I brainstormed in the usual locations (the car, the bath and the bed) and gaily threw myself back into editing book three.But more haste, less speed – for in my enthusiasm to crack on I foolishly spent two days editing the wrong version!
After much bad language, a good night’s sleep and some more gin, I have corrected this error – and have also learned a lesson or two about saving too many versions of the same file. But onward and upward, the edits for Lucy’s Locket should be finished by the end of January and ready to send out to agents and publishers.
And lastly, the other news from the Keer-dom is that the frustrating situation of trying to write with only one laptop and crappy internet between six family members has markedly improved. Our in-the-middle-of-no-sodding-where village has finally updated to fibre (we now have a heady 4mbps instead of 0.4mbps – oh, I kid you not) and more than one person can now be online simultaneously. (I may have accidentally discovered iPlayer and All 4 as a result. Massive time waster, but I am hopeful the entire 3 series of The IT Crowd will prove useful research at some point in the future.)
Number one son, after several months of saving, got himself a nifty (albeit second-hand) gaming laptop, and a lovely RNA friend (kiss, kiss) passed on a notebook she no longer uses. Suddenly I do not have to wrestle small children for a keyboard, or work totally unsociable hours. Hoorah!
So as I look back on 2016, I feel satisfied that my writing journey is progressing. I will achieve my dream and it would be great if 2017 was the year I did so.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all xxx
So what have I been up to recently? And why is my bunting covered in question marks?
Well, here’s the thing. Novel number three, Lucy’s Locket, was finished in July, after six months of intensive writing. It was, by that point, as good as I could get it without the benefit of a professional eye – or two. So off it went in three different directions (the fabulous NWS, an agent who had requested the full manuscript, and my beloved and much trusted beta reader). I eagerly awaited their feedback as I launched myself into book four. (Going fabulously – since you ask.)
Fast forward three months and like buses, all the feedback pulled into the bus stop together. I read the various reports and comments, expecting united cries pointing out my errors. Perhaps I had an unbelievable character? Or a plotline that didn’t work? Or issues with style? At this point I would be able to roll up the sleeves of my winter jumper and embark on a thorough edit. The book would then be brilliant and snapped up by a publisher, blah, blah, blah.
So here’s the funny thing and the reason I’m writing this short blog…
The feedback I got was largely, although not exclusively, contradictory. While one person loved that my protagonist was based in an office and found it a refreshing change from teashops and similar tropes, another found the setting boring. One person thought my hero was unlikeable (yes he’s rude and grumpy but Darcy and Poldark seem to get away with it), yet no-one else had a problem with him. A moment of dark humour was described as distasteful by one, and funny by another. And so it went on.
I was fully anticipating, and indeed welcoming, the inevitable constructive criticism. It is almost my favourite part of the writing process because I learn so much from it. But I was naively assuming my errors would be universally acknowledged. They would be forehead-slapping points I could then correct. Clearly not.
So what’s a girl to do? (Apart from turn to wine.)
This is a rhetorical question. I am fully aware reading a book is a personal and subjective thing. It’s why there are so many genres out there. While I love my happy but unrealistic endings, someone else will seek out a gritty story based on true events that leaves them sobbing into their chardonnay as they turn over the final page.
Having taken the time to fully digest the feedback, perhaps I should assume no unified cries of discontent is a good thing? Had all three readers insisted I’d got an element of my novel wrong, it would have been a sure sign that it needed changing. Perhaps ultimately I have to decide whose opinion I value the most, and trust my instincts to edit accordingly.
However, with words like humorous, lively and heart-warming being used by these three kind and very knowledgeable people, the end result is one delighted writer (especially as the agent has expressed interest in seeing a rewrite). But it has been a very interesting lesson: when three people read your book, you may receive three contrasting opinions on how to improve it. It is why aspiring writers are advised not to show their work to all and sundry, and why, when you are finally lucky enough to have an agent or an editor for your work, theirs really is the only opinion you should be seeking.
Footnote: if you want to see your publishing dreams come true, the RNA New Writers’ Scheme is an invaluable step along the way. I was delighted with my report and have started to implement the technical errors that were pointed out.