Friday 22 June 2012

I have a dilemma

Hearing that a publisher or agent would have taken you on a few years ago when publishing was a different place, is much better than hearing that they wouldn’t have taken you on then and certainly wouldn’t give you so much as a fleeting consideration now. However, after a few times of hearing this poisoned chalice of a sentence, the voices which knock on the side of my head and ask if anyone is home, are getting louder, even in my ears, known to be a little hearing-challenged.

We are having to be more choosy, cry the publishers which means the agents are too. When book lists are being slashed, a polished copy is going to fare better than something with promise. There are publishers out there who are desperate to take on and nurture a first time author, just as in the old days. I am holding out for a response from one such publisher who sounds so devoted to people like me, and so professional in a tremendously 'tactile' way, that the waiting is painful. But nonetheless, the voices are suggesting that generally, a professional edit could be the difference between my first novel being published, and thus read by a few more people than simply me and my trusted readers, and languishing in the, At least-I-Had-Fun-Writing-It pile. 

I always suggest that we keep moving when playing the submission game because waiting around will only lead to a depressed state of rigor mortis. Just as a watched kettle never boils, neither does the email land if you click send/receive more than ten times in an hour. Although, I admit to continued, extensive investigation into this one.

So, heeding my own advice, off I trot to do some research into professional editing. The company which I decide is the most impressive, is, of course, one of the most expensive options. However, this is a group who use only published authors and who have answered all my questions personally and in great detail which would bode well for the service to come. 

I have the money for the editing in my piggy bank but my head has been turned by a course-cum-retreat.

The last time I went on a week long course I wrote 5,000 words of a book that was not even a gem of an idea before my arrival; that book became Glass Houses. There I met my fantastic writing buddy who has become a friend as well as a mentor. Oh, and as soon as I got home, I handed in my notice for a job I really enjoyed but which left me no time to write.

The course in question would fall a few weeks before I started my job teaching creative writing and couldn’t fail to fill me with ideas for that. Apart from attending pertinent talks and workshops and spending time with other writing devotees, I would actually write. This is something I don’t do too much of when my children are home for the summer holidays and it would mean that I had an outside chance of finishing the first draft of my second book while I was there. Without the course, the first draft would drift into September and September, as I’ve opined in a previous post, is my New Year. Once my children were back at school I’d love to be on stage two, making a story from the set of scenes dropped onto the pages a few weeks earlier.

My dilemma is this: I don’t have the finances or the time to do both the editing and the course. I have to decide whether the editing is essential to selling my first book. Would it open my eyes to its failings and give renewed vigour to making changes? I am not one for giving up and whatever an editor advised, I would consider it carefully and then act upon it.

Or, should I focus on book two, crack on with its first draft, have something else to show a potential publisher and learn something new in the process? 

Whether you’re a booky type, published or wannabe writer or one of my trusted followers, your opinions are all equally valid. Somebody not in this crazily infuriating, yet fizzy and exciting world of publishing, may just see the answer really clearly. Can I ask, what would you do? 

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Very Inspiring Blog Award

I was really touched to receive a Very Inspiring Blog Award from the wonderful, Smirkpretty, AKA Shannon, whose own blog is, quite frankly, inspiring. If my writing can ever be deemed inspirational, then it really is worth every moment of the sweat and toil. Thank you, Shannon. You can visit Shannon's blog at

As I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of years now and already had the dubious honour of dredging up seven things you wouldn’t know about me, this time, I’m going to have to dive a little deeper. Goggles on, we’re going in.

1. I was the unwitting guest at the wake of a decapitated man. It was almost twenty years ago and I had about tuppence-ha’penny to spend on rent.  After weeks of fruitless searching however, I’d reluctantly upped the amount I was prepared to pay by £5 per week. I was with my now-husband and as we drove up the crunchy gravel drive, we commented on what amazing house you could find for that relatively small increase in budget. I do recall it being a little dark, though. Eventually the door was answered by a tiny Asian lady who simply looked and beckoned us in. She directed us over to a couple of wooden chairs, the last in a line of eight resting against the lounge wall. We sat down. Other people nodded acknowledgement without taking their gaze away from the rolled up carpet in the middle of the floor. Nobody spoke. ‘It’s like waiting at a bus stop,’ I whispered to my boyfriend. ‘But what are we waiting for?’ he whispered back.

It transpired we were waiting for the landlord to come and take us to the actual house for rental. It was the landlord’s son who appeared in his place. I rejected the room which was opposite the graveyard and two miles away from where the advert had described. It wasn’t just because of the broken light hanging from the centre of the room with shards of faulty light bulb hanging threateningly from it and a muffled explanation as to why the light didn’t work; something about a fight between two tenants. Nor was it particularly the fault of the bed which had clearly collapsed on one side, so badly that the putrefying mattress had half slumped down on to the floor. No, it was the notes in the tiny kitchen assigned to 12 people which put me off. They made it quite clear, with a rather excessive brutal directness, exactly which item of food belonged to which person and woe betide anybody who dared to pick from somebody else’s shelf.

The next day we read in the paper that a landlord who had been ripping off his tenants had had a dispute with one of them. In the process he’d lost his head which explains why the alarmingly human like form rolled up in the carpet in the living room, seemed a little short for a fully grown man.

2. I’m learning Slovakian. I can say this in three tenses, can add in an adverb or colourful adjective, if required, and even tell you that my dog is also learning Slovakian (and add that I don’t actually have a dog, or a cat). But learning to tell the time has driven me to real tears on not one, but two, occasions. I suppose, with no other distractions and an interlocutor with the patience of Job, I could just about spit out the answer nowadays but by the time I’ve worked out that it’s, ‘five minutes before the first quarter of the tenth hour’ (ten past nine), it will already by eleven minutes past nine and I’ll have to start all over again.  If a Slovakian ever has the misfortune to ask me for the time, I shall say, ‘neviem’ and hide my watch.

3. I cycled the Pyrenees in a week last September and it was the best sporting experience I’ve ever had. I’m not sure I could really muster the energy, or time, to train again but I’m so glad I did it once in my lifetime. My husband and I raised £2,500 for the Stroke Association, a charity close to our hearts because our twelve year old daughter suffered a stroke when she was one. She’s made an amazing recovery. Pre- national health and research done by the Stroke Association, I’m not so sure she would have done. We will always be grateful to them.

4. I have arthritis in the third finger of my right hand which I have found out, only today, is not inflammatory arthritis but the other type which means that my degeneration may not be quite as fast as I’d feared. Please raise your glass of olive oil and share a toast to the longevity of joints.

5. I have bunions, hearing aids, glasses and the odd protesting joint but as I explain to my concerned-cum-amused husband, I feel it’s only my peripheries that are broadcasting my advancing years. The women in my family live for near-centuries and I intend to give them a run for their money. By then, they’ll have invented a pill to sort out feet, eyes and ears and a gadget to turn the pages on a Kindle, so I’ll be fine.

6. I ran the midnight marathon in Norway and got my pace so badly wrong that I was reduced to a lollop after the first half. I spent so long at one feed station, stuffing myself with bananas, cheese sandwiches, flap jack, jelly babies and energy drink - this is the girl who can’t normally eat within two hours of running - and chatting with the officials, that fellow runners thought I was a marshal and asked me to hand them a drink. At that stage, I have to say, I was tempted to jump ship.

7. I was a tour guide but I have no sense of direction. If you put me in a field and spun me around, I would die searching for the exit. Now my children are older, it is they who take me to the toilet in a restaurant to ensure I make it back before the end of the meal.

I did a season of bus and walking tours based in countries I knew but in places I hadn’t always been to myself. The idea was that we crammed up on the history of the ones we didn’t know and memorised maps so that we could guide our guests around.

Oh dear.

I used all the means at my disposal to get myself, and the holiday makers, around these foreign cities. The bus drivers would quietly point out landmarks before we arrived. The hoteliers would suggest a seemingly obvious building for me to aim for so that if all else failed, I could find the way there, sneak out the map and do everything in my power to recall the way back to the hotel. But the rest of the time I used to make it up.

Whilst I may not be able to remember which way to turn out of a car park, tell me a story and I’ll remember it for ever. Hence my oft-used line, ‘I’ve brought you this way because I just have to tell you about…’ I almost pulled it off. Almost. One wonderful American gentleman who kindly took it upon himself to give a little cough on the off chance I was about to walk past a turning on several occasions, wrote on his feedback form, ‘I’ve never had so much fun in my life. This lovely lady couldn’t find her way out of a square box but I could listen to her talking all day.’ I say, thank the lord for the American love of a northern English accent.
So, to my list of my 15 blogs which inspire and make me smile. Congratulations on your well-deserved awards! To this list I add my usual proviso, if your name is missing and you feel it should be there, it should. It’s my brain cells. I forgot to mention, they’re on the decline too. by Annalisa Crawford by Gillian Smellie (hoping this will inspire you back to blogging, Gillian!) by Rachel J Lewis

In accepting your award, please:
1. Display the award logo somewhere on the blog.
2. Link back to the blog of the person who nominated you.
3. State seven things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award and provide links to their blogs.
5. Notify those bloggers that they have been nominated and of the award’s requirements.

I look forward to your posts :)