30 April, 2012

Stuck in the Mud

Does anyone remember playing 'stuck in the mud' at school? It was similar to tag but when you were tagged you had to stand where you were, with your arms and legs out wide until someone else came and crawled under your legs to set you free - while trying to avoid being tagged themselves. Well, right now I feel like I'm waiting for someone to crawl under my legs (not a sentence a respectable married woman often has cause to write). I'm stuck.

I'm about a third of the way through the second draft of my novel, but it doesn't feel like it, because I'm still wavering on the structure and voice. Writing in multiple first-person viewpoints is more of a challenge than I was expecting. To maintain a coherent style, but create four or five distinct voices within that style, is tricky. I feel like what I've written so far is incoherent and fragmented, I wonder sometimes whether the book will be boring and I'm continually wobbling on whether I can really write well enough to do it justice. I am prepared to make radical changes and to edit and restructure as much as needed; the trouble is, I'm not quite sure what is needed. I have one or two things I need to work on before I write any more of this draft, I just wish I could be confident that I knew for certain what they were. It could be good, I know it could, I'm just very afraid it won't be.

Working on two novels for the last year has meant little else has had a chance of happening. Months on end without much feedback is tough. This year I've wanted to start selling my work - or trying to at least. In the past I've mainly entered competitions, and I've had a little success with that. But I want someone to actually want to buy my work. With this in mind, I've edited and submitted a couple of old stories of mine. I'd like to submit more, but I'm stuck again. Where to send things? I don't think my style is really literary enough to make it into the top magazines etc. but most other markets seem to fit into a few categories:

1) Non-paying. This is alright to get a bit of exposure, but if your work's good enough to be published in the first place, then you should be expecting to be paid for it, right? I am open to submitting to non-paying markets as long as they are quality, but it's not my ultimate aim.
2) Women's commercial fiction. I don't write this (although one of my two current submissions does fit in this category). I've tried with one or two things, but it's not a style that comes naturally to me. It's the biggest market in the UK, so it's worth cracking, but it's also the most competitive.
3) Fantasy and science fiction. I don't write this either. I would like to try at some point but, again, it's not my natural genre. It's a style that seems easy to get wrong but also a bit easier to get right if you are a good writer. I resent that fantasy and SF writers have such a big market, where those of us rooted in the real world don't!

I know there are some good websites like Duotrope which help writers narrow down markets, but even they are much more suited to genre writers. It's no coincidence that the only two stories I've tried to find a market for are my only two genre stories (women's commerical and historical). I guess I've spent the last few years trying to teach myself to write, but I never realised a writer also needs to learn how to sell work. Anyone out there in the same position as me? Or have you unstuck yourself and have some wise words to help me on my way?

There is one competition that I did want to enter. It's a big one. Only open to writers over 18 and under 26 with a children or young adult novel, it seemed perfect. Having had positive professional feedback on my children's novel I thought I stood a fighting chance, especially as nobody older than me can enter! However, they released the full terms and conditions today and my novel is way too long. Back to taking the long way round then...

On a more positive note, I thought it was about time to add an 'About Me' page to this blog. If you read this regularly then you probably know about me, but feel free to take a look anyway!

10 comments:

  1. Hi, Chloe, I'm not sure I remember the game, but I certainly recall the writing experience! I started one novel in 1st person, changed to 3rd person and then, after a few chapters, switched back to 1st person. All of which entailed a lot of rewriting and tweaking. However, I only had one main character to worry about. Have you tried reading your work aloud to see how distinctive each voice is?

    I think wobbling is a good thing, and part and parcel of the process. It shows that it's important to you and that you're not taking anything for granted.

    I think once you've earned your stripes in short fiction - which you have, by the sounds of it - you're entitled to be paid for your work. As you've discovered though, there aren't that many lucrative openings unless you can write to order, and for specific genres. Have you thought about self-pubbing a collection to put your work out there as a product in its own right?

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    1. Hi Derek, I was hoping you'd turn up! I started this novel in 3rd person and have swapped to multiple first person, and now bits of it seem to be trying to come out in second person! I always read my work aloud. I am trying a tactic of taking each person separately for now and concentrating on them as if they were the only person who mattered and writing them accordingly. We'll see how that goes!

      I have just started to consider maybe e-publishing some sort of collection as a self-promo sort of thing. It sounds a bit scary, but I might give it a go, if I can gather enough stuff together that I think won't put people off me!

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    2. (Also, I was lookign round your website yesterday for some reason - you've done so much stuff! I am in awe. But I particularly wanted to say that Scars and Stripes sounds brilliant. I'd buy it!)

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    3. I used Smashwords to self-pub a collection of comedy sketch scripts, just as an experiment really. A bit fiddly at the beginning, but once I got the hang of it (and their newbie guide helped enormously), it went fine. Whizz me over a chapter or two if you like.

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    4. I might well take you up on that offer at some point - when I am not too ashamed of it to show anyone! Thank-you :)

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  3. I write comedy thrillers and there aren't many out there as they tend to be comedies or thrillers. But what the heck, if JKR can break the mould, so can I.

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    1. Comedy thriller sounds like an ideal genre to me! At the theatre I always liked Alan Ayckbourne for his comedies with a dark edge (I know that's not quite the same thing!)

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  4. I was in a similar position recently when I was half way through a children's novel. I had to leave it for quite some time because of other commitments and completely lost the thread, the sense of where it was going, and my enthusiasm for it. I was even considering abandoning it, but - and I know it's hardly original - I decided to just read through it from the start. Because of the time away from it, it felt quite fresh. I couldn't resist doing a bit of editing, and before long ideas of where I wanted to take it kept popping up, and hey presto I was up and running again!

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    1. Hooray for re-reading from the start. I used to not do that until I'd finished a complete draft, but I've seen the error of my ways. It's a lot less disheartening to change your mind about something early on in the book when you haven't got to re-write the whole thing to do it!

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