28 March, 2011

Of Readers, Reality-Checks and Refreshing

Three weeks on from finishing the latest draft of my children's novel and the reader reports are beginning to creep in. Six people offered (or in some cases "offered") to read the manuscript and answer some questions and, so far, half of them have done just that. Some interesting things have come out already - confirming my fears about some aspects of the work and providing pleasant surprises about others. In particular, the week I spent on the part of the novel that I find particularly difficult and soul-destroying to write was not in vain - all three readers so far have named it as one of the best bits! Once the rest of the reports are in - hopefully by the end of the week - I will be able to sit down and work out what is in urgent need of work, before I send it off to be critiqued again by a professional author. This is the reality-check stage, but so far it's not looking too desperate and mostly, I am just excited to see how things are going to turn out.

And what have I been doing while my readers have been hard at work? Well, I've done some little chores like making lists of potential agents and I have also been working on my shorthand speed. I taught myself the basics of Teeline last year but I never have to use it so it's only a little quicker than writing longhand at the moment! Mostly however, I have been working on a short story for the Exeter Writers Competition.  It's been an interesting experience as I am a plot-driven kind of person (often, to a fault) and this is the first time I have come up with a character and a first line and just let the plot evolve around them rather than crowbar-ing charcters in to fit my plot. I think some of the sentences and paragraphs of this latest story, therefore, are some of the best I've written, but I'm not sure that the story as a whole works perfectly. I'm happy enough with it to enter into the competition though and it's been a refreshing change to write something for adults. From the prize money and the calibre of previous winners I am guessing Exeter are expecting at least a couple of hundred entries (I could be miles out - anywhere between 100 and 1000 would be my guess!) so I'm not sure quite what chance I stand, but if nothing comes of it there's no harm done and hopefully, as my writing matures, I'll be able to revisit and re-work my old stories.

All this of course, is by way of avoiding the inevitable: at some point I am going to have to tackle writing the synopsis of my novel. Advice welcome!

08 March, 2011

And.... relax. (A little).

I am done! Yesterday I finished this draft (I won't quite bring myself to call it the final version until it has been accepted by a publisher!) of my children's novel, The Crosser of the Worlds. It's about 92 000 words which is getting on for 10 000 words shorter than the original draft so I'm quite pleased with that. I can probably do a bit more of a slash and burn job in a few weeks time, before I start sending it out into the world. First though, I need to have it read by my crack team of readers. I have four people who have read the original version, waiting to have another go at it and two people who will be approaching it with fresh eyes, so I count myself very lucky! Once I have their verdict and have fiddled around with it a little more, it goes off to The Writer's Workshop again for professional advice. Then the plan is for it to be picked up by the first agent I send it to, fought over by the biggest publishing houses in the country, become a bestseller and the film rights to have been sold by about this time next year.... hmmmm...

In the meantime, I am going to have a couple of days off and then get on with other things. I handed the final version of my anthology-bound short-story over to the publishers last Friday, so I can be purely self-indulgent for a while. I am really looking forward to writing something - even just a little short story - that isn't targeted at 10 year-olds! I also have to start making lists of target agents and begin to think about the dreaded synopsis.

Photo: Hannah Timm Photography
All this, of course, would not be possible without my lovely husband, Paul. We were watching the European Indoor Athletics at the weekend and there was an interview with Helen Clitheroe who had just won the 3000m despite not having been given any funding. The people who sponsor our best athletes didn't believe that she was good enough, but her husband did. He was the one who encouraged her to keep training while he paid the bills. Well, Paul is just like that - he works hard so that I can write and we can still eat and pay the rent and I'm not going to even try writing about how grateful I am. Hopefully I'll be able to show him one day, by justifying his faith in me. I couldn't think of a fitting picture for this post so as a little tribute to my sponsor, here's one of us just after we signed the marraige register, demonstrating how happy it made me!

Right, I'm off to do some baking and walking and other things that I don't have to feel guilty about now that I'm finished!