19 December, 2011

A Tiny Bit Encouraging?

Brown envelopes are horrible aren't they? They only ever seem to mean one thing to writers: another rejection. There was one waiting for me this morning when I came downstairs, but this time I'm not downhearted.

Before anyone gets excited (because of course, you all were, weren't you?), it was indeed another rejection. This one was from my first-choice literary agency - Conville and Walsh - who I submitted to in September and was beginning to lose hope with. So far nothing to celebrate, right? However, it wasn't a standard rejection - it was personalised! I appreciate that getting a personalised rejection might not seem like anything much to shout about, but after five fairly swift standard rejections, it was somehow one of the most encouraging things I've ever read! Tragic but true.

Reading those few words, "you write brilliantly and the premise is wonderful", followed by the assertion that they are "sure you will find an agent soon", will keep me going through a good handful more rejections. Standard rejections are difficult because you don't know whether they hated your work or it just didn't quite make the grade, so it's a boost to know that one of the bigger agencies actually think I can write. (I'm not being stupid here, am I? They wouldn't write that in a standard letter, would they?)

Of course, if they really loved it, they would have asked to read the full manuscript and then found me a publisher - but I refuse to let that minor detail discourage me. Conville and Walsh use readers so it looks like my sample chapters might have got past the readers and on to the next stage of assessment - that's something at least! I don't share their optimism about finding an agent soon, but they have persuaded me that it might not be completely impossible...

17 December, 2011

Finding A Voice

Having dragged myself kicking and screaming from the novel that I started writing in November, to give my mind a break, I am now finding it daunting to go back to it and start over. What if I find I can't do justice to this plot after all? What if the words I produce are nothing but a poor shadow of what's in my head? I suppose there's only one way to find out...

My main sticking point is that I am sure the story is crying out to be written in the first person - it is currently in third-person. However, I started writing some chapters from viewpoints other than that of the main character and that really worked too. So now I have to decide whether to write multiple first-person viewpoints, or to write multiple third-person viewpoints, with just the main character's chapters in the first person. I was swaying towards the latter, but the more I think about each of the other characters, the more I can hear their voices telling their own stories. To add to the difficulty, the whole books revolves round secrets and lies, and therefore the narrators are going to have to be unreliable!

So, this was the point I'd got to in my thinking when I decided to read a book in order to take my mind off my own story. I chose 'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult... which turns about to be written in multiple first-person viewpoints! In a way this was perfect timing as it showed me that it can be done, but it has also made me feel quite inadequate for the task ahead.

So what do you like to read? Are your favourite books written in third or first person? Multiple viewpoints, or only one? What do you see as the drawbacks and advantages of each technique? And if anyone can tell me about any first-person books with an unreliable narrator, that would be grand!