Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Apprentice and Literature Festivals

Just watched The Apprentice ... Alan Sugar is an interesting character isn't he? But then he has made a mint so I guess he can be. I finished looking over the proofs for the series due out soon and I am now focusing on fiction and sending out a couple more proposals.

I read my four year old niece my latest manuscript, a picture book- not my normal genre but I thought I'd give it a go and a story came to me. She said she liked it although truth be told I think she'd have preferred a princess or two in it. (She loves anything pink and anything with princesses in it!)

Ah well. I may take a break from blogging- concentrate on writing for a bit. Of course, I'll drop in if I have any pressing news! Till, then enjoy the writing, reading and whatever else you're up to.

In case you didn't know, Hay Literature Festival is on at the moment and in late June-July the Southbank Centre is hosting London Literature Festival.

The events I'd have attended at Hay look booked up or start at the crack of dawn, so I shall leave it till next year to attend. London, on the other hand is a definite possibility.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Persistence and Proofs

Okay, I am utterly exhausted. Parents' Evening after a loooong half term can do that to you... I still have a pile of essays to mark! The proofs for the Challenge Series arrived this week and I need to turn them around pretty smartish... no guesses what the first part of my half term will entail.

Oh, and I had another rejection. I don't mind admitting that. I'm in good company, or so I am told. In fact, the York Notes I wrote on Journey's End tie in well with this as R.C Sherriff (the playwright) faced extreme difficulties in getting his play on stage. It was written in 1928 and was actually Sherriff's seventh play, and because it focused on WW1, people at the time thought that it would not be popular: people were sick of the war. However, the play was shown and proved to be a hit. It was made into a film and is Sherriff's most famous work, still performed and read today. I love digging out these success stories... keeps me going!

Here's the latest rejection:
'I appreciate the opportunity to consider your work. Unfortunately, I will not be pursuing representation.

I read the pages you sent, and I did not fall in love with this as much as I hoped. While I found your writing engaging, I was not enthralled with the story. As you may know, selling fiction is incredibly tough, and an agent must have passion, dedication and enthusiasm in order to represent a novel to the best of their ability.

Please know, that taste is subjective and I hope you find an agent that proves my concerns short sighted. Best of luck to you as you seek representation.'

Kind again, but a rejection nevertheless. C'est la vie.

I read an article recently about Kevin Brooks, shortlisted Carnegie Award writer. In it, he said that he had sent his manuscript off to every publisher in the UK before he was taken on by Chicken House. He was very encouraging, saying that many writers face rejection time and again. So I am definitely in good company. Sweet comfort. :-)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Busy writing

I am focusing on my writing at the moment which is why you've not heard from me in a while.

All the same, I dropped by to let you know that the WH Smith Challenge English Series is advertised on the WH Smith site. The home page has links to it! And we should see the proofs pretty soon too. I'll also be getting proofs for the Philip Allan Year 9 Teacher Resource Pack in the next week.

I've had the proofs through for a couple of new resources for Classroom Resources and I am busy working on my fiction. I've also sent a sample of educational work to another publisher who asked for it. I'll let you know how that goes. In the meantime, I'm off for a walk and an afternoon of writing and editing.

An Update:
I had another rejection today but it was so kindly written it made me smile. I quote:

'Thank you so much for sending me your novel. You are a good writer with a fresh idea. However, I am not coming up with clear vision for selling this book and therefore don't think I would be the right agent for you. I had a similarly themed novel recently which has been most difficult to place. This might be influencing my decision. But your talent is impressive and I appreciate the opportunity to know your work.'

I'm not completely sure how my idea can be fresh if there is a similarly themed novel around, but what the heck, I can take a compliment! I certainly like the idea of my talent being impressive :-)

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I am feeling better today, so I have been organising myself- boxing books and files I don't use and generally tidying up.

I figure if I am going to edit my work why not edit my house?

Tidy room = tidy mind = tidy book

I have also decided to accept the offer I have of studying for an MA in Writing for Children at Winchester next year. I did wonder whether this might preclude me from writing for adults and getting published but I came to the conclusion this was unlikely.

My Writing Magazine arrived today and, in it, I saw a number of books which I thought I would list here for you all:

The Freelance Writers' Handbook- writing for and approaching different markets

3AM Epiphany- 200 writing exercises to help idea forming, revision, rewriting and developing characters

38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes- does what the title says

How Fiction Works- how to write using effective words, sentences and paragraphs

Dynamic Characters-advice on how to achieve powerful characters

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Corrected, Dejected, Rejected

Hello readers .... ( I could add infected to my title as I think I am coming down with something, but that would be taking the rhyme a bit too far methinks)

Well it is official: I have been rejected too many times for me to remember and actually too many times for me to care. Recent rejections have been interesting. I quote some for your reference. Please note these rejections all refer to the same book.

One agent said: 'Whilst I found your characters sympathetic, the story didn't grab me. That said, I'm going to pass.'
Another said: 'I wasn't moved as much as I'd hoped I would be.' She did ask me to bear her in mind for any other novels of this genre I write.
Another: The book was too descriptive and also too short, but this is just one reader's opinion. (a paraphrase)
Another just said thanks but no thanks. ( a paraphrase)

So, from this, I conclude that although the story was strong enough for some, the writing wasn't and although the writing was strong enough for others the story wasn't. Dare I refer back to the cycling analogy I drew on Friday.....? I get the distinct feeling that I am going round in circles.

Well there is only one conclusion!!! There is clearly a conspiracy against me ever getting published :-)

That, or this particular book is just not meant to be published right now. I'm a stubborn one though so I'm afraid it'll be back to the drawing board tomorrow, if I feel up to it.

Anastasia Suen referred to one agent's advice on her site- he said trying to find an agent is like dating. The same rules apply. Guess that means you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince (no offence intended to the frogs- frogs are nice: just not suited to my book).

Someone will love my book and will publish it.

They will, they will, they will. I just need to hypnotise them into submission....

Friday, May 04, 2007

Re-cycling Writing

What's with the bike picture? What has this to do with writing? Well, you may ask. Please indulge me...

It is a bank holiday weekend- big YAY!

For those American readers out there, this means that on Monday I do not have to go to work. In essence, I get an extended weekend -which is absolute bliss, especially as I really want to re-read my teen novel and tinker with and tweak it.

Fresh eyes- some months after last working on it- have thrown up some revelations and I've decided to really apply myself to honing the novel to a wonderfully finished piece. I think the story is strong, judging by the number of agents who have requested to see samples and the full manuscript, from my query emails and letters, but I think I need to work on the voice and energy of the piece. The bike link is coming- bear with me!

When I first started the novel, quite some time ago now, I wrote it in a very immediate way in several voices. It started with a flash back - action scene- and then there was a bit of back story by one voice and then it moved to another. In total there were five voices of varying ages, but I was advised that because I was aiming at the YA, teen market I ought to put the novel into the one teen voice and to add a clearer picture of setting and not have a flash back so soon. Interesting stuff, hey? Well, I'm the sort of person who tries to get back up onto the bike when I've fallen and give it another go (bike link).

I believe in refining my art, so I did as advised... but I think in doing this, I lost some of the immediacy from the book. And this is something I want to try and regain. It's so difficult to get things exactly as you want them, especially when you sometimes get conflicting or contrasting opinions from people. I think some readers enjoy setting and description where others like action and sometimes it feels like I'm going round in circles (bike link), but I'm determined to get my old show not tell right. I'm going to try to get back to what it is I want the book to be. I am going to recycle (bike link) some old bits and add some new!

Whether I can do this in one bank holiday weekend, I doubt, but I can certainly get started. I'm also hoping to go cycling (very clear bike link)- a pursuit I have recently re-started, after a long gap. All I can say is thank God we have gear bikes, rather than the beautiful but rather more difficult to handle bikes of the past (final bike link). Not sure my poor old legs would have been able to handle them!