Archive for November, 2008

Update … Good News Everyone!

Last week I received some good news – an agency, having read my full manuscript, is interested in it. It will require more agency-assisted editing, but that too is good news; they like the novel enough to invest time in helping me make it better. And it’s a big name agency too! I’m like a jitterbug anticipating their suggestions. I took the novel as far as I could under my own steam, and while I know it’s good, at times I wondered just what it was that I had created — that can happen when you get so close to a project. Already, I have an insider’s perspective on its market genre. Wonderful.

It’s invigorating to — finally — have enthusiasm for my novel shared by someone in the business. A glimmer of hope in an morass of economic woes.

The hurdles are yet legion: pending the edits, it still has to become a formal offer of representation; the agent needs to entice a commissioning editor in a publishing house; an editor has to sell it to a pitch panel. In this business, I know only too well from my own experience that one can fall at any of the hurdles. But most are largely out of my control. The only thing I can control now is the quality of the novel, to make it the most irresistible prospect I can, and with the help of an agency, I can do even more about that.

But that is all next year’s concern.

Best of all in this is my internal victory, and the satisfaction it spawns. I have been vindicated. I took the decision to re-write a new draft, rather than start a different novel. I felt passionate about the subject matter and that I could tell the tale in a way that would sell. I believed it important also to learn to whip an errant novel into shape – it is a skill I would need as a writer. I have pulled apart and re-assembled an improved novel that made it over the next hurdle. Having done that, I feel confident that I can handle any edits that now come my way.

“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

4 comments November 25th, 2008

This week, I have been mostly … plotting.

I’ve been sitting here in my artist’s garret this week, plotting. All that I’m missing is a white feline to stroke menacingly. I did escape my lair long enough to go see Quantum of Solace, but that is a whole different blog post. No, this is about plotting of a much less threatening kind.

In my day-time career there is a principle that transfers nicely to my shadow career of writing. In the cycle of software development, the earlier in the design process a problem is detected, or a requirement gathered, then the less costly it is to fix it or implement it. It stands to reason. If you discover towards the end of writing software code that there is a problem — something that wasn’t thought of sooner — then significant chunks of it have to be re-written, interfaces to other systems need to be altered, tests have to be run again, and man-hours spent writing the original code have to be written-off. All this affects the bottom line. That is why successful project managers on large software projects are so fastidious about requirements gathering.

So too in writing. It’s striking to me how many parallels there are between the process of writing software and the process of writing a novel. My first novel taught me the importance of having a sound plot outline before a word of prose is committed to paper (or to hard disk platter). It had to be re-drafted to repair plot deficiencies and that took a lot of my man-hours.

But, a story outline can’t be worked out totally in my head; sometimes a few scenes need to be drafted and played with to get the feel of characters, and how they might interact. There is a parallel in software for this too – it’s called a “prototype”, or a “proof of concept”. It the writing world, I think it’s called NaNoWriMo! Do something quick and dirty to see if it works, or how it works, or what the implications will be. Then take what you’ve discovered and add it to the master design.

With my second novel, I want to start similarly streamlining the writing process (insofar as a creative process can be streamlined!) If I do get to churn out novels for a living, then I’ll need to take on-board what I learnt about writing Broken Evolution and reduce the number of drafts needed to produce a novel, if I can.

So for this reason, I lock myself up in my artist’s garret, and won’t put pen to paper, or come out, until I force myself to draft a working version of the story outline. Will such anti-social behaviour turn me into Ernst Stavro Blofeld? Perhaps. I just hope it won’t be Jesse that I turn out like:

Well, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you? If I can’t find fun while doing this, there’s no point doing it at all, because it’s improbable I’ll be doing it for the money (although more about that in a later post)!

Fun – that’s another thing I want to inject into this new novel. My new protagonist is going to be a bit of fiesty fun for the reader.

It’s invigorating having a blank creative slate again, after rounds of revising and tightening and editing the same story over and over to make it as refined as possible. A new novel is a fresh playground where I can go anywhere and anything is possible. That’s at the start, at least. Creativity is a process of harnessing inspiration, and slowly circumscribing it with boundaries created by the choices a writer makes.

That’s where a story outline begins – with infinite horizons. It very quickly needs to start having its wings clipped.

Add comment November 21st, 2008

Hard Times in Publishing

Today I got the first rejection letter to show the economic recession card. If agents and publishers are more focussed on keeping their current writers’ business in this economic environment, then they’re less likely to punt on new writers. So they say. In truth, new writers are essential to the publishing business, to drive new sales. They will always stump up for what they feel is the right proposition.

What really worries me about it, is that this recession has changed tastes. Who would even believe an international espionage thriller in a world where airlines are going out of business, and the villian people fear most is the faceless one stealing away your job? I can only hope the dish I serve suits people’s taste for escapism in this climate.

I persevere. We all persevere.

Add comment November 14th, 2008

I don’t like Mondays.

The podcast over on Litopia is a great source of interesting little tidbits that can educate any aspiring writer about the world of publishing. One of those little facts I learned from Peter Cox is that Friday is a “reading day” in the publishing industry, when agents catch up on submissions and slush pile material gets considered. The unfortunate consequence of that, I’m sure, is that rejection notices get sent out on Mondays. And if your submission happens to be via e-mail? Well – this Monday morning e-mail rejections were sitting in my Inbox when I started work .

At least I know why the week began on such a downer, but there is cold comfort in the knowledge.
Why can’t agents follow-up “reading Friday” on a “rejection Tuesday”? 🙁

Add comment November 10th, 2008

The writing exercise for today is …

… rephrase, in plain english, the following classic piece of Donald Rumsfeld obfuscation under press questioning:

“Reports that say that something hasnt happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknownsthe ones we dont know we dont know.”

Here’s my attempt:

“I don’t want to answer your question.”

Add comment November 7th, 2008

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