A Novel Journey

I’m celebrating a momentous occasion today – I’ve completed the final edits of my novel, The Butterfly Storm, and have sent it off to my proof reader for checking. The writing and editing process is finished, fini, finito… or more appropriately, as The Butterfly Storm is partly set in Greece, τελεìωσα.

This day has been a long time coming. I first had the idea for The Butterfly Storm back in the summer of 2004, and I started writing the novel during the first semester of my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University (BSU). That’s nine long years to reach the point of finally saying it’s finished and on the verge of publication.

I did actually finish The Butterfly Storm within two years of graduating from BSU, although it was very different to the novel I’ve just emailed off for proof reading. After thorough editing, and over a period of 12 months between 2007 and 2008, I sent the first three chapters and a synopsis to around 25 agents and five of them requested to read the whole novel – cue fanfare and much excitement from me. That was further than I dreamed of getting, yet despite very encouraging replies, not one of the five agents was willing to take a risk on me and my novel. The general consensus was that they weren’t confident enough of The Butterfly Storm making money.

Disappointment aside I was encouraged by the positivity of the rejections and so approached four independent publishers with the opening chapters. Three standard rejection letters followed before a glimmer of hope emerged when the fourth publisher requested to read the whole manuscript. Anyone who has sent their work to an agent or publisher will know the wait for feedback seems to go on for ever and is utter agony. For me I had to wait months before I received a lovely long email outlining what was good about the novel and what could be worked on, rewritten or removed. The email ended with the promise of another read of my novel if I made the changes. And make the changes I did because, quite frankly, they made a lot of sense and deep down they were changes I knew the novel needed, it’s just sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to make you see it yourself – it’s also hugely helpful when that fresh pair of eyes happens to belong to an editor and publisher… I rewrote The Butterfly Storm, emailed it off, and then waited even longer only to receive a heartbreaking email eight months later stating that the publisher had taken the difficult decision not to publish anything further for at least a year.

Disappointment really kicked in then and I put The Butterfly Storm aside and didn’t even look at it for over a year before dusting it off (figuratively speaking) 18 months ago. So, yes, it is a momentous thing to finally finish it considering the journey it’s been on. It took me a while to come round to the idea of self-publishing but the publishing world is changing and its putting the power into the hands of authors and that’s an exciting prospect. It’s also inspiring to see the success self-published authors such as Joanne Phillips, K L Schwengel and Susan Buchanan – to name just a few – are having. So, after nine long years I’m just weeks away from finally seeing The Butterfly Storm published and that’s a pretty good feeling.

How about you? How has your journey to publication been? If you’re still working on your novel have you decided to self-publish rather than approach agents?

12/12/12

Tomorrow is the 12th December 2012, or the 12/12/12. A pretty special day in itself but for Nik and I it’s the 12th anniversary of when we got together. We met whilst working at Warner Village Cinemas (now Vue) in Bristol and got together at the staff Christmas party on the evening of the 12th December 2000. Nik proposed during our holiday in the Maldives on the 10th May 2007, three days after my 30th birthday, and we got married exactly a year later in Greece. So the 10th May next year will be our 5th wedding anniversary but tomorrow we’re celebrating 12 years together.

Along with my parents, Nik has been a constant supporter of my writing dream and has always believed in me. In fact when life got particularly tough in the first few months of 2011 it was Nik who gave me the confidence and boost I needed to focus on writing non-fiction for a while instead of my novel.

As every writer knows, rejections come with the territory. At the start of 2011 I sent my second novel, Time Shifters, out to a handful of agents. (I’m self-publishing my first novel, The Butterfly Storm in 2013.) I then got what every writer and budding novelist dreams of, a phone call out of the blue from an agent. She said she loved the first three chapters of my novel and was excited by the sound of the rest of it and would I like to send her the whole novel? Would I? I could barely contain my excitement. I emailed her my novel that very day and then endured the dreaded wait.

What happened next was simply bad luck. When I queried the status of Time Shifters after a few weeks of waiting I had a very apologetic reply from the agent saying that unfortunately she was leaving the agency and so would be passing my novel onto one of her colleagues to consider. She also said that she hoped her colleague would ‘love it as much as she did’. As it turned out her colleague didn’t love it as much, although she did send me a lovely long email detailing what she did like and left it open for me to re-submit it to her on the condition I made the significant changes she had suggested. It was at this point with other negative stuff going on in my life that Nik said enough is enough and suggested that I put aside Time Shifters for a while and focused on making some money from writing articles again.

So, in May 2011 I stopped sending out Time Shifters to agents and started looking for article writing opportunities. I’d written articles in the past with some success and had been published in magazines such as New Welsh Review and Chapter and Verse but that was a few years earlier. Things had changed since then and there were far more opportunities and markets out there for freelance writers because of the internet and the explosion of blogs and online writing. I re-subscribed to Write This Moment, a fantastic resource for freelancers looking for work, and within just a few weeks I’d found various paid writing opportunities including regular freelance work with easyJet holidays. After just a few months the hard work paid off and resulted in me being able to reduce my hours by half at my ‘day job’ in November last year.

And that’s all thanks to Nik. Happy 12th anniversary. x

The Year Ahead

I ordered a 2013 writer’s diary from Mslexia yesterday. My husband has bought me the Mslexia diary every Christmas for the last few years but this year I didn’t want to wait another seven weeks until Christmas Day to get my hands on it and start making plans. The diary is invaluable for writers (or anyone creative for that matter). It has loads of blank pages for scribbling down ideas, a section for keeping track of your submissions, plus plenty of informative and inspiring pages detailing writing competitions, literary festivals and book suggestions. As you can probably tell, it’s the best diary I have ever had.

Ordering the diary late yesterday evening got me thinking about what kind of year 2013 will be writing-wise for me. I’m anticipating that it will be a good year. To begin with I’m going to self-publish my novel, The Butterfly Storm, so that in itself will be a very positive start. I had hoped to publish it before the end of 2012 but life and other writing work has got in the way and delayed things. I also want to do it justice and feel there’s no point in rushing it.

So, with The Butterfly Storm published at the beginning of the year I want to then focus on my second novel, Time Shifters, a time travel adventure story for children. It’s already written and edited, I just need to decide what to do with it – whether to send it out to agents or consider self-publishing it too.

As well as all the promoting and marketing that will be involved following the release of The Butterfly Storm, there’s also other writing work to concentrate on – work that’s actually guaranteed to earn me money such as writing articles, blog posts and online content for easyJet holidays and lowcostholidays.com. Ideally by this time next year (if not before) I would love to be working as a writer full time. Only time and a lot of hard work will tell.

What are your plans, writing or otherwise, for 2013?

How to Make Writing Friends and Influence Readers

Last Friday I was invited to writer, blogger and book promotion expert, Debbie Young’s launch of Sell Your Books! her new book for self-published and indie authors. Published by SilverWood Books, it’s an indispensable guide for the budding indie author and the already self-published.

As a writer about to take the plunge into self-publishing my first novel, The Butterfly Storm, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet and talk to Debbie and other SilverWood Books authors who have chosen the self-publishing route. The authors I spoke to, including Helen Hollick and Lucienne Boyce, were friendly and encouraging and happily shared their own self-publishing experiences with me. What I took away from Debbie’s book launch – besides some new writer friends – was the following sound advice:

  1.  However small my budget for self-publishing The Butterfly Storm is, I should at the very least put aside some money to get my novel professionally proof read.
  2. Ensure the front cover looks professional and is suitable for a book.
  3. Have a well-thought out promotion and marketing plan to Sell Your Books!

As Helen rightly suggested, particularly with eBooks (the route that I’m initially taking with my novel), to show that you’re a novelist worth reading you need to take your writing seriously and that means a carefully edited and professionally proof read novel with a cover that wouldn’t look out of place on your local bookshop shelf. With so many books out there jostling for space and trying to hook readers you’ve got to give your own book the best chance possible. That means ensuring that any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors are corrected before publication and having a front cover that screams ‘buy me’ or at the very least seduces a potential reader.

Marketing and promotion, I admit, are not my strong points but once I’ve published The Butterfly Storm I’ve got to entice and persuade people to buy it to have any chance of success. That’s where Debbie’s book will come in – a guide to building a readership and keeping on building it. Joanne Phillips is one such author making a success of self-publishing with her first novel, Can’t Live Without, published as both an eBook and paperback, plus a newly released book of short stories. Joanne shares her writing journey on her blog, publishing posts packed with advice and ideas based on her own experience. It’s an inspiring read for someone like myself on the brink of self-publishing.

It’s thanks to Twitter that I’ve been introduced to so many new writing friends over the past few months. Writers are a friendly bunch. Far from being competitive with each other the majority of self-published and indie authors are generous and supportive – retweeting links, following each others blogs, leaving reviews and comments. This in turn builds a network of writing friends (and also potential readers) and you never know where those connections may lead.

 

Deadlines and Coffee Breaks

When it comes to writing I’m at my most productive in two ways:

1)    By having a deadline (gets me writing every time)
2)    By leaving the house, going to a café and tucking myself away in a quiet corner with a vanilla latte (a good latte, preferably flavoured with caramel or vanilla is very important).

With the dog needing walking, the living room needing hoovering and the internet needing browsing, it’s very easy to get distracted working from home. A deadline gives me focus. I write content for websites such as easyJet holidays and lowcostholidays.com and the deadline can often be for 9am the following day. I don’t mess about when I know I have a deadline. I knuckle down, do any relevant research, write the articles and edit them before emailing them off well before the deadline.

Self imposed deadlines don’t work as well because I know there’s no one to reprimand me if I don’t finish that blog post on time or if I fail to publish my novel by a certain date. I’m working on that though as time management and productivity is vital when you’re a freelancer.

If I really want to get a lot written in a relatively short space of time I simply leave the house and head to a local café. The Tobacco Factory Café in Southville, just a few minutes walk away, is one of my favourites, and I used to quite often walk into the centre of Bristol and settle down on one of the comfy armchairs in Starbucks on Park Street for an afternoon of writing. Music and other people’s conversations fade into the background and I can sit and write without any of the distractions at home that manage to take my attention away from the blog post or article I’m supposed to be focusing on. For me writing on a coffee break can be a very creative time.

Where and when are you at your most productive?