Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Loveable brogues

This week, I have been mostly enjoying my new shoes. I bought them to wear while having coffee with my agent, although she didn't appear to notice them during our meeting (because they were under the table). So, as we were leaving the coffee shop, I had to stop her and say, "Can I just draw your attention to my new shoes?"
And she said, "Oh, yes - never mind the book, those shoes are definitely what clinch it for me." Albeit with a very wry look.

After that, I put them back in their box to wait for the next important meeting. Because I didn't want them to get scratched or anything. Then, after another day or two, I realised my next important meeting might not happen for another eight years and there was no point having shiny new shoes if I wasn't going to wear them. So, in the manner of a four year old girl with a new Princess Barbie tiara, I immediately started wearing them everywhere.
And people have noticed them - even though they're not toweringly high-heeled or covered in spangles - they have a definite look-at-me-ness. "Ooh, I like your shiny shoes!" people have said (People of sound fashion judgement, obviously. People without it, have been asking me if I'm a tap dancer.)

Last week, Lauren Laverne posted this picture on Twitter of her new holographic brogues! Oooh - shiny shoes with rainbows! Want! Want!
I think it was also a tweet from Lauren Laverne that directed me to the en brogue site where I found endless photos of beautiful shoe-candy. Which means I now have to get a book deal so I can purchase thirty different-coloured pairs of brogues. Because - yes - I am that much of a wastrel.

All the busyness of my last post seems to be easing up now, which is fine by me because I'm not one of nature's organised, dynamic types. I am the opposite type - the type who is naturally-lazy, easily-bewildered and whimpery.
And I have sent off the THIRD draft of my book to my agent. Which feels great.
At first.
Because in three weeks from now, I will have convinced myself that my agent HATES all the changes I made and is wondering how to break it to me that she doesn't want anything more to do with my book. Which feels not-great.
In the meantime, I've started trying to sort out the tangled plot of my second book and come up with a synopsis that won't make me cringe if/when my agent wants it.
Added to that, I've also found the exact definition of the kind of writer I really want to be...
"Writer of modern gothic novels that mix contemporary
 suspense and romance with historical adventure."
Trouble is, I found this description under the name of someone else - damn, damn, damn!
It describes New York Times Bestselling Author Susanna Kearsley, who has already written and published more than a dozen books - and would probably frown upon me pinching her Author-blurb.
I'm too frightened to read her books now (although they sound fab from the quote above) - in case they make me feel I can't compete. I'm not quite sure how it works, but there are definitely books that make me want to read, books that make me want to write and books that make me wonder why I'm bothering!
Over the last week or two, I've been reading lots of Young Adult books (since this is where my agent intends to place mine) - especially those with hints of magic and mystery - because this is the direction I'm planning to take with book number two. I've read...

Strange and Norrell was my favourite, although I thought the writing in Chime was beautiful. But none of them made me ache to be a writer of magical YA stories like the books by Laini Taylor or Erin Morgenstern have recently.  
So, I'd love to know which books are the ones that really inspire other writers to actually - you know - get writing?
My favourite writer is probably F Scott Fitzgerald, but his writing is too far removed from anything I can do myself, to be inspiring. It makes me feel a bit small and pointless and sort of overawed at such stylishness.
So...off the top of my head, my list would include...
1. Neil Gaiman, who makes me want to write something funny or quirky - and laugh at my own stupid jokes. He makes me feel as if writing can be huge fun!
2. Agatha Christie, who makes me want to devise fiendishly twisty plots that miraculously make sense in the end. She's truly brilliant at this - so it's a pity my admiration is always abruptly shut down by her sudden bursts of racism. The only way I can read (and learn from) Agatha Christie is by reading each book as a sort of historical document.  
3. Daphne du Maurier, who made me want to be a writer when I was about thirteen.  After reading Rebecca, Norman Collins (a senior editor at Gollancz) said, "I don't know another author who imagines so hard all the time." And that's exactly how I felt - I still remember it - I'd never read anything that was so fiercely imagined before.
Bet if I searched hard enough I could find a photo of Daphne in some really cool brogues too! 

Monday, 17 June 2013


I've just made myself a new playlist to exercise to (cross-training is my intention) because there has been far too much chocolate cake, coffee and wine going on here. I'm beginning to miss actual - you know - energy - especially since what I've been feeling instead is snappish and migrainey.
I've decided I need something a bit shouty to make me run fast, so I've been looking out some old girl bands with those cute-little-girl voices shouting out feisty, punky lyrics and giving it plenty of attitude. That's the mood I'm in - grrr!
For the last couple of weeks, I've been kind of running to keep up with myself. Busyness can creep up sometimes and - if I fall behind - it's hard to unbusy myself.
(Just like the run-up to Christmas. Only in June. And at this time of year, it doesn't all end in a mass of turkey and mince pies.)
Last week included the Seven-year-old's birthday (two parties - one for family and one for friends), my ten-year wedding anniversary, Father's Day, my sister's art exhibition and a local music festival. All nice things - all things I would've liked to photograph and write about individually for my blog - instead of which, they were all stuffed into a single week and zipped through at high speed. Like a pie-eating competition or something.
There were a mass of smaller, day-to-day things too. Aren't there always? The hot water broke and a plumber had to be called, seven-year-old had been promised a new (grown-up-sized) bed and ten-year-old suddenly grew out of ALL his shoes, I offered to babysit a friend's four-year-old, and then one of the teachers asked me to spend a couple of hours in school each day helping out with Arts Week (was papier-mâché-based - am still gluey!)


What I really wanted to do was my editing. I've got an actual agent waiting for my third draft - did I mention that? (I type it in italics...but I still don't believe myself!)
There have been a couple of mornings when I've squeeshed in some bleary-eyed editing between 5.30 and 7-ish (because that's when Jojo Moyes does it!). And there have been a fair few evenings when I've fallen asleep with my head actually inside my laptop - as if it's eating me alive. But I'm not all that confident I'm at my mental peak at these moments...because I tend to come out with words like squeeshed or terrible carnivorous-laptop metaphors.


Apart from the inevitable cutting - and I've chopped about 22,000 words now - actual-agent has asked me to reduce the number of characters in my story. Because if one of them dies or suffers horribly, she says my readers will need to care (and not cock their heads and go "Hmm, now which one was he? Was he the guy with the hat...or the one with the limp?")
Actual-agent is harsh but right.
It's made me realise that I've come up with a different character to suit every twist or turn of my plot - which, of course, makes them more caricature than character. I have a lovelorn boy who makes a pass at the heroine and is turned down. Another boy is devastated when he's cheated on by his long-time girlfriend. A third boy neglects his girlfriend because he's not quite ready to settle down.
So what I have to do now is to merge these three boys into a single boy who neglects his girlfriend - (this includes making a pass at the heroine) - which provokes his girlfriend into cheating on him - whereupon he realises how much she meant to him and is devastated. Do you see what I did there?

At first, I worried that my characters would appear to have multiple-personality disorders, but as I'm going through the process of reallocating dialogue and motivation, I'm beginning to hope that I'm making my characters more human and multi-faceted - I hope so. Real people definitely behave in lots of contradictory ways at once. I've seen them at it!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


I went and had coffee with an agent on Monday.
I was so nervous, I developed a ticcy eyelid like Herbert Lom in the Pink Panther...

As I walked into reception, I was muttering, "Hi, I have an appointment with Rowan Lawton at eleven...Hi, I have an appointment with Rowan Lawton at eleven...Hi, I have an appointment with Rowan Lawton at eleven..."
So that when one of the receptionists looked at me, I was ready and I came right out with it, cool as you like. "Hi, I have an appointment with Rowan Lawton at eleven."
Only then she said, "And your name is?"
And I looked at her like this...

Nope, no idea. Hadn't been rehearsing that one.

Anyhow, Rowan Lawton was at home with a migraine that day, so I had coffee with Liane-Louise Smith, who is currently building a list of her own at FurnissLawton.
It was interesting - and slightly trippy in my state of winky-eyed nervousness - to be talking to a real live agent.
Liane was very charming, funny and chatty - not a bit like the stony-faced gatekeeper of internet-legend - and she said lots of lovely things about my book which made me look like this...

Because I think it'll be a while before I can take any of it in properly.
To reward me for all my hard work and efficiency in the editing process, Liane has given me a ton of fresh editing suggestions. And after that, will come the line-edits. Then, if she and Rowan find me a publisher, they'll probably put me in touch with an editor to - um - work with on some more edits. 

She mentioned showing it to some publishers around October. This is a process which would begin with her dropping hints about an exiting debut by a new YA author.
I actually started to say, "Ooh, that sounds good - who's that?"
Before realising she was referring to me.

I think.
I didn't double-check.
I just sat there trying to look as much like an exciting new YA author as possible. Which on me, was like this...

One thing I've read over and over again about finding an agent is that it takes a really long time.
And it really does.
I submitted my manuscript by email to FurnissLawton at the beginning of November last year.
Then, right before Christmas they sent me a request for a full. I kept murmuring "Wow!" very quietly, but on a loop. "Wow!"
Towards the end of January I received an email asking whether I had submitted to any other agents. Which seemed promising and of course, started up all the "Wowing!" again.
In early February, Rowan and Liane offered to send me some editorial feedback and I said "Yes, please." And probably "Wow!"
At the beginning of March, I received pages of detailed editing suggestions which seemed totally OBVIOUS the moment I read them. (Although I knew perfectly well I'd never have figured any of them out without someone pointing me in the right direction.)
In early April, they sent me an email asking me how I was getting on with the second draft. My response was to stop noodling about with the ms and send it STRAIGHT back!
Then, early last month, they said they loved it and invited me over to Kew for coffee.
A mere seven months - not counting the year it took to write and all the editing still to do. (I've heard a rumour that the publishing process moves even more slowly!)

Look - actual agents!
But however long it takes, it's made me realise it really can be done - if you just keep writing!