And this was my first ever post, written on the 16th December 2011...
"It's the last day of school today and the whole family will be home for Christmas - so I won't get the opportunity for much writing until the new year. I don't want to forget how to do it, so my plan is to write bits and pieces on this blog until the holidays are over. Then I'll start work on an exciting new novel and perhaps attempt one or two short stories - and use this blog to record my progress."
Probably one of my shortest ever posts, but it says what I wanted to say. I was feeling a lot of quietly simmering determination and I needed to record it somewhere. I think.
Anyway, it worked. Three years later, I am a writer (although it still feels like I'm pretending when I type that). My book will be out in June (according to the Chicken House website) and you can buy it for £7.99.
Here it is, on the same Chicken House bookcase as Melvin Burgess and Kevin Brooks (among lots of talented others). Which means I really ought to hurry up and finish writing the end!
So...yeah. Blogging! Try it - it works really well!
I kept putting off November's blog post...and now it isn't November any more, so there can never be a November post. I haven't missed a whole month before and I enjoy blogging, so I'm a bit glum about my November post not existing.
I can't even claim that November whizzed by in a whirl of gaiety. It didn't. I've been here at my laptop, tapping my way through each day. I thought of things I wanted to blog about - made up whole posts in my head - but then let them drift away unwritten each day because my editing seemed more important.
I haven't been given a deadline for my edits. No one's shouting at me or holding a big stick over my head. It's far worse than that. They made me like them - my publishers, I mean. I really want to do a good job on the edits for everyone at Chicken House. Cheesy as it sounds, I want my book to be good enough to be a Chicken House book. And finished! That's probably quite important too.
I've agreed to go to a Book Brunch in January and talk about my book in front of a roomful of bloggers and bookish types. I've even agreed to read some of it out loud. So I'm guessing that the bulk of my edits really ought to be done by then. And they're pretty sizeable edits!
*Breathes and thinks calming thoughts*
Since I've set myself an editing target, I feel guilty whenever I'm not editing. It reminds me of Bridget Jones's realisation that she's come to see the ideal intake of calories each day as...zero. And she's stunned when someone points out that humans need to eat a certain number of calories each day to stay alive. Similarly, I've come to feel guilty about not-editing while I'm doing anything else - whether it's cleaning or ironing or helping my children with their homework. Sleeping will probably be the next thing to go.
Since I needed to get on with my edits, I've had to learn to say 'no' - which I hate. Of course, it gives me something to feel guilty about while I am-editing, so the guilt is pretty much ever-present.
Friends are a good thing and I'm glad I have them, but I had a sudden spate of invites to lunch or coffee or drinks and I found myself getting tearful at the thought that I might have to choose between having friends and having a book deal. No, I can't have lunch with someone I haven't seen for ages and who is claiming to be 'lonely'. Even if it is nearly Christmas! No, I can't go out for lunch with my parents - even if it is my dad's birthday. Every day is someone's birthday... No, I can't accompany my son's class on a school trip to the Roman villa. And no, I can't pop into the school to make props for the play, listen to the slow readers or bake cakes for the Christmas Fair. No, no, no!
All this gave me about a week's breathing space before it came to nothing. My husband developed crippling sciatica and my eight-year-old was struck with a sick-bug. There's no saying no, no no to family...because they're too busy writhing on the floor or vomiting.
Other things I've learned about editing
The thinking-about-each-edit takes more time than the actual writing. Hours...whole days...so much time with not a lot to show for it.
The exact moment I press 'send' on a chunk of edits to my editor is the exact same moment that a whole flood of newer - much better - ways of having edited whatever I've just sent, will come swooping into my head. Damn, damn, damn - this can't be just me, can it?
It's difficult to send a book in chunks at all. Having worked entirely alone on a book for years, it's hard to suddenly split the work with someone. All my instincts want me to complete the edits in full and then send them to my editor for marking as if she's a teacher who I'm trying to impress.
It's easier to write for an editor rather than for myself or with a vague YA demographic in mind. All my best words come when I'm thinking - 'Ooh - this'll make Rachel laugh!' or 'Aha, this is clever - Rachel won't be expecting this to happen!'
It's really exciting to read praise of my particular editor in the acknowledgements of books by real authors. 'Wonderful...patient...calm...humorous...' I've quoted all these at Rachel Leyshon - who really has been wonderfully calm and patient about my continuing excitement with it. A few things that would've made it into my November post...you know, had there been one...
I had a lovely lunch with Barry Cunningham and Rachel Hickman, the deputy Managing Director of Chicken House at the Charlotte Street Hotel. They were both far too easy to talk too and I pestered them with a ton of questions about everything I'd ever wanted to know. When Barry talks about books, I can forget he's Barry Cunningham and communicate like a normal person. When he offers me the broccoli however, I find myself thinking 'Holy shit - it's Barry Cunningham!' and sending broccoli florets rolling all around the table. Of course he pretended not to notice my clumsiness because he's very charming, but he must've been thinking 'JK Rowling never knocked this much stuff over whenever I went to lunch with her.'
A friend offered to lend me Rooftoppers, since she'd read my blog and thought I'd like it. I did like it! I liked it a lot - my eleven year old is now reading it - in preference to the iPad - which feels like a Christmas miracle! I really must keep up with this blog if it makes me come across as a Rooftoppers-kind-of-person. Because Rooftoppers has a girl with hair like a lightning bolt, and a man with a voice like moonlight. I love the sort of writing that sounds a bit like poetry. Although whenever I've had a go at it myself, my editor has marked it with 'I do not understand this bit...'. I suppose the answer is to learn how to be consistently poetic rather only coming up with one or two inspired poetic flashes.
I got to meet E Lockhart, who's written one of my favourite books ever. She was utterly charming and full of wise and thoughtful writing advice. She claimed to have written fifteen or sixteen drafts of We Were Liars - and said the fairytale sections were only written in an attempt to write her way out of a struggle with writer's block.
I got my hands stamped and my book signed
with all my favourite quotes from We Were
E Lockhart had 'DON'T' and 'PANIC' written on her own hands.
My favourite quotes from the informal talk she gave us were that - "Children deserve good literature. They also deserve high quality and complicated literature." And -
"I am really opposed to shaming people's reading choices. Can we just get over that?"
And last but not least...I received a lovely card and signature for my copy of The Yeovil Literary Prize anthology - featuring a story by my talented blog-friend Suzanne Furniss. It's the best thing in the world when you get to clap and cheer the successes of people who've supported and encouraged you right from the beginning. No one deserves it more than she does...well done, Suzanne!