Words from Lionel Bart’s marvellous ‘Oliver’ where Fagin considers his position.
At the moment, I’m working to a deadline. The submission date for the Write Now competition is 1st December – this Saturday. I only finished the first draft of ‘Georgiana and the Municipal Moon’ on 1st November – all 86,000 words of it!
Now it may well be that I should have shoved it in a (metaphorical) drawer for six weeks as per Stephen King’s advice – but alas, Pan Macmillan won’t wait for me. I have to say, too, that it’s good for me to have a date in mind, something to throw at the procrastination demons. It concentrates the analytical mind, at least.
There are two main aspects to the challenge:
- making my 5k extract as brilliant as I can
- pulling the first draft into a presentable whole – in case the judges ask for it
I have done a one page synopsis ( always a good exercise to see exactly what your book is about) and my author biography won’t take long. It’s those two biggies above that have caused me to be even more distracted from the ordinary world than usual.
Well, they say two heads are better than none – even if one’s only a sheep’s head where I come from (Yorkshire – where else?). On Friday night, I certainly had more than a flock of yows to consult.
The Night-Before Critique Meet is a legendary pre-SCBWI Conference event where you can tap into the mental resources of four or five authors like you. The group reads everyone’s extracts and gives considered feedback on them. I was lucky enough to work with Sarah Penny, Fiona McKeracher, Julie Day and Jan Carr. Each of these talented writers brought their own distinctive and helpful approach to bear on my work – and I am truly grateful. I will point out that gratitude in my case doesn’t mean that I will take every one of their comments to heart – but it does mean I take them seriously.
Two – you know who you are – have gone even further and provided a response to my redrafted version. How’s that for professional support?
If you are editing, and you have the chance of some input from fellow writers who have the best interests of your text at heart, receive it with a grateful heart. There are few things better.
My gratitude to everyone whose read and commented on my work so far. At the risk of seeming Hollywood-gushy, I couldn’t have done it without you.
This week ( 30th September to 6th October ) I have been in Greece. This was a family holiday booked much earlier in the year for the benefit of my lovely husband who is Rather An Active Sort. We are at a Nielson Resort which means there are A Lot of Healthy Things To Do laid on.
This suits him enormously but I had my concerns. I have been rather pleasantly surprised. By the time that you read this I will have :
- written 3k+ more of Georgiana & The Municipal Moon
- read and reviewed one middle grade girls’ fantasy
- read and reviewed a huge YA fantasy ( with demons!)
- read three more books on my Kindle
- written two articles for the #seamagic project
- posted at least five #seamagic links on Facebook & Twitter
- done four sessions each of yoga, zumba, aqua-aerobics and stretch & relax
- walked, swam, snorkelled – and ate too much
- written this post – obviously
Now it has to be said that I haven’t had to cook or clean this week (huzzah!) but I have socialised more than I would normally. My intention here is not to boast ( well, perhaps a little) but to show myself that I can do all sorts of different things and still find time to write & other authorly stuff.
I rather hope you might have read an earlier post about using your core – I’d like to add that this is not a contradiction. I don’t actually find I can multi-task much. I can do things in sequence, not parallel.
I believe that this week has worked best when I have thrown myself whole-heartedly into exploring a half-submerged cave, dancing like a loon or writing about Regency Selchester. I can’t do two things at once very well – but I can do them one after the other – even in, say, twenty minutes.
How do you fit your many tasks in during the week?
I tweet a little ( @lockwoodwriter) and read a lot on Twitter. Recently I followed with horrified interest Jeremy Duns‘ continuing expose of Stephen Leather’s tactics. I knew more than I wanted about the man’s political views and obnoxious ways of self-promotion. Other than tainting the whole concept of writer, I didn’t see how it could affect me.
That was until I read about R. J. Ellory. I was so disappointed that I cried.
I had read Roger’s work as part of my MA and met him in that context as well. I liked him – and truth told, I still do. He was unstinting of his time & encouragement- and we’ve had a few laughs and discussions on Facebook too. I find it so hard to put him in the subset of ‘sock-puppeteer’ and make that intersect with the bloke I know. You can probably imagine my relief when he apologised – and this was accepted by Mark Billingham, one of the writers whose work he had trashed.
It was perhaps naive of me not to realise that this stuff goes on in the Wild, Wild West which is modern publishing. And it would be foolish to assert that it certainly doesn’t go on in the pure innocent realms of writing for children. I honestly just don’t know.
All I can be sure of is what I do. All my reviews are written as myself. I welcome feedback and debate.
I read books for Serendipity Reviews. I have had my moments of anxiety with this. I’ve had friends’ books to review that didn’t quite do it for me, and genres which are definitely not my thing. I try to take a compassionate and professional standpoint by asking myself the following:
- How would I feel to receive a review like this?
- What were their intentions – does it suit the readership it’s meant for?
On the whole, I err on the side of kindness. There are times I wish I had the all-guns-blazing self-assurance and spleen of an Anthony McGowan – and I do wonder if I have elected for cowardice. Perhaps my judgement is weak. But my motto in this context is ‘first do no harm’.
Likewise in my role as Graduate Editorial Assistant at West Dean, my primary goal is to develop what the MA students are trying to do. Doing them down to make me look or feel superior won’t achieve much. I need to suggest more they could do, not shut down their options.
Now before I sound far too goody-goody, I had better point out this took a while to learn. And I should also make it clear I acknowledge several motives for sockpuppetry in myself:
- envy of sales – 50 Shades of **** for example
- jealousy of talent – Patrick Ness, Philip Pullman, Kath Langrish, Sally Prue et alia
- sheer desperation
That last is a killer.
Let the one without sin cast the first stone…
This week I have been mostly playing.
On Wednesday TWH ( The Wonderful Husband) suggested a break away beginning on Saturday. It would have been rude to refuse, wouldn’t it?
I have managed a book review and a short story for a competition on the literary front. I’ve done surprising amounts of exercise, eaten really quite healthily and actually experienced sunshine – in Corsica. There’s been aerobics in the sea, a ride on a catamaran and best of all (so far) a walk to a waterfall and a swim in its plunge pool. It was bliss.
So I’m sorry there are no writing revelations this week to share with my faithful readers…
…unless you can think of something yourselves?