Posts Tagged ‘manuscript’

A New Year – and a new decade.

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Right! I am seizing the very last minutes of my brain function today to write this blog. I popped on to my website to find a link for someone on twitter and I was horrified to discover that the last blog post I wrote was on October 18th!!! I mean – SO many things have happened since then and now. Mostly in the last week; I have had a fantastic Christmas and New Year and I am very sad that it’s over now. I had got quite used to drinking champagne at breakfast time, staying up till 2am entertaining friends every night and sleeping till 10am. I even lay in bed for an entire morning one day and read my signed (!) copy of the Peter James novel ‘Perfect People’ in five hours, cover to cover without stopping. That may have been my biggest festive treat. I adore Peter James, I cannot recommend his writing highly enough. He researches so thoroughly and writes so skilfully that it’s an absolute joy to read his work. But it’s back down to earth with a bump tomorrow as my husband goes back to work, yet the girls are at home for another week. Childcare will be solely my domain again. I love looking after them, spending time with them, playing with them and entertaining their little friends and everything, but at this stage of the holidays I just yearn to write. I’m ready to stop partying and start eating and sleeping properly again and along with that focus comes the need to write – and if I can’t I do get a bit grumpy and intolerant. It’s difficult to describe but it’s like the creativity needs to escape and I’m far too tired by the evening for it to escape properly. The only thing it manages to do is creep out a bit sometimes, look around half-heartedly and crawl back inside.

Christmas Eve Eve

At the time of writing the last blog I had just received my third publisher rejection. Hot on the heels of that one (I think it may even have been the next day) came news of the fourth, which wasn’t such a nice rejection and that one got to me a bit. I think it was having two so close together, it made me feel a bit despondent. However I got over it quickly enough and I haven’t heard from the fifth and final publisher yet but I am not expecting good news. With each day that passes that manuscript goes a little bit further away from my heart – all my attention is now on my new one. My new, new one. What I am about to say does not fill me with pride, I’ve done something that I don’t approve of and broken one of my own, unbreakable rules. It’s not a very harsh rule, it’s simply that if you start writing something, you finish it and yet I’ve abandoned the manuscript that I was working on the last time I blogged. It was an easy decision in the end. I was struggling with it and avoiding sitting down to write. I didn’t have a clear idea of the whole plot, never mind individual chapter plans and I was getting myself tied in knots about it as might be evident from the fact that I couldn’t even decide whether to write in first or third person. Eventually I accepted that it just wasn’t working for me at the moment and decided to draw a line underneath it. I will probably go back to it…..probably. But that’s simultaneously one of the most wonderful and most awful things about being a writer – you never know where your career is going to take you. Daisychain was on the back burner for a long while before I resurrected it so I know I’m not necessarily writing the manuscript off completely.

Anyway – the new one. I am tremendously excited about it. I’m about 11,000 words in and unlike the previous manuscript the words just flow and flow when I write. That’s how I know I’ve made the right decision about what to work on at the moment. When I was feeling so fed-up and uncertain about how to write I suddenly thought – I know, I’m going to write what I want to write. With all the things that I love mixed into it. And something that I originally wrote when I was fifteen shot into my head and it was perfect. It’s a different style for me, it’s part historical so it requires some careful research but it’s just a pleasure to write and I see myself finishing it quite quickly. Unlike the previous one I know exactly where this plot is going at all times, it’s quite simple, but the threads are very different so I hope it’s not dull. My lovely husband agreed to read it the other day and he said he enjoyed it so much it was like watching a film rather than reading a story, i.e. I’d brought all the characters to life sufficiently for him. And then a few days later he told me that when he felt like sitting down to read it wasn’t his current book that he wanted to read – it was my manuscript! Such a compliment, I was so touched. I’m reasonably certain that he meant it as well. I haven’t sent any of it to my agent yet but hopefully it will meet with her approval too. Watch this space.

The other thing that is taking up a lot of my time (and money) at the moment is training for the Brighton half-marathon on February 19th. I am very scared. As anyone who knows me will say, until recently I was more likely to fly through the air than run thirteen miles and yet I have agreed to do this. All for a good cause, obviously, and I do like a challenge but I wonder if I’ve got a bit ahead of myself here? I’m training religiously three times a week, I can run six miles on the road or on the treadmill easily now and I play a fair bit of racquetball too on my ‘off’ days just to try and increase my fitness. I was unable to face training outside during the winter in all the rain and the dark so I had to join a gym; it gives me no excuse not to exercise. I had to buy some expensive new trainers as well because my ankles weren’t stable apparently, which I found a bit alarming, I’d like to keep them intact if I can as I get older. And speaking of getting older – it’s my birthday in less than three weeks and I’m going to be thirty! THIRTY! I am ridiculously, childishly excited. In true Sarah Haynes style I have a big party organised and I am very much looking forward to seeing all of my guests and dancing the night away with plenty of champagne. I’ve bought my dress, arranged my hair appointment and the countdown is well and truly on. I’m not sad to leave my twenties at all and I don’t feel old, I just feel ready for the new phase of my life. I’ve done my twenties, bring on my thirties! A whole new decade…..I wonder what will happen?

Well I feel a bit less guilty now I’ve written a new blog post. I don’t tend to make resolutions but if I had to one would definitely be to write blog posts more regularly. I don’t think frequency necessarily matters, I follow blogs because I enjoy them and even if the posts are months apart I would still keep checking, but it is nice to know that someone is going to write every week or every month or whatever. So that will be my resolution for 2012. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! xxx

Rather A Nice Rejection

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Fascinating though the inner workings of my washing machine obviously are; I think it’s time to write about something slightly more cerebral. Even if it’s not more cheerful. Late yesterday the news came in of my third publisher rejection and, as promised, I’m going to write about it because if it were anyone else I would be absolutely avid with interest. This was the third response out of five; I’m getting quite used to them now. The day that someone accepts my manuscript I think I may fall over.

It was the nicest rejection so far. The email I had from my agent actually said it was ‘rather a nice rejection – but a rejection all the same’. The email was from a fiction editor at a major publisher, and when I read what she had to say I agreed – it was nice. She said that she was “….really impressed with the author’s writing style and her ability to communicate with the reader in an accessible way…” and that “…I do rate Sarah’s writing and if she chooses to write anything else in the future, I hope you would consider sending it to me.” How nice! Obviously mixed in with those lovely bits were the paragraphs where she explained in detail exactly why she was rejecting it, which were not so great to read, but I did think that there were some fair comments in those as well. I wasn’t shocked this time, because it was the third rejection, and perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t have any negative feelings at all. My mind was wholly entranced with the compliments, rather than the actual rejection. That may sound strange, but the more time passes from the point of submission, the less I care about the manuscript. It becomes more and more every day something that is a past project, and whilst I shall mind if it doesn’t ever get published, it’s very far from my main focus. It’s out of my hands, there is nothing that I can do and I am looking firmly forwards to future opportunities. To which end, the fact that a fiction editor at a major publisher rates my writing and would be keen to read more is exceptionally good news.

The only bit that I struggle with, and have for a while, is having the confidence that I am writing the right thing. But as I said on here a while ago, I choose to believe that I’m writing the right thing when I feel that the story needs to be told, regardless of whether anyone else ever wants to read it or not. If you care passionately about your idea, then as a writer you have very little choice but to write about it. That instant when you’re thinking about a possible plot or concept, and your heart rate speeds up and your breathing becomes faster and heavier and the idea wells up and explodes in your mind into a thousand, tiny strands, so many that you can’t possibly use them all – that is a truly magical moment. The last time it happened to me was quite late at night and I’d been wrestling with a particular idea for days and then finally I saw a way that I could make it happen and I literally felt a physical sensation rush down my arms. I was instantly wide awake and focussed and all I wanted to do was start writing. Of course I had no real characters at that stage so it was completely impractical, but the strength of feeling I had showed me that it was something that needs to be written. And this is why I can take the rejections in my stride; even if I do end up being able to wallpaper a room with the letters.

A few people have sympathised and said how awful it must be to have my work rejected, but I can honestly say that I have never found it hard to hear criticism of my manuscript, for the simple reason that no-one has ever (to date, and I’m sure it will come) actually criticised my writing. I think if the editor had said that my writing wasn’t good enough, or it was boring or didn’t engage her then that may be a little hard to take. But the fact that she didn’t like my idea is all right with me. As I have pointed out again and again – whether or not a person likes a manuscript is a necessarily subjective thing. And just because one person doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t, which is something agents say a lot because it’s true. The market conditions at the moment are apparently very, very tricky and nothing is selling. I hear this from various sources time and time again. I think it will be very difficult for a new author to get a manuscript accepted by a publisher at this precise moment in time, and if I’m brutally honest I don’t think Daisychain will be accepted. This time around. I’m not sure what will happen with it if I get five rejections, I certainly wouldn’t write it off completely, nor would I insist on submitting to every UK publisher under the sun. I think I would probably sit back, continue writing the new manuscript and just bide my time, wait and see if the market conditions improve, wait and see if the new manuscript meets with approval (both agent and publisher) and then perhaps there will come a time when re-submission for Daisychain becomes an option. Who knows? But I am jumping the gun a bit here, there are still two more responses to wait for.

This is the last week of school before the half-term holiday for my girls. For some reason they get two weeks off in the Autumn term so there are lots of lazy days ahead! For the girls, anyway, rather than me. In the middle weekend of half term I am running the Junior Great South Run. Despite the fact that I look quite young, I am obviously not a Junior, but it is beyond me to run the ten miles required in the Adult GSR. I am running for a group called the Harvey Army; created in memory of a little boy from the school that my girls attend, who died very suddenly on holiday, back in the summer. It was an horrific shock to the school community, and just impossibly sad beyond words. I didn’t know Harvey, or his family, very well, but I do remember a little boy who had the biggest, happiest, most constant smile I think I’ve ever seen around school, and I was so moved by his loss that I felt that I wanted to do something  in his memory. So I shall be running 5k in a couple of weeks. I was training for it by running three times a week, but then last week I developed the worst case of laryngitis I have ever had, and I really felt quite ill. So I haven’t run anywhere for a long time. I keep meaning to start again……..and I will. But only after some Rather Nice Prevarication :)

xxx


 

The beginning of a long road.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

As anyone who follows me regularly on twitter will know I have started writing Manuscript Number 3! It does have a name which I will keep to myself for a while; suffice to say it is one of my favourite words in the world. As the title of this blog says it is the beginning of a very long road so I thought I would write a post about each stage of it because I find the creation of a book a fascinating process. You can never predict what will happen or how it will happen, and right now I am at the very, very start of it all.

If I have one aim every time I start writing something new, it is to plan better than I ever have before. The number of times I look at my screen and just wish that I had detailed notes about what’s going to happen written down next to me is huge. But that would be a massive luxury and I am slowly learning that this isn’t how I work. And when I say slowly, I do mean very slowly  – it’s taken me approximately 440,000 words and six years to learn. I should have realised before, really. I aspire to be an organised person and I’m not. I would love to have set routines every day, but I don’t, I behave very much as the mood takes me. And my writing is no different. I spent about three solid days planning this manuscript and poured hours and hours more of thought into it. As I commented to someone on twitter I felt like I never stopped ‘working’. No matter what I was doing I found myself shifting ideas around in my head, peering through the tangles of potential plot lines, ruthlessly scything away anything that was superfluous and seizing upon all inspiration. It had to sort itself out. Once I had the bare outline of a plot I wrote it down. But I struggled here too; I mean, how do you create one, coherent document of what is going to happen in your book when it necessarily involves relationships between all the characters? I found that I couldn’t. So these are honestly the tags I have taped to my planning notebook (in order):

  1. ‘to remember’
  2. ‘main female character’
  3. ‘random details’
  4. ‘main female character and secondary female character’
  5. ‘main female character and main male character’
  6. ‘secondary male character’
  7. ‘plot construction’
  8. ‘secondary female character’
  9. ‘main male character’
  10. ‘PLOT’

And in between all of this well-behaved preparation the only thing I wanted to do was to start writing and bring the characters to life. And of course once I did the whole thing was out of my control anyway. I will never cease to be amazed by just how much a book constructs itself. Within a very few hundred words I had changed the POV which was a huge gamble for me but it seems to have paid off. I always email my sister chapters of my manuscript as I write it and she critiques it for me.  When I did so this time I deliberately didn’t mention the fact that I was writing it in the first person rather than the third person  and she didn’t  mention it in her reply so I’m assuming she didn’t notice and if she did she felt it worked. I sent her on this occasion the prologue and the first chapter and her comments were: “What’s the character’s name???? And what does she look like, I have no idea what she looks like! And the conversation between X&Y is too long and too boring.” Which wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear but it did make me realise that I had made a grave and fundamental error which I instantly corrected and rewrote the chapter which she much preferred.

The characters do honestly bring themselves to life, decide their own names, where they live and so on and so forth. I have but the barest influence on them. I know that sounds delusional but it’s true. I’d named my characters before I started, nice names I thought, but whilst I was writing the correct names presented themselves to me and of course they were better. And once I had the correct names the characters themselves leaped and flared to life and once they’ve done that they start telling their story far more accurately than I can. It’s an amazing process. And it does feel like having a secret world to creep into. The best analogy I can think of is when you go camping, crawl into a tent and zip it up behind you. That’s what it feels like when I start writing in the morning.

And obviously now the girls are back at school I have plenty of time for writing. My manuscript currently stands at 5,211 words. Most of which was written in one day. I can’t keep that output up, my brain feels exhausted, but I hope to produce an amount of writing every single day. Apart from the weekends, maybe. I haven’t decided about those yet. My eldest daughter has Saturday school so technically I shall some free time but perhaps it would be better to try and stick to a traditional working week? My husband doubles over with mirth every time I tell him that I am ‘working’. But I am. I am sitting down and applying myself and not being distracted by Jeremy Kyle or Radio 4. Disparate potential distractions, I grant you. But I do feel like I’m constructing a new life for myself, I have never had this sort of time before. I’ve either been at school, Uni or had one or the other of the girls at home with me. This solitude and space to write is an absolute novelty to me – and I am loving it. I’m still wondrous every night when I put my younger daughter to bed that in the morning she’s going to get up and go back to school. Every day. I do miss having her around sometimes, but on the whole I feel everyone is going to be a lot happier with this new arrangement. She is thoroughly enjoying school and having a lot of fun, and I am able to be very creative and produce a lot of words, which is great. I wonder how long it will take me to write this book? Another interesting point is that I always feel that the current manuscript I am working on is the best thing I have ever written. I always feel that, and I don’t know why. Is it because I am filled with enthusiasm for the current project? Or is it really the best thing I have ever written because my writing is improving with time and practice? I don’t have the answer yet.

I have no more publisher news.  Which is partly nice because it means that I have no more rejections. It’s an odd feeling to be so far removed  from something that is so personal to me. Out there, somewhere, in some editor’s inbox my manuscript is sitting. And when it is commented upon it won’t be me that receives the news, it will be my agent. There’s a whole step between me and it. Which is nice in some ways; I can get on with writing the next one without having to worry about dealing with the previous one.

See! 1,272 words and it isn’t even ten o’ clock in the morning. I said I was being productive :)  xx