Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

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 🙂



The skill of prevarication. And why aspiring writers are so important.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

It really is incredible the lengths that I will go to not to write. My husband has just watched me come in from riding, which occupied two hours of my morning, make tea, tidy the kitchen, have a shower, dry my hair, choose my clothes, make coffee, impart gossip, discuss dinner and he then commented “You really will do anything not to write won’t you?”  And I think he might be right. And this isn’t because I’m lazy or ambiguous about writing – I adore doing it. I feel incredibly privileged to have the ability to do it, both in terms of skill and lifestyle, and I spend much of my time waiting to be able to do it. Enthusiasm and inspiration cannot be summoned at will and usually present themselves at very inconvenient times, school pick-up and so on. So after analysing his words (secretly of course, to his face I protested vehemently, pleading beds to be made, vacuuming, etc. – things he doesn’t understand and has no experience of so can’t argue with) I realised that it’s because I’m scared. Scared that when I try and nip back into the world I’ve created, which is becoming bigger and more detailed every minute of the day (and night, sometimes) that maybe this time it just won’t work. Perhaps I’ll be denied access. Perhaps the characters won’t come when I call them. Perhaps the story will be hiding from me. It’s a mixture of all of these things. I don’t know whether I will be ever become skilled enough to know that when I settle down to write it will, magically, happen. I suspect not. I’ve written about a variation on this theme before; confidence and lack of, etc. And I have also learned that the best way to proceed when you’re not really sure if it’s going to happen is just to start writing and keep ploughing on for a good few hundred words. It usually works. Sometimes it doesn’t and you have to erase the lot, but recognising good writing from bad is an essential part of being a writer. I appear to be capable of both extremes and I am definitely ruthless when I see something doesn’t work or doesn’t fit.

Another key factor in the success of my day to day writing is that I need to be absolutely focussed. Which is particularly hard for me because I am easily distracted and easily led. Twitter, facebook and my phone all provide constant sources of distraction, and all my friends know that I don’t work in the conventional sense so I’m usually available for coffee/lunch/general chat. Since the Autumn term started I am being quite dedicated though; the amount of time I spend being productive has increased dramatically, and the amount of time I spend gossiping has reduced dramatically. But the tea-making, showering, bed-making, etc. is all part of me preparing myself to write. I could just walk in the door and sit down and get on with it but then I know I’d be distracted by thoughts of tasks ahead and I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. The trick is to be really strict with yourself about which are the essential things and which can wait. And then stick to your decision.

Happily, my latest manuscript is going very well. Though I haven’t actually added anything new to it for a few days, I’ve been editing what I have written thoroughly, which is useful. It gives me a really good feel for the characters and allows me to build them up early. After a few vacillations (and tweets) I’ve stuck with the first person POV. I got concerned about 6,000 words in that I’d made the wrong decision so I backtracked slightly and wrote a section in the third person but that didn’t seem right either. Eventually I went with the first person POV, which is both the easiest and hardest decision because it requires bravery and confidence but also means that I do not have to do an entire 6,000 word re-write.

Another thing that has happened this week is that I introduced my mother to twitter! She’d been interested in the idea for ages but I think possibly age, lack of computer experience and generally not understanding the internet made it a difficult leap for her to take, though she writes a blog regularly (link to the left of this page) and wanted to introduce it to a wider audience. So I was very kind; I took her through twitter, found nice pictures for her background, etc. and showed her the ropes. I explained as best I could how it all works and found people I knew she would like for her to follow. Then I made the fatal error of trusting her to tweet on her own. She’s @JayneBithrey and I think to date she’s tweeted about four times. The last of which was about a week ago. This tells me that she doesn’t know what to tweet about, she needs to find the aspects of her character that she wants to bring to the fore via twitter and concentrate on those. I am convinced that once she gets into it, she will enjoy it. So if anyone has any advice for her then do tweet her. Please. I’m not convinced I can cope on my own.

However I do accept that twitter isn’t always the easiest thing to understand, and this has been well-demonstrated already this week (as it is most weeks, to be honest) by the flare-ups I have seen between aspiring writers and established agents/publishers. Quite often someone who blogs regularly, or is working on a novel, will come to twitter and see it as an excellent way to promote their work. Which it can be. But it is not a platform for formal submission. Unfortunately a lot of these individuals don’t realise that so they don’t go about it correctly. Instead of following the right people for information and opinions, and building up their own, like-minded, follower list they simply bombard agents and publishers with an identical tweet which will read something like: “PLEASE RT!!!! I am trying to get published, I am a person with X career who loves writing, my blog is” (don’t google that by the way, I can’t be held responsible for what might appear). Anyway, this makes the rest of us almost literally cringe; it’s a horribly lazy, very blatant way to ask for attention and it simply will not work. In fact, it will actually work against you, which is what a few of the agents/publishers point out – and sometimes in a very sharp manner. And I do have to question this, I’m afraid. I understand that these individuals already established in the publishing industry want to use twitter much like the rest of us do without being constantly targeted for submission, but if you are on there in your professional capacity then you need to accept that aspiring writers will target you. It seems to some like an excellent, direct method of communication to some powerful people. Irresistible – and annoying. But, just occasionally, I do wonder whether the agents/publishers might give the annoying people the benefit of the doubt about knowledge of twitter etiquette and just ignore them. No response is the easiest and quickest way to show people doing it wrongly the error of their ways. And those who may have the same idea. A sharp, pointed, negative response will be perceived as ‘horrible’ by people who won’t understand what they’ve done wrong and could potentially discourage them from approaching agents/publishers in the future. And let’s face it – if they don’t the world could lose out on some pretty good writers. All of the world’s most treasured authors were nothing more than people with an idea once. Skill and tenacity is what projected them above others. Aspiring writers are an important part of the publishing industry’s future, and sometimes I think the established professionals would do well to remember that.

Now I have a confession: I may have written an entire blog post – but the only reason I started doing this was as prevarication so I could put off being brave enough to climb back into my manuscript, as per the opening paragraph of this blog. However, the time has now come. It stands at 10,275 words and my aim is to get that to at least 12,000 words today.

After lunch.