Thursday, 19 January 2017

Aims and Intentions

  I was listening to a writing podcast recently (more on this in a few days), and one of the two presenters, musician & dream-coach Mark Desvaux, was talking about having aspirations and goals and how writing them down makes them far more likely to happen. I might have written that wrong; writing them down doesn’t make them happen. Writing them down makes it more likely that you’ll do what’s necessary to make them happen. You know what I mean. I’m sure there was a statistic, but it escapes me.
  I’m ridiculously poor at sticking to New Year’s resolutions, so I don’t make them. (Actually that’s not true. This New Year’s Eve I distinctly remember saying “Next year, I intend to…” but by the next morning had totally forgotten what I’d said. I still can’t remember. You get the point.)
  But I have, the last few years, been writing down here what my writing intentions were. 
In 2014 I wanted to up my quantity and quality. No comment about the quality, but I did bat out three separate vomit-drafts. 
2015 was about doing something with them, and while abandoning one, I pulled another into some readable shape.
In 2016 the plan was to get it ready to submit which I did, in the hope of landing an agent, which I also did. Hurrah!

  Can you see why I'm buying into the writing things down idea? (Looking back at the earlier posts, I can see I got scared when things were written down. Looking at it, it felt overwhelming - or maybe I was frightened of the commitment. Not so much any more. Now it genuinely feels helpful to have an intention stated. It's something I have to hold myself to.)

So what of this year? Things have changed now, as with Agent Federica onside there’s a plan. My writing doesn't just fill the hours while the kids are at school; it has deadlines and expectations to meet, where it never did before. Effectively I have a job again and that is requiring some alterations at home. I haven’t had employment (aside from child management) for twelve years and when I did, I didn’t have four additional lives to run at the same time. I’m not used to telling the kids to go away as I don’t have time right now. It makes me feel guilty, though I know it shouldn’t. So I have a learning curve to travel this year.
 Also during this last rewrite I took myself back to school and went through some how-to books, which made me question how I’d been writing up to now. Going forward I want to be far more savvy with my plotting and structuring, from the off. Essentially, like the last three years, I want to raise my game again. I fully intend to finish this story I’m on as soon as I can (but in as long a time as it takes to be good enough), then move on to the next, while Agent Federica sends the first off into the stratosphere. Then we’ll have to see what happens as it’s out of my hands.
(Yes that is a kitten pic. Do not judge me.)
So there it is, my 2017 pledge of intention; To develop new a working practice that fits with all of us here at home and to Write smarter, write better.

What about you? What’s your plans? Write them down!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Reading Fail

  Am totally failing on the TBR pile at the moment. Just checked and I have 6 1/2 Christmas-themed books looking at me most unimpressed with my efforts...

Thursday, 1 December 2016

*Falalalalaaaah* My Winter ‘16 TBR pile

 It’s curl-up-with-a-book,-mulled-wine-and-a-log-fire season. Hurrah!
I said I was going to do something a bit different this time. Only a bit. Not much. The pile looks like this;

Small, no? But Christmassy, yes?
They are;
Maybe this Christmas by Sarah Morgan (Romance)
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson (Romance)
I will marry George Clooney (…By Christmas) by Tracy Bloom (Romance)
The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan (Romance)
Christmas at the Cupcake CafĂ© by Jenny Colgan (Romance)
For Christmas, El Hubby is replacing my lost kindle machine. (Hallelujah!!!) On my kindle account are a bazillion books that I haven’t read yet, and have been steadily adding to, in spite of being kindle machine bereft. (Mad, right? I know, I know…) So. In addition to the mini-pile above (how many of something constitutes a pile?), I shall also be reading at least the following, plus as many others as I can hoof through.

Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson (Romance)
Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin (Romance)
Christmas under Starlit Sky by Holly Martin (Romance)
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider (YA)
I was here by Gayle Forman (YA)
Me being me is exactly as insane as you being you by Todd Hasak-Lowy (YA)
Seeds of Deception by Linda Castillo (Amish Crime. Niche, right? Suspect that after all the Christmassy schmaltz I shall be ready for a bit of slaying, -neither pun in that sentence intended.)

Have a lovely winter! What are you reading?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Autumn '16 Gut Reactions

  AAARGH! I forgot to write notes about this season’s books as I went, and now, having just been fully immersed in a rewrite of my story, I have forgotten most of my thoughts. So this is going to be a scant reactions blog I suspect, and it’ll be based on me staring very hard at this picture:

 and then trying to remember what I thought a while ago.

I’m giving Book of the Season to the Lockwood & Co series (MG), which I belted through, one after the other and Son One did exactly the same. He’d gone off reading for a bit, much to my woeful lamenting, but these books brought him back to the light. It’s ghosthunting essentially, but as only kids can see the “visitors”, they are employed to catch and eliminate them. Stroud doesn’t dumb things down, the tension and scenes can be properly scary. Normally, my boys can be utter wusses when it comes to anything frightening – reading or viewing-, but I rather neglected to mention the ghost bit to Son One when I started him off, and he was hooked before he could get scared.

My only whinge is that it took until book four for the narrator and the actual main character (girl) to make it onto the front cover, as opposed to her colleague Lockwood (boy). Shows that marketing depts. still won’t risk putting boy readers off a series by having a girl on the front. So I'm going to put a bigger picture of it here, just because I can.

  Jackaby (MG) was a similar set up; girl narrator, quirky boss, facing the supernatural, but set in Victorian times, on the east coast of America. Lockwood & Co was more punchy, but it was still a fun adventure.

Another day
(YA) – I love books where you get an alternative view. This didn’t disappoint, I might even have liked it more than the original -, but then I could only do that having read the first one first, if you see what I mean.

 The Widow (Thriller) was a gripping read. One of those books where really the action isn’t high octane by any means, but the tension grows and grows.

  And the other stuff;

  One of these books, by a writer I admire, seemed well… a bit pointless in the plot. Made me think that had it been their first book, it wouldn’t have been taken on.

  One of these books was a deep disappointment. It’s been a bestseller, raved about everywhere, and the setting was interesting, but the end was dire. It made me want to shout. So many unresolved issues, and maybe it was so it could be ‘deep’, but it just felt half-arsed and weird.

  That’s it. That’s all I can remember. My small brain is full of other stuff – my own plot for example.

  I’m doing something slightly different this year for the Winter TBR pile. You’ll have to wait and see.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A agent-hunting we shall go...

If you’ve seen the post below, you’ll know that I’ve managed to convince an agent to represent me and my Women’s Fiction/ Romantic Comedy story. 
 I finished it in June and sent out the submissions (the first three chapters and a one page synopsis) in July, then spent the summer holidays trying not to think about it. We’re supposed to wait eight to twelve weeks for responses. Patience is not really my thing, so on my return home I sent out another to an agent who represents one of my must-reads. Really, I sent it just to feel I was being proactive; she’s a long established agent with an extensive list already, the chances were very very slim. She emailed back. She really enjoyed it. It was pacey and funny. She really thought I had something here…. (My heart started belting…) but that said, it wasn’t quite right for her. (That’s an email-load of rollercoaster emotions, right there.) But BUT, she had an agent friend who had just set up her own agency and would I like her to recommend me? Well, YES actually, yes please, that would be lovely, thanks.
   And so my story went to Federica Leonardis, and she really really enjoyed it. We met, we discussed the story and our plans and she made me an offer of representation. Hurrah! Her list is still building and she has more time for me, which as a newbie is exactly what I need. There’s still lots of work to do before the manuscript can go out on submission to editors at publishing houses - it’s definitely a marathon not a sprint- but with an agent I feel I’m on the starting line and can face the hurdles with more confidence and clout.
  But that’s not really what this post is about.  I wanted to go back a bit, to the point where I sent out that first round of submissions. They weren’t to names I picked randomly, I had a full ‘Agents Hitlist’ drawn up, with various levels of approach, and in phases. Three years ago I posted about Agent Hunter, a site that makes compiling a list like this so much easier. In ye olde days you had to trawl through the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, but this is online and has filters, so The Fast.
Agent Hunter has just been updated, and so in exchange for an honest review, I got a free limited membership, which was perfect timing for me.
   I’d recommend this site to anyone who is about to start a submissions cycle. I took a day to bend and flex the site, compiling a list pinpointing agents who represent Women’s Fiction and are also still open to submissions. (Some agents have closed their lists, which is fair enough as too many clients would mean less time to spend on each.) The site is clearly laid out making searches very simple and it allowed me to save my searches in their various permutations, so I could return to them later. You can see images of which agents belong to each agency should you choose to search by agency first. I would have liked to have their names pop up as I held the cursor over the pictures as this would have made it easier to flip between agents within an agency who might both rep a genre, but perhaps that could be a later change. I did use the new ‘favourites’ function to highlight some agents, but then for the life of me couldn’t find a field that listed all my favourites. (That could just be my computer-lemmingness.) I’d still like to have a clear ‘shopping basket’ where I can drop in all the relevant agents, so I have an exportable list at the end of my session.
   The profiles of the agencies have a wealth of information on both the agency and the agents, it links to their websites and in some cases their Twitter feeds. And that part is crucial, because the Agent Hunter site is the first port of call, but it shouldn’t be the only port of call. Every time I homed in on an agent, I’d then take the link to their agency website and carry on my research there, looking at their company profiles and the submission requirements, working out a specific plan of action for that agent. I checked their Twitter feeds to get an idea of what they were like. Ultimately each covering letter could be tailored to the specific agent, with exactly the right information, in the way that they want it.
If you like to work from something spreadsheet-like when it comes to a plan of attack for your submissions cycle, Agent Hunter is absolutely the place to start when building it. Writers' & Artists' Yearbook costs £13.60, whereas subscriptions to Agent Hunter start at £5 for 1 month (£12 for 6 months, £18 for a year). (I researched and planned numerous levels of approach in one go, so I had more batches to send out should I need them.) 
    Of course, the on-going strength of the site will depend on Agent Hunter’s ability to keep on top of the changes, whether new recruitment, agent moves, new agencies (you need to get Martin Leonardis Literary Management on there, guys) or address changes.  But for now, it's an excellent starting point that will comprehensively set up any submitting writer for their cycle. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

That thing that was afoot...

So, here I wrote about Rejection Chocs, my not-yet-patented-but-I-really-should-get-around-to-it method for taking the sting out of agent rejections when on a submissions cycle.

The box started out looking like this. The Yummy.

Now it looks like this. The Sad, yes?

BUT NO. That is a box of chocs that have been part scoffed in celebration.
I am now daftly happy to say that the lovely lovely Federica Leonardis of Martin Leonardis Literary Management represents me and my writings. Of course I had to horse the rest of the chocs...

Friday, 7 October 2016

There is something afoot...

...but I can't say what it is yet.

Annoying, right?

I know. It's killing me.

I want to be like this;