Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hold Tight

My journey to becoming a published author continues. Today I turned in my final manuscript and author photo. (Just between you and me - I did enlist a panel of four to help me choose the best one. And I'm still worried about whether or not the best one was chosen). I feel a sense of relief even though my manuscript goes off on the journey without me for now. I'm guessing that at some stage, after the Christmas holiday, I will be handed back a proof and will have my baby back for further tweaks. I'm hoping not too many - we shall see.

So where does that leave me?

Actually in a very nice and cosy little place. I'm not stressing about trying to get a publishing deal and I can just relax and carry on writing - for now.

So it's back to the editing of book number two. I think last time I said I'd post some excerpts and I promise I will do once I've edited a bit more and happy with my progress. Looking forward to the festivities of the season and to what my publishing journey will bring. The future beckons.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Inspirational Reading

I came across this article and found it quite moving in itself. I just love the idea that a piece of writing can influence us in such a way. It also inspires me to become the best writer that I can possibly become. Read on...

How a book inspired me to find happiness

There are books out there so moving, so insightful that reading them leaves a permanent mark on the soul. I discovered such a book.

Change is scary and it can be a daunting prospect to walk away when you have no idea where you're going to end up, especially when you're as heavily in debt as I was, but spurred on by the example of Santiago, I did. The signs had been there for a while that the conformist life my then husband wanted was not for me. Santiago had found what he was looking for by being brave enough to start searching and even if my quest wasn't as successful as his, I knew I had to try.
Within the space of eighteen months, my life as I'd known it - my job, my marriage, my home - had been completely erased and I'd found contentment, at least for a while.
Fast forward a few years and itchy feet had seen me move to New Zealand, a country so many view as paradise. The reality was anything but. My experiences there seem like something out of a nightmare, sometimes so incredible that if they hadn't happened to me, I wouldn't believe they could be true. Life as a migrant can be very isolating and people aren't always welcoming towards a newcomer to their country, no matter how much you try to fit in. The first year was far harder than I could have imagined - my oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's and struggled to adjust. Hearing from friends who'd emigrated that the first two years were the hardest, I promised myself to give it more time, but life Down Under was harder with every passing day and I was desperately lonely.
I started weekly yoga classes and the couple of hours' escape it afforded me helped keep me sane, but all the meditation in the world couldn't change the reality of a poorer standard of living and six months' rain every year. My soul yearned to be where I belonged, but emigration is a huge upheaval and I had children to consider. Was it fair to take them back when everyone thinks that New Zealand is a great place to bring up kids?
One morning, I noticed the little green volume on my shelf. 'The Alchemist' was calling to me once more and as I reread it, the story worked its magic on me once again. It was time to recognise that New Zealand could never truly be home. I contemplated the moral of the story - Santiago had travelled the world in search of his treasure only to discover that what he'd been looking for was right back where he started all along. I knew what I had to do.
I took my children home and we've been happy ever since. My treasure might not be gold, but I find it in the green of the rolling hills, the water running through the stream in my garden, the simple act of breathing in the Welsh air. I could have saved myself so much pain by coming here first instead of New Zealand, but as Santiago is told, if I'd have done that, I would have missed out on so many adventures. Santiago realised that life is generous to those who follow their destiny and that's what I've been doing for years. It may have been hard at times, but it's also brought me fond memories, beautiful children and a wealth of riches money can't buy.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Happy Writer

I'm celebrating. I have finished writing my collection of short stories. Hooray. I enjoyed writing the five stories this autumn, so much so that I launched into them before I'd even finished my second novel. Which, by the way, still sits somewhere in Word, waiting for an ending. And, whilst I'm at it, a middle too.

The short stories are a spin off from my first completed novel, Holding Paradise, which is published next year. During the editing process of H P I couldn't help wondering what would happen if I brought to life a few of the characters who had an important role but there was no space in the novel for me to give them a back story. Hence the short stories were born.

The grandmother figure in H P is given centre stage in the first story, The Long Way Home, and is the love story of how she met her first love at age 16 and how a devastating hurricane, The First World War and a lie keeps them apart. (I will publish some excerpts very soon).

My next big task is editing the stories. Something I'm hoping will be easier than a 99,000+ words novel that H P was. At least I can take it one short story at a time! Somebody tell me it will be easier - please.

So I've got that happy feeling again. The one I had when I knew I'd finished H P. A great feeling and I never want it to end.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Getting Published - The Big 'J'

Well this is it. Now that I have my blog up and running and now that one or two people have actually dropped by, I thought it was time to talk about the The Big 'J'. (Or The Big Journey to anyone thinking what the hell...). The journey begins roughly from the day I was offered a publishing deal and follows me until the day I hold the finally published novel in my impatient little hands.

I start off as a singer-songwriter, mother, wife, insomniac, yoga enthusiast, runner, chocaholic and singing teacher (no particular order). Let's see what happens when I get there. Will I still like chocolate?

I thought it would be easiest to start with a recent article I wrote for The Brit Writers' Award Magazine. So here it is:

It's been said that there's a novel in everyone. There was certainly one in me and the idea for which had been floating around my mind for quite some time. After twenty, yes twenty, years I decided that this was it, I would have to write this novel because it would drive me crazy if I didn't. Three years ago I turned on the laptop and there was no stopping me. After two years, two working titles and several rendezvous with my laptop at 2am, I'd finished the first draft.

By the time I'd gotten to the third draft I was feeling rather pleased with my achievement and started fantasising about become a published writer. That's when I panicked. Someone else would have to read this. Someone would have to judge me. Could I cope with rejection? I enlisted my first reader, my husband, who was impressed. But husbands are world famous for lines such as, of course I didn't forget your birthday and no your bum doesn't look big in that dress. So I decided to seek further assurances. 

The next stages of my journey I would highly recommend. Firstly, get the opinions of a group of willing, or even half hearted, friends to read and comment on your work. After some very valuable feedback I realised I needed to take the drafting phase a stage further. I chopped and changed several scenes, said farewell to surplus characters and story lines and re-wrote some of the dialogue. It's hard for any writer to have to remove favourite scenes but sometimes it's a must and you have to be strong. I was close to tears when I'd seen how much I'd axed. All that hard work and effort, gone. But I was convinced I'd improved my manuscript. The next stage was seeking professional opinion. 

Literary Consultants will read and give you a full report on your novel, whether it be a certain number of pages or the full manuscript. Of course there's a price but they won't pull any punches. I chose just one from the list I'd drawn up and, on their advice, it was back to editing. 

A few more tweaks and I was finally satisfied that I'd done all I could do – I was ready to start approaching Agents and Publishers and sending out my manuscript. I did my research and made a shortlist. I decided to try four avenues, three agents and a publisher. An affordable amount in envelopes and stamps for a struggling singer-songwriter. Before picking up the phone to contact my shortlist, I decided to do one more thing. I sent the first three chapters to the Brit Writers' Award Agents and Publishers Referrals Services. 

After an appraisal by the APRS, who showed total faith in my novel, I was offered help with tightening up my submission package and they then referred my manuscript on. Following their advice and help I was looking at the possibility of signing to publishers Indigo Dreams. It was the most surreal week of my life. Floating down the road in a haze of disbelief and equal amounts of unsuppressed glee I found myself at the local post box with a signed contract in my hand and the wonderfully overwhelming feeling that in 2013 I would be a published author. Me. 

I've stopped rewarding myself with bars of celebratory dark chocolate, those pat yourself on the back glasses of alcoholic beverages and I'm knuckling down to more writing. I'm writing with more confidence than before. Going with the flow. Not beating myself up when the ideas don't come. I know they will. When they do I head for the laptop and just go for it.