In My Wildest Dreams: Adventures in Children's Fiction






Back to the future; no time like the present in the post-Trump world!

It's over a year since I last posted to this blog, so long ago that I have been fishing around on the screen looking for the 'New Post' button. The format of Blogger has changed during this period of absence. The world has changed - Brexit, Trump, I am older. Less optimistic? Never!

But I haven't written a word of a book in twelve months. I left my current project for 10+ two thirds of the way through, not because I don't know what is going to happen - well, I do so far as I can foretell the future - but because life just got in the way: things as exciting as family visits from abroad, visits to France & Canada, and other events as mundane as decorating, a new roof, a new garage... Christmas to Christmas in a flash. Writing was squeezed out.

Or was I just exhausted after five and a half years, four books and countless rejections from agents and my old publisher? Time for a rethink.

What have I decided to do with the life I have left? It does come down to that. I am a finisher and a starter. I shall complete the book for 10+, because I have to. I shall trawl back through my list of agents to see whether I have missed any from my submissions list and see if any new faces have appeared on the scene. Concurrently, I shall begin a novel for adults.

I haven't written an adult novel since I completed one when I was 23 years old. It was rejected once and I put it in a drawer. I have learned a lot since I pounded that one out on an Olivetti Lettera 32.
Most of all I have learned not to give up, that writing is a necessary part of me, and  that I probably should have developed a brand in order to be successful commercially, rather than telling the story that discovers me at the time.

Rather than self-publish the books I have written, I shall find someway of conserving them and curating them; i.e putting them up on the web, perhaps with notes, for free.

Time will tell.

So for now, I am winding up this blog. Thanks all of you who have taken time read bits and pieces of it. Rest assured, I #amwriting.




Comments

Not necessarily what you want to hear!

It's always very nice... and reassuring to have a second opinion. Finding an agent is a very funny business. Well, you have to laugh to keep your spirits up and maintain a healthy perspective on life.

Today, my YA novel, The Reaping, was rejected for the second time by the same literary agency, but by a different agent within, both of them very nice and polite. Not my mistake! I hadn't chanced my arm and tried two agents in the firm, hoping they wouldn't talk to each other. It was their mistake. Overloaded with submissions, mine clearly surfaced twice like a drowning man before he sinks altogether.

I submitted the synopsis on 17 November 2014. It was first rejected five months later in March 2015. Over a year later - today, 22 December 2015 - it was rejected again.

I pointed out the error in a cheerful email, which was received with equal good heart. No one has been hurt, just a little time wasted.

What have I learned? Submitting has a funny side. Agents eventually read everything, sometimes twice!
Comments

Diggle's Dilemma (again...)

Diggle’s Dilemma: to write or market? Increasingly, I don’t think I can do both. Find an agent you say? I know that is a good idea… in theory… but let’s not be diverted by that question.

In the past four years I have written four novels for children/young people. I am presently re-writing the second one of these. The other free remain in finished form, but have proved to be unplaceable to date. I think that they are there or thereabouts, certainly interesting, one amusing and another uncomfortable and challenging, verging on the adult.

That is Diggle’s Dilemma. Do I concentrated on finding a home for three or crack on re-writing the second one I started… or start something completely new? Unfortunately, I am a finisher, tenacious by nature and nurture.

Why the dilemma? Time and energy. I’d rather be a writer than a marketing man. Today, you have to be both.

Should I spend time putting my work in order or crack on with the new, even make a change of direction – write for adults – NOW!? I think I may have said before that curation might be the answer. Just put my work up on the web and see how it goes. That seems like a half-way house and doesn’t really resolve anything.


Time will tell, but I can no longer sit here doing nothing. One must dismount with purpose rather than just wait to fall off the horns of a dilemma.
Comments

Back where I belong?

I am happy to have spent the morning deep in the  Ramswold Valley! Good to be back where I belong. A new book to write. Batteries recharged.



Mind, you I nearly started writing another thing entirely. Time will tell whether I chose wisely! No more elation until I finish.
Comments

Good intentions and inventions.

I haven't quite started back to writing this morning, but I have made a decision about beginning. I have scribbled a note on my mouse mat note pad (a very useful addition to my desktop).
It is the opening scene of the book. I am returning to the bridge where Steve and Pricey took their annual photograph (or failed to) in Badgerman & Bogwitch. The new novel is not a sequel, but I am returning to my roots and the writing I feel most comfortable with, the 10-12 age group.

I am taking another look at a first draft I completed about three years ago, and set aside until I fancied revisiting it. In truth, the ending hadn't quite worked out as I wanted it. Now I know what sort of book it is and where the story should go. It will all happen back in the Ramswold Valley of Badgerman & Bogwitch. After all that is where I live too.

What I shall do with The Reaping, I am not sure. I think I may change the title to The Reckoning. It is an uncomfortable and controversial book. It may become a full blown adult novel, rather than YA. I am surprised by the silence from some agents regarding its submission. It probably just got lost in the email. At some point I shall put it up online, if not as publication, as curation.

The Tall Story of Tobias Small is out there being read by an agent and a publisher (I hope. It is easier to lose an attachment than a paper MS! I should live in London, dye my hair and blag my way into parties!)

And the Key to Finlac, that book I started twenty years ago, that is 90,000 words in length (far too long), that I began to revise? I think it is my great white whale. I am still chasing it. It will be my life's work. It will be completed. I know what form it will take. I just have to finish writing it.

But there is always something new to do. Writing is the thing...

(A postscript to the above: I had an email from the agent in question this afternoon, whilst I was sitting on Cheltenham Promenade drinking coffee in the shade. 'A' took the time to write to me in detail, which is not the norm. She liked 'Tobias Small', but thought the reading level/tone was a little too sophisticated for 10-12 yrs. I am not so sure. It is an interesting debate, which perhaps I shall blog about in the the not too distant future. Still, 'A' was very nice to me and sincere, so that's all right with me!)

Yes, writing is the thing!
Comments

The making & breaking of a writer

May has gone in silence. But my iMac wrestling is now over. My keyboard is lighter and wireless. My screen is larger and Retina. Clarity. Except when it comes to transferring everything. The only files I have displaced are related to my web pages. The site is fine for the moment as long as I don't meddle with it. A redesign is on the cards, because I am not sure I shall ever be able to put those missing picture files back into the right folders in RapidWeaver. These are the kind of irritations that can sometimes 'conveniently' take you away from the book.

It is 1st June. I still prefer writing on a desktop computer, at a desk with an office chair. I got as far as ordering a laptop, but sent it back when I realised (which I already knew) that I couldn't get on with it, however fast and glimmering is a MacBook Pro. I don't seem to do writing in cafes, in the van or odd corners. In those situations, I tend to stare out of the window, which is both the breaking and making of a writer.

Having said all that, I am sitting at my desk not working on the book, and about to nip out for coffee at my favourite cafe, where you will often see me gazing out of the window.
Comments

Reading between the lines.

Having finished revising The Tall Story of Tobias Small at the end of MarchI find myself in the in between times:

Small things - waiting for the new iMac to arrive in June (my mid-2007 example has slowed to a recalcitrant stumble. Daily, I tug it by its lead.) I am waiting for the wind to turn around from the North - it is holding up bird migration, though a Swift has just been reported over Bristol. It is time to get over my irritation at agents who after five months have still not replied. I shall not chase them. I have a publisher looking at a manuscript. I remain patient. The outcome is uncertain,

Big things - waiting for my father's funeral. He was 90, a D-Day naval veteran at 20. I am an orphan at 62. That's a lucky life.

Small things: I have plenty of inspiration - I know what I have to do. For the time being, I am enjoying the warm April sunshine.
Comments

An odd case of mistaken identity.

After two months off, I have started writing again. This week I started reworking my book for 9-12s, The Tall Story of Tiberius Small. This was the one which was politely declined by a eleven agents in 2013.  (Four never replied). I received one very kind 'near miss' amongst the correspondence.

Now that I have abandoned the idea of changing my name to Jackie Durango, 35 year old mother of two from Chiswick and dismissed all notions of there being ageism in children's publishing as a sad delusion, I feel ready to start work again.

I have begun by modifying the title. My book has become The Tall Story of Tobias Small. I think this is better, but time will tell. Thank goodness for global find and replace. I shall be changing more names, but this is less important than developing character, narrative voice comedy, place and other things.

Why am I doing this? Because I believe the heart of the book is sound. I have the faith of ten Ray Bradbury's. I am working without the benefit of an editor in a world where, for an old hand like me who has been published three times and remaindered, a book has to be tuned and polished before it will be taken seriously by anyone who wants to make money out of it. There is no leeway for someone who has been there before.

I am taking the book apart and putting it back together anew. In motoring parlance, I am pimping my ride. Street legal or not, I want it to shine
Comments

Four years on: indefatigable and still uncategorizable

It's two months since I've blogged. Meanwhile I have been to Alberta, Canada for a month over Christmas. I have done no writing since finishing The Reaping, but have been collecting my thoughts. On my return from Canada I went down with a debilitating cough - transatlantic air travel - but I am better now. I have shovelled out my my study and reoriented my desk at right angles to the window. New beginnings. Ha!

Agents? I have heard from 11 out of 21. Ten pro-forma negatives and one more personal, but still a negative reply. I am beginning to think I am uncategorizable in that I don't write genre fiction, I flit between age groups, and am not intent on producing a series or recognisable brand. I write about what interests me. No complaints. I write well enough. Some might say unprofessional. Ha!

In the past four years I have written four novels for children & young people, a total of a quarter of a million words, more if you include all the redrafting. Three of these I sent off to agents, unsuccessfully, one I didn't feel was ready.

What's next then? I have choices:

  1. Rework the four novels I have written? The stories are worth telling.
  2. Develop two of the above into a series?
  3. Settle on writing for 9-12's?
  4. Begin a new children's novel? I have two ideas.
  5. Write an adult novel?

I still have some thinking time. I tend to think it will be a year of consolidation, travel in the camper van, and then come October the beginning of a new story. Self-publication is still a maybe.

Ha!
Comments

Becoming the next big K-ching!

Sometimes when you throw a ball against a wall it will bounce right back up and hit you under the nose before you've had time to settle your stance. It stings! Game spoiled, temporarily. That's how it was with my second submission of The Reaping to an agent. Outbox on the 13th November, back with a clout to my inbox on the 17th. The positive: agents work weekends. The negative: my proposal failed to entice. I probably had 30 seconds to impress - same with buying houses - speed dating in the dark. 50 submissions to consider. Despite being a published author, I warranted a mechanical rejection. That's the way it is. Next! K-ching!

I have a further nine submissions out there at the moment and more to follow. I like to hear back, but I also enjoy the deluded interlude where you imagine anything can happen!

I have had a brief Twitter exchange with Ed James ( @EdJamesAuthor ) about self-publishing. He has worked hard and been very successful at it, but it may be more difficult to successfully self-publish children's/YA fiction. I am not complaining.

I shall give it some consideration in 2015.
Comments