Friday, 30 October 2009

Coffee Break: Java Jive




Hello everyone - just put the kettle on so come on in. Tea? Coffee? Personally could do with an espresso or two myself, it has been quite a week. In fact, blow the diet - who fancies a slice of Chocolate Nemesis?

I'm really thrilled to have joined the Racers - I've been 'lurking' since starting my own blog a year and a half ago. As we haven't been introduced properly perhaps I should start by saying where I am on the race towards getting published. At the moment it feels less like a sprint than a cross-country endurance marathon (*picks twigs out of hair and catches breath*). I've been writing for a long time, seriously for about ten years. Back in 2000 an agent said my first book was '95% there' - but unfortunately couldn't put her finger on which 5% wasn't. I went away, travelled, moved to Spain, had two babies - and worked on the book during their nap times.

In 2006 I started working with The Agent Who Shall Remain Nameless. On her recommendation I paid an editor to knock my first novel into shape (yes, I know ....). I had a choice between going to Venice for our tenth wedding anniversary or paying for the edit - the book won (shows how badly I wanted this to work, and I still haven't seen Venice yet). But the Agent was a big name, and I trusted her (who shouted out 'Fool!' at the back?) So the book was edited, sent back to her, she loved it, and I thought 'anyday now she's going to sell it!' and started fantasising about spending my advance on luxuries like food, heating bills and clothes for the children:) But I waited. And waited. And wrote another book. Meanwhile she turned her attentions away from books and towards 'slebs. Finally in 2008 we had a meeting. She told me debut authors were dead in the water. Publishing was dead in the water. We parted company.

Happily a year ago I signed with a lovely agent at Curtis Brown, and I've just finished a new book for her. It's set during WW2 (so I've been listening to a lot of swing bands, hence today's clip). She's just read it, likes it (yey) and I'm waiting for her notes. Hopefully once I've cajoled, buffed and tweaked the manuscript (I sound like a fluffer), it will be ready for submission. So that's where I am with the race - about 70% of the way through my third unpublished novel:) I'm juggling writing with work and family life, (two small children, a diva-like afghan hound who has much better hair than me, and a frequently absent pilot DH).

This week, I recorded my heat of 'The People's Author' prize for ITV (which is why I really need another espresso - anyone else like a second cup?) I'll be able to report more about this once the episode airs on Monday, but if you think of the look of a rabbit caught in headlights and cross this with the eloquence of Patsy on Ab Fab when she appeared on breakfast TV (she forgot the word 'accessories' and just mumbled 'hats, shoes, gloves ...' repeatedly) you will get a good idea of my TV debut.

Frankly after yesterday's grilling, I can hardly summon the energy to write an envelope. So that's the question for today - how do you keep going? In the face of rejection, the trauma of Agents Who Shall Remain Nameless, and apparent disinterest in debut authors, how do you keep hope alive? Have any of you had the experience of switching agents or similar heartache? Lately I've been thinking it would be more sensible to quit the race to get published entirely and do something practical and immediately rewarding. Like llama farming. What do you think? Are we all mad (in the best possible way)? The only reason to write is because you love it - but it would be very, very nice to see a publishing contract on the other side of the finishing line ...

18 comments:

Leatherdykeuk said...

Alas, I can't offer advice beause you're so far ahead of me in the publishing game I can only see the dust!

But I'll have a tea, please, while I wait for the but ;)

Serendipity said...

Wow no wonder you need expresso I feel exhausted just reading that! I too have not reached the advanced stage you have but I can comment on what keeps me going - friends, hope, self-belief and never forgetting after a knock-back that famous idiom 'One man's meat is another man's poison'. Good luck and one day you will be taking in the sights of Venice... :-)

Kate Lord Brown said...

Morning all - here's your tea and coffees! It's funny it doesn't feel very far ahead ... more like I've got a carrot on a stick - however hard your run the prize is frustratingly just out of reach :) Venice ... (sigh) wouldn't that be lovely? Cake anyone?

Flowerpot said...

Being published as a journalist gives me hope - I worked hard to get there, and having had a lot of encouragement from agents etc thta keeps me going. 3 agents all asked to read the entire ms of current novel before saying no. That was a bummer (understatement of the century) but I believe in the book, and Cornerstones do too. So I will keep going.

Karen said...

Great story and it's good to know you're almost at the finishing (start?) line :o)

Small successes like being placed in little competitions, and having short stories published has kept me going - at some point we NEED some validation goddammit!! Apart from that I think it's the little flame of hope that lives on inside me and hasn't quite died out - yet!

Debs said...

Funnily enough, I was thinking of taking up farming Alpacas.

I occasionally wonder what the hell I think I'm doing with this writing lark, but then again I love it so much, and whether I'm published or not, I can't imagine stopping. Much as I sometimes wish I could.

JJ Beattie said...

I found my recent TLC Industry Day very positive in terms of reassuring writers that publishers are looking for new writers. That doesn't mean that I will be good enough but you can't go into something thinking that. You have to go in with hope and faith (in yourself) and courage. Otherwise, what's the point in doing it?

I've never been totally certain that publishing is what I'm wanting as an end result ... what I want is to write.

Cathy said...

Although I don't write many stories, I find that when I am losing momentum on the novel just getting something short out into the world can give me a boost. Like Karen, I find that it works even better if my story or piece of non-fiction gets accepted somewhere!

Kate Lord Brown said...

It's inspiring hearing your stories. That's the thing isn't it - giving up isn't an option. Maybe I should try a few shorter pieces as you suggest ...

Annieye said...

(Loud sigh) My story is so like yours, Kate. I wrote a trilogy (family saga) only to be told by my agent that the family saga market was in the doldrums at the moment. One publisher liked them but wanted to 'shelve' the first one until the market picked up. I wrote another - different genre - book this year only to be told by agent that it was too different to my sagas, and publishers like more of the same from an author. It's with her now and the waiting is killing me.

I'm with Debs, though. I enjoy writing and published or not, I won't (can't) stop.

Denise said...

I'm still in the fortunate (um, well maybe) position of not having sent anything out yet so have not been rejected! Wrote 1st novel, decided too much needed doing to it and am writing 2nd now. This means I still get those lovely days when I daydream how well it's all going to go, before reality dawns once again!

Kate Lord Brown said...

It's the daydreams that keep us going though isn't it Denise?:) Annieye hope your agent gives the new book the thumbs up. And I was always under the impression that it was so hard to bag an agent that once you had the rest was plain sailing ..!

Rowan Coleman said...

Hello all. Hello Kate - delighted to have you as a racer! First of all Venice is wonderful. I had one of my most ever wonderful moments walking from shadow into sunlight to find the vista of the city stretched before, the sun setting behind it. Breathtaking. So please go one day.

Second of all, how do I carry on?

Well I've been published for nearly eight years now. First of all there's the excitement of getting your first deal, followed by the anxiety of publication day (with the torture of the writing and editorial process in between, obv.) Then there is the torment of reviews, sales figures, EPOS figures and whether or not your cover is Asda enough. THEN there are soulless desperate trips to libraries in cold northern towns to read chapters to two librarians and one old lady who came for the sausage rolls and the heat. But there are also the wonderful things, the sheer joy of writing, the thrill of seeing someone read your book on a train, the delight of reading to 200 teens and keeping their attention for an hour, the excitement when you get a new idea and you think it might be a good one and finally simply the need to keep writing because that is just what you do. There are ups and down, there is triumph and misery and always, always uncertainty - but you keep going because you don't have any choice. You are a writer.

Now read this again imagining 'Jerusalem' playing in the background and see if you don't shed a tear. Go on.

Kate Lord Brown said...

I did, Rowan :) Wow ... all these things I hadn't even begun to think about beyond the first 'leap' of getting published. But you're right - writing is just what we do, and we have to keep doing it.

Liane Spicer said...

I had to Google Chocolate Nemesis (being a chocoholic myself) and I can't believe I haven't run across that one yet! Yum!

Kate, all I can say is the drama (trauma?) doesn't stop when you get that agent, or the first publishing contract, or the second. And yes, I think we're all crazy, but as you said, crazy in the best possible way.

Rowan is right. My agent used almost those exact words to me, and I try to remember them when the realities are hitting hard: "You're a writer. It's what you do. I've been in this business a long time and I can tell."

I think we're all dreamers and optimists and that's what keeps us going. Every now and then I get a letter from someone in some remote place (Philippines, Slovenia, Montenegro, recently) where I never even imagined anyone would be reading my book, and that keeps me going too.

See you in Venice some day soon!

HelenMHunt said...

Although I've had a few short pieces published - fiction and non-fiction - I know it's going to take a huge leap of faith to actually send the novel out there. At the moment I just don't think it's good enough. Whether it will be, with enough editing, is a question I can only answer if I get past the fear and get on with the editing.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Liane - can't recommend Nemesis highly enough :) It must be amazing to get feedback like that from readers. So enjoying following Cally's progress through all these new stages at the moment.

Yes, editing ... I find it really tough too Helen. I'm just waiting on the notes and then it will be heads down to rewrite.

Lily Sheehan said...

For me its reading everyones blogs and reading all about their highs and lows of the writing game. Its not always good but then its not always bad. Oh and haveing my short story published last year was a total confidence boost.