Month: February 2015

So I’m being published – now what?

A few people have asked me about what’s happened between signing with Tickety Boo and the book coming out. Has it been frantically busy? What goes on behind the scenes? What can we expect?

It’s an odd time – busy in flurries and then quieter, building times. For me, I had a few things I wanted to achieve before book one came out:

1. Finish book three. It was a draft, with a very unfinished ending when I signed. For me, for confidence, I wanted to be sure I could produce the trilogy I had promised. So I spent last summer finishing the draft of it, and getting it betaed. I also did a tidy up of book one, ready for editing. It had been a wee while since I’d looked at it, and I was glad of the chance to look at it.

2. Build up my blog. I wanted to give something back, to be open about processes and thoughts and fill some of the vacuum of information out there. I also wanted somewhere to out musings and to promote a wee bit in. As it happens, I don’t promote in it – it’s turned into a series of posts, mostly on writing, where I muse and mutter and that works for me. But it has built – lots. Easily 15 times more people read my witterings now than then (and thank you all, and all those who let me guest post, and retweet and share and comment. It means more than you’d imagine, especially on hard days.)

3. Build some local events – they will be coming! Watch out for posts about them but I’ll be doing stuff for World book night, and Comic con, and bits and pieces around and about.

And during that time, Gary worked on not one but two covers and patiently put up with all my ums and ahs and squeals of delight at the space opera-y wonderfulness. Titles were discussed and mused on and discarded and changed. Betas were asked searching questions. Blurbs were written.

I’m now about six weeks away from take-off. In the last six weeks I’ve had the final (I hope) big edit of book one. I knew from my last readthrough the start felt choppy, that it jumped about in time more than I wanted it to (always a difficulty with a book which covers a long time period – in this case about 25 years) but had struggled to find a solution. No scene could easily come out. Teresa, of course, delivered a masterclass on pace – it wasn’t what needed to come out but what needed to go in. All in, the additions added about 15,000 words but make a more satisfying shape, I think. It was a good thing to learn – we get told about hooking readers and I, for one, lack confidence in my skills of immersion. I go pacy and hope to hook whereas, perhaps, I need some time to allow the book to breathe.

So what’s ahead? This is as much a learning curve for me as anything else. I’ll have an edit of my changes and have some tightening and maybe some more changes to make from that. Then, a copyedit. I have no idea how gruelling that will be but grammatically I’m a fairly tight writer, so I hope not too terrifying. And then formatting and proofing and that will be it. My book. Out in the world.

Inspiring blog. Allegedly. Between sneezes. AKA in which I show technical inepitude.

I was nominated for an award. Wooo! Go me, and all that there (I think lots of people have been nominated, but that’s neither here nor there), and I was nominated by Millymollymo here at:
Who is a tremendous writer, with a great blog that I’ve just spent half an hour reading instead of doing this, and a terrific support to so many of us out there. Some people just have the lot….
One of the things I was asked to do was talk about three inspiring things this week (hence why I’m blogging after promising I wouldn’t). I have to be honest, this is a challenge because, frankly, I’ve spent most of this week with a flu and haven’t been my usual sparkling inspired self. In fact, for inspiration it was something of a nadir. But! The cloud has lifted (ish – read for that, I’ve just had a snooze) and thoughts have occurred. Hurray! I doubt any of this will be new or startling but here goes:
Inspriring thing one:
Meeting people. Really, meeting people. Not nodding and moving on, but listening and thinking and talking. I went to the theatre last night. Okay I was sneezing and coughing and not the person anyone was volunteering to sit beside but I had the tickets and I was going to be miserable no matter where I went. In this case, row R at the Grand Opera House. The show was great. I’ll use bits of it here and there, how the lights caught the dry ice just so, the rapt quiet of the theatre, the distraction of the caption machine…  
The theatre was quiet. We shifted around seats. We made sure tall people weren’t in front of us. We shared sweets. We talked about the show to others around us and why we were there, and who we were with. Someone made the comment that once the door to the theatre closed they didn’t care where they were, and a lightbulb went off and somewhere, sometime, a story will exist to explain that comment, which puts the magic of the theatre in one single, sublime sentence. And I’ll enjoy the moment of capturing it and remember the night it was said, and who was there: what they were wearing, who they were with, the lights around them, the sharp-vanilla smell of the tendrils of dry ice. Without the people, there’s only one part of the scene.
Inspiring thing two:
Reading. In my case, this week, that’s reading some stuff I really liked (Zafon, again, just so lovely to get lost in) and some stuff I didn’t so much (The Lost Fleet – not character driven enough for me.)
I’ll take something from both of them. From Zafon the use of description, the deft way with language. From Campbell, the sci fi imagery, the crisp military command. They’ll all get added to my writer’s toolbox and get mashed up and turned into my voice, not their’s, and it will make things rounder and stronger, because sometimes, frankly, a writer has to cheat. I’ve never been in the military in my life, my character’s a commander-in-chief. One of us has to make it believeable and, I’m afraid, that’s my job ( I should fire him).
Inspiring thing three:
Plants. It’s that time of the year. I have chillies on my windowsill and sunny nasturiums and flirty sweet pea. I have seed packets in my box, tantalising me. Winter is, if not over, receeding and just as I drew inspiration from it, from the soft grey days and white crispness, so as the spring comes I take notice of it. In fact, taking notice reminds me of a verse I once knew, about looking above and below, and left and right, and finding beauty in everything, even if it’s just the cracked lines of the crazy-paving.
This week, I’ve been lazy and tired and snuffly. I’ve done a fair bit of watching out the window, and lazing, and waiting for sneezes. We forget the quiet inspirations – like that after only two days my nasturiums are softening, and want to be. That we all just want to be.
I hope that all made sense. I’m still a bit fuggy.
And then, some blogs I like. And it’s really just an I like list, and ones I return to:
And thanks again to Millymollymo! And to those nominated, you need to thank me, pop the award in a blog, write about three inspiring things, and nominate others by leaving a comment in their blog as to why and a copy of the award (except, for me, Teresa’s comments were off, so she’ll have to accept a virtual reward…) And for the copy of the award, it didn’t work. I’m not an inspiring webster evidently.

on motivation

This will be my last blog here for a wee while – I’m going on a mini blog tour for Abendau’s Heir coming out and will be popping up through March in lots of places. And, hopefully, lots of people will be popping in here with some thoughts and what not. (And if anyone fancies an exchange, give me a wee shout!)

One of the things I’ve been musing on – sparked, as so often, by the community – is our motivation to write and how the vehicle we use to publish with should be matched to that. It dovetails nicely with the concept of motivation in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – that we aim and espouse self-actualization, the peak of the pyramid, and that one person’s self-actualization is another person’s hell.

So, I have to ask myself – what would be my self-actualization? In my case, for writing, some of the lower tiers of the pyramid have to be considered. Most noteably security needs – I want to write, I also want to be reasonably sure I’ll pay my mortgage. So, in the first instance I need some money from writing. But I do also have a job (one related to the management mumbo-jumbo I occasionally spout) which can be combined with writing. So, suddenly, that need, within writing, drops a little. I don’t need to be getting huge advances. (Although, you know, I could be doing with a new kitchen, as it happens….)

I get a lot of esteem from writing. A lot of people seem to quite like what I write, astonishing to me though that is. I get the odd thing published and that brings its own esteem. So, this one I think is pretty well there, as is belonging – I feel very much a part of the writing community I belong to.
Which all adds up to what I want, what will be the level of success which will fulfill me. We can talk pie-in-the-sky aspirations here – this is the ideal, not what might actually be or is.

Do I want to be a J.K.Rowling with the notoriety that brings? To be honest, it would probably terrify me. Do I want to travel from convention to convention and build my notoriety that way? I’d like some of that, on a limited basis, but not all the time with lots and lots of travelling – I don’t thrive in that sort of role.

Do I want to self-publish, take what money I can and enjoy the freedom to write what I like? Not really – it lacks the validation that matters to my esteem needs. It also becomes more of a vacuum, losing some of the support I enjoy.

For me, at the moment, being published with a small press suits me. There’s no overwhelming pressure on me to earn out a huge advance. There are some sales I hope to achieve but I feel they’re doable, given what I have in place. If I do better than expected then it’s a bonus and a confidence boost. Also, I’m learning about the industry in a fairly safe environment. I’m not at the mercy of a huge publisher, blinking in the headlights and pretending I know what I’m about. Hopefully, if I do get to the stage of taking off and having more demands on me I’ll feel confident at handling it, having learned lots along the way. But for me, for now, for this book, having a book I’m proud of (which I do) with a nice cover (which it is) out on some bookshelves (which it will be) and doing some promo stuff (which I am) suits me very well at the moment.

But, in the future my pyramid might change. It does that. And then, maybe, it will time for me to review what it is I want. But for now, I’m pretty close to where I want to be.

Notes to my former self…

So, here I go again, agent hunting. It’s been about eighteen months since I was last in the querying trenches and about four years since I first subbed and realised I needed to write a few more of my million words to get there.

I have an earlier blog here, outlining the process of getting my agent. I’m not going to go into the hows and whys I’m seeking a new one. Suffice to say, it was amicable and fair, and that’s the way things sometimes go.

But I wanted to stop at this stage and think. A rare activity for me. Last time I sought an agent, I took a lot out of myself. I made it matter too much. I would have doubled backwards to get one, done anything to the book. So much of my validation as a writer was tied up in someone saying I could write. A professional someone, who knew these things.

During those eighteen months, I’ve learned a lot about writing. I’ve had a publishing contract and worked on edits with Teresa Edgerton, and learned more in a few sentences than is normal in a year. I’ve had quite a bit of short stuff published. I’ve learned about covers and spoken to shops. I feel, now, honestly, like I am a writer. I make no apology for it, I’m not saying I’m a great writer, or that you’ll like what I put out but I no longer feel that someone else telling me that has the same power.

Which means, this time, I’m fairly chilled out about querying. I have Abendau to keep me busy, I have more short stuff than I have time to, I have a new idea wanting out that I’m happily world building on. I can safely say, this time, if I get The Call it will not scare me senseless like last time, but be more of a moment to savour, to build on.

So, young me, come here. Here’s what you shouldn’t do:

Change what you’ve written. Hone it, yes, take editorial guidance of course. Strengthen it, for heaven’s sake. But don’t change the story, because it’s what you created and each butterfly wing will move it further from that creation,

Rule out other options. There are small publishers. There is self publishing. Don’t want one route so badly it obscures the others.

Scattergun agents. Go for someone who’ll dig your stuff. Find someone who can rep it all. Take your time. Don’t go just by how you get along, but put your business head on.

Be too quiet. If something matters, say it does. In my case, I nearly lost Abendau in my rush to reinvent myself, to become a different writer. And yet, when it comes down to it, space opera/fantasy mashing up is what I love most.

Mostly, though, I’d tell myself to be brave enough to believe. It’s certainly what I hope to do this time: believe in me, in what I’m doing, in what I’m writing. And from there, all things will flow.

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