Sunday, 27 February 2011

Food for thought

Here's a thought-provoking blog post from the abundantly talented Vanessa Gebbie, who asks whether a two book deal is always a good thing. Vanessa, whose novel The Coward's Tale will be published by Bloomsbury in November, links to some great observations by agents and writers. Do take time to go and read the post and the debate arising from it. As Vanessa says, it's intended to make writers really think about their processes, what we're comfortable commiting to, and what we want and hope to achieve from our writing.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Right here

I'm going through a wishing phase: I wish I was in Paris; I wish I had a shed to write in; I wish the weather would improve. But this morning I made myself remember: three months ago (and for five years before that) I was wishing I was exactly where I am now. Making changes to a novel that had secured me a leading literary agent. This has been my wish for so long, I'm still pinching myself that it's real. And, yes, I've swapped one hurdle for the next; I'm not resting on my laurels here. But for all I'd like Paris, and a shed, and sunshine, I have the thing I've wished for hardest and longest.

So, I'm going to put together a blog post about how I got here. Five Times I Didn't Get an Agent, and One Time I Did. Or something like that. I'm going to try and extract the best lessons I learnt on the path from wishing to having. To which end, please let me know what you'd like to hear about. Maybe my approach pattern to agents? Maybe my writing process? How I took the good advice along the way and used it to get better? The times I nearly gave up, and the reasons I didn't? How it felt when everyone around me seemed to be moving forward and I was getting nowhere?

Anything at all that you're curious about, please drop me a line. I want this blog post to be of use and value to others. And to be entertaining, of course. It wasn't all blood, sweat and tears. Often I smiled at my own obstinacy, or arrogance. I learnt to take myself and my endeavours with a huge pinch of salt. Maybe that's part of the winning formula? Other writers please chip in!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

An Illuminated Land

Artist Colin Halliday has a new exhibition opening at GXgallery in London, 5-23 March. Colin's cityscapes include the triptych of Battersea Power Station reproduced in my bannerhead. His latest work features luminous country lanes, fields and seascapes. I love this oil on canvas, Harbinger. To see more of his work, visit Colin's website. Gxgallery has an interesting write-up of Colin's work so far, and details of this new exhibition. I hope to attend the private viewing, not least because Colin's painting always inspire me to write.

Friday, 11 February 2011

From a friend of mine

Q. How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
1st draft: Hero changes light bulb. 2nd draft: Villain changes light bulb. 3rd draft: Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death. 4th draft: Lose the light bulb. 5th draft: Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten. 6th draft: Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero's mentor. 7th draft: Fluorescent not working. Back to tungsten. 8th draft: Hero forces villain to eat light bulb. 9th draft: Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn't change it. 10th draft: Hero changes light bulb.

Green for Go

Before I was signed by Jane Gregory, just before Christmas, I'd been casting around for writing tasks to keep myself busy and distract me from the worry of waiting to hear whether this time I'd done it, written something really good. Now all that casting is coming back to me, in the form of requests and offers to take on writing tasks, large and small. Given that the rewritten crime novel is going back to my editor mid-March (and given there are no guarantees in this world), I can and should pursue some of these offers. But how to prioritise?

a) The money-makers?
b) The ones that might raise my profile in the right places?
c) The ones I can't resist and would enjoy?

Logic says a). Ambition says b). My heart says c).

Although a bit of my heart also says b) because I've been wanting this for so long it's an emotional as much as a rational sensation. In the next week or so, I must make decisions and prioritise. This will mean saying No to some people, which I hate doing. But I don't want to keep anyone hanging on, because it's unfair and unprofessional. I know, I should be so lucky to be in this situation, right? But remember, no guarantees. I'm not 'there' yet.

As far as the novel goes, I've also been prevaricating, but only in one regard. I have a character who, like all my characters, consists of layers and shades. This character might be ninety per cent decent, ten per cent rotten. Or the balance might be skewed slightly further the other way. I've been putting off deciding, because I love ambiguity and I also have a soft spot for a rotter. But this morning I decided which side to come down on, for the reader's sake. Because ambiguity is all very well, but clarity is the order of the day when you've reached the last dozen pages of the book. I won't tell you which side I came down on, but a decision was taken. Now I have to follow it through and smooth out all the places where it was unclear, polishing until I'm done.

Then there's the chapter told out of chronological order, which might work better if it's put into chronological order (or it might not). I'm going to cut and paste that into a new document and play with the ordering, see what shakes out. And then - and then! I might be close to being ready to print it out for the next full read-through.