Sunday, June 20, 2010

Writing your first novel

When I wrote my first novel, No Wings Attached, I hadn't got any idea of writing at all. The only thing I knew, was, I wanted to write what I would buy and also keeps me turning the pages. I started out with a complete different story, sent it to my friend, who is a copywriter, to see what she thinks. And, boy, did she rip it apart. (Thank you, Pidi, for all the time and effort you put into that book. I love you.)

I know I said it's better to not ask a friend, but if the friend has valuable knowledge of how to write, then you'd better give it to her, or him. So, after I got her comments and suggestions back, I sat down and had a thought.
Don't ask me how I ended up with this novel, the paranormal theme which almost borders at fantasy. I don't even read fantasy, I must say. But I did and the result is a book I'm reasonable proud of: a typical romance, packed with humour. Basically a romantic comedy, sprinkled with paranormal elements.

The whole process of writing and going though the rough plot-holes took me 2.5 months. During the evening, I wrote about 2000 words, and in the day, I edited. Then I researched quite a bit as well. When I thought my book is pretty and ready for submissions, I had to learn the hard way that this wasn't the case. Nowhere near it, to be honest.

Smart as I am, I targeted the big publishers first, and Harper Collins was one of my choice. That's when I learned of authonomy. I uploaded my manuscript there and got a lot of good comments, saying that this is real movie-material. Which, I believe so myself, it is.

A few were very helpful and pointed out my mistakes. This platform is fantastic to grow from. I studied threads about writing, punctuation, dialogue attributes, dos and don'ts, and went to reseach a lot, asking my best friend, google.

I also met a person I'd call my mentor. A master of editing, and with every new knowledge I gained, I went over my manuscript for another edit. There was a time I couldn't see it anymore, for I made all the mistakes a novice would make. During my editing-process, I lost about 40k.

Nowadays, I write with more precision, using the skills I gained to start out as perfect as possible. That takes longer, I write about 500 words on a good day, but when the book is finished, I only have to go through it one more time to polish it.

In addition to that, I try to be as flexible in genres as I can. Whereas humour is the one that seems to suit me best, my current book is literary fiction and I love this challenge.

Got told I'm doing a good job there, too, which encourages me to go ahead. The writing-business means learning on a daily basis, and that means you train you brain. A very good side effect if you ask me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Written a book, and then?

Many will agree with me: writing is the easiest part of the book.

But what comes next? As a writer, you're basically a loner, withdrawn in the world you're creating. That means, you will have a book finished that you had in your head,
every single character, the storyline, the development is close to you.
Question is, is it any good? What do others think of your writing? To get a decent feedback, you need others to give you an opinion. Best would be to not ask friends or family as they are inclined to praise the book you've worked so hard for, and they don't want to hurt your feelings.

There are several online-communities that provide the comments we need. There, we might get pointed out the holes in the plot-development, where we went wrong with the characterisation, etc. With the right advice, we're able to edit our novel until it's ready to submit to agents and publishers. Editors, nowadays, are very selective people, so are agencies.

Another new site,, gives authors and their ready-to-submit manuscripts the opportunity to showcase their story. Alongside this platform runs a blog with similar features.

But, there's more to it. This site also has a publisher, an agent, and reviewer, who answer questions from the readers, and successfully published authors are posting their experiences in publishing.

There are videos, informations and advice about writing on AOS as well.

So, I'd recommend to have a look, make suggestions and become part of something good.

Have a nice weekend, all.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

An agent's point of view

Yesterday, I attended a workshop, held by a well-known agent, former buyer of fiction at Waterstones.

Although the workshop was called 'How to get an agent/to get published', I want to concentrate on her point of view regarding submissions.
Apart from the obvious like, addressing the agent in person, especially if there are more in that agency, doing the research etc. she gave some valuable information which gave me hope.

It is preached everywhere that you manuscript has to be perfect, or in a near-perfect condition to be considered by an agency. So far so good. But what defines 'perfect'?

Surely, it should be grammar and spell-checked. Also it should be punctuated as best as you can.

One of the attendants compared the submitting process to the music industries, saying that record companies used to get demos and had to decide if the raw quality is enough to make something out of it. Surprisingly the agent agreed to have experienced this in her job as well. She even said, that sometimes she prefers the rawness of a draft, 'hearing' the author's voice, rather than the one of many editors that went over it.

There are a lot of opinions about how and when agents decide it's not for them. For instance: the manuscript has punctuation errors, clearly a weakness of the author, they will reject you. Or: the writing is in first person present tense, rejected. Not starting with a big bang, rejected.

I learned yesterday that it isn't the case. At least not for this agency. She said, that when the query letter hooks her, she wants to see the synopsis (1 page A4, double spaced, by the way), and the whole manuscript. She stated that if the synopsis intrigues her, the book doesn't need to start off with a bang, she wants to see the story unfold. Also, that if the writing is compelling, but there are some issues that are not there yet, then she writes back to the author, addressing the points of concern, encouraging the author to send the revised material.

As she works for an agency that also offers editing, she'd be prepared to help the author with a punctuation issue, of course only if the writing appeals to her and she sees the saleability.

I must say, I left this workshop being uplifted, knowing that there are agents out there, who don't expect everything to be 'perfect' and that a missing word, some misplaced commas or the 'wrong' tense doesn't put them off, as long as they see a strong story and 'hear' your voice.

How she will react to my submission though, only time will show.