Monday, 10 April 2017

From Conception to Birth in Four Short Years...

So the day finally arrived. 
After bleating on about it, like the most irritating of irritants, the day dawned and Carry the Beautiful was officially published.

I always knew I wanted to write a book. I just thought it would be when I got old. I assumed I'd retire from whatever job I'd ended up with in my sixties, sit in a wing backed chair facing a window, and write a long sprawling saga in a flowery notebook, whilst wafting about in a kaftan and drinking gin in the afternoon.

Reader, it has not been like that one bit.

During the Summer of 2013 I started to plan this novel. Early inspirations were the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that is written at the front - Not psychic? Remind yourself here - and the desire to write a contemporary 'coming of middle age' novel. I spent that Summer working out the plot, choosing characters names, finding images of people online that looked like the characters I was forming in my head and working out the structure of it all.

Exhibit A is my planning notebook. It was glued by my side as I wrote every chapter, and only got ditched when the first draft was done.

In September 2013 I started to write Chapter One. I did about a chapter a week, maybe more. This was the easiest part of the whole process. It didn't matter if it was rubbish. It didn't matter if it made no sense. It just needed to be written. The first draft was finished in the Summer of 2014.

Then came the editing. This took ages. I read it. I read it again. I changed spellings and words. I broke up over-long sentences and made sure the elements of suspense were suspenseful. I read it so much I could recite all 311 pages of it by heart. But it was clear that this was not something to be done alone. The overall structure and characters needed to be critiqued and I couldn't do that because A) I thought it was great and B) I was sick to death of reading it.

November 2015 came. (I told you the editing took ages). I sent it to an editor - Claire Dyer of Fresh Eyes. She read it and reported back within the month. Her feedback was fab. Massively encouraging (she was the only person other than me to have read it at this point) and also very useful. She gave me practical information about industry standards - paragraphs and speech marks were different to the way I'd been taught, and indeed taught in school. Also, she told me where new chapters were needed, and where current chapters could be cut. (The sex scene did not make the edit. Soz perverts.)

I worked on her changes, polished everything up, and then in January 2016 sent an email to my immediate (but large) family to see who wanted to read it and give me feedback. Some of them jumped at the chance. So the willing participants got sent a Word doc and I awaited their comments.

Exhibit B is the Word doc that got passed around the family. It was printed off by my Dad, who stapled it into sections. He later told me he had read the last two sections the wrong way round but it had still made sense. So that's good. *eye roll*

Thankfully all family feedback was positive. Obviously they were not objective in the slightest, and clearly only wanted to keep me onside so I didn't sulk, but still. More encouragement was great.

Alongside all this I was sending out three letters a week to literary agencies, trying to get someone to represent me. I was confident I had a decent book, but breaking through the slush pile and getting an overstretched agency's attention was impossible and ridiculously boring. I decided to stop after nine months and crack on with it myself. 
That takes us up to September 2016. (If you want to read about the trials and tribulations from then to now, it's all here.) I started this blog, began to learn about publishing shizzle, and got my Word doc all spruced up into a real life novel to sell.

Exhibit C. It's only a sped-up GIF of me fanning my book pages! (Not a euphemism.) Get in.

I spent most of Friday online, updating web pages and profiles about the 'available now' status, as well as answering lovely messages from friends and family. 

I also got very drunk.

I still think there is a place for the gin-drinking-kaftan-wearer at some point, but for now it will have to wait until I retire. I've got too much writing to do before then.

Have a lovely week folks.

PS. To all the people that liked, shared, retweeted and commented on all my random Social Media output on Friday (and every other day tbh) THANK YOU. It was lovely to receive so many messages and notifications. I hope you enjoy the read. 

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