17th February

Not THIS one… but the one after

I think it’s fair to say that there’s a strong feeling for most writers of wanting to be published… but perhaps ‘strong feeling’ isn’t strong enough – maybe ‘desperation’ is closer to the truth.   That’s certainly how I have felt at times.  Mostly, for me, it’s that feeling that I need confirmation that the hours I spend in my head and the stories I weave, will come to something, that the characters who I have worked on for so long that I can almost touch them, will leap off the paper and into other people’s minds.   So, initially, you don’t  see past the first book deal that you so desperately want.  You just want to be published, for someone to say YES!   And this sense of desperation intensifies the longer the wait goes on.  That’s how it was for me anyway.  But here’s the rub… what happens once you’ve been published?  Because, the thing is, you still want to write, there are still all those ideas and untold stories in your head… and there’s even more reason to want to be published now because you’ve been published before – after all, you’ve had the big green light, affirmation that, yes, you are publishable.  So if you’re publishable, publishers HAVE to want to publish you again… don’t they?

Well, maybe  they do.  But does having been published once make it easier? And is the next book any more guaranteed?  I was thinking about this in relation to Buttercup Magic.  ‘Buttercup Magic: A Mystery for Megan’ is due for publication on 27th April this year – woohoo!  In fact, I have just read through the proofs – proofed the proofs if you like.  There was an erroneous ‘to’ and a couple of other inconsistencies, but other than that, we appear to be cooking on gas!  This will be my sixth book (pinch me!) but my first mid-grade novel, so quite a big deal for me… a lot of a big deal actually!  I planned the idea to span more than one book – three hopefully.  All the ground rules had to be set out in the first book.  The story involves a young girl, Megan, who moves into Buttercup House and befriends Freya, the girl next door.  It also involves a group of animals, The Protectors, who can communicate with the girls and who have special gifts and are able to help them when help is needed.  It took me seven drafts to get it right, because ‘the forensics’ (as my publisher, Piccadilly Press, call it) had to be right.  If there were any plot errors in this first one, everything would come tumbling down in the next one.  I suddenly realised the implications of writing a series of books that had more developed plot lines.  The Ruby and Grub series (for 2-6yrs) had been much more character based, with simpler plots appropriate to the age range.  But now I was writing for 6-9yr olds… very discerning 6-9yr olds!

So, thinking ahead, as you do, I have now completed the first draft of the second book in the series.  Was it easier than the first?  Yes, because the building blocks, the rules, the plotlines were all tight in the first book (we’re talking seven drafts later remember)…  and by the way, it may not have taken seven drafts had I plotted properly in the outset (see 6th January blog post on the Plot Planner!)  This time, I went into the second book knowing what the animals can do, how it all worked, why they disappeared and why they have returned.  But in another sense, writing this one was more difficult.  I had to work harder to build and sustain the energy of the first book.  Also, I have had to open the second book with the close of the first.  This can work both ways – it gives you a definite start, but doesn’t allow for the freedom of a brand new book.  You, as a writer, have to retain the spark and excitement you feel when you are working on a brand new idea or concept.  Then, of course, you have to make sure it’s at least as good as the last one… and everything has to tie in with the last book, so you may have an amazing idea, but you can’t use it because it doesn’t fit in with the ground rules you’ve established in the first book.

But, there’s more certainty that book two will be published, isn’t there?  Not necessarily.  In theory, yes.  But if the first book doesn’t sell as well as hoped, or if there’s no interest from abroad (those elusive overseas rights) then maybe not.  The world of publishing is a hard one – for publishers AND for writers.  Will it stop me writing?  Never.  If a hairdresser does a dodgy perm, does she walk out and threaten never to titivate someone’s locks again?  If a plumber bursts a pipe, does he stop being a plumber?  Erm, dubious analogy here because maybe he should… but you can see my point, I hope.

Writing’s a job, a wonderful job, and if I write something that doesn’t work, isn’t marketable or falls apart in the making, I shall get over it and move on… write something new that will blow people’s minds!

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12 responses to “17th February

  1. You’re so right, and I’m not sure at what point a writer becomes confident that his/her work will always be published. I’ve had two novels published so far, with one more coming out this May and another scheduled for next spring. After that? Well, who knows. I’ll be out of my contract by then and although I will have written something new, I really don’t know if it will be published. So far my books have had pretty good reviews and I’ve been nominated/shortlisted for a number of awards but I’m not making Dan Brown nervous just yet and Stephen King isn’t worried about me nicking his sales so I’m wondering if my publisher will stick with me beyond four novels. These days everything is about the money – if they’re not making enough out of me, then . . . well, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

    In the meantime, getting anything published (and I don’t mean self/indie published – anyone can do that) is a huge achievement so just look forward to your book coming out in April and take it from there. l know I’m looking forward to it!

    • Awww Dan, such a lovely response. It really is a lot tougher than people think isn’t it? People thought I’d get an agent really easily given having had 5 books published… and yet I got my 3rd rejection this week. It is all about the money, sadly. So much is influenced by the market these days. I guess we just have to keep writing, and I am really looking forward to Buttercup Magic in April too!

  2. Yes – I carry am still writing (though another round-the-world trip isn’t round the corner). I want to write better (rubbish grammar, but you know what I mean.) So I want every short story to be better than the last one. Ridiculous, I know – my delete button is heavily overused – but I hang onto the conviction that I can improve. If the day dawns that I’m disillusioned, that’s when I give up!

  3. Bravo for you Jo! I am exactly the same, always striving for something better. And we can only write the stories that are inside us – whatever happens, I for one will never stop doing that. Loads of luck with your stories!

  4. Wow – 6th book! That’s amazing, Abi and an absolute achievement in itself. You’re such a positive, talented writer that I’m sure that you’ll bag an agent soon. As for the publication game, it’s an odd one. Either write entirely for pleasure, enjoy and risk standing still or aim for a deal, improve and endure the pain. I’d take the pain every time.

  5. Ah, Melissa – have a lump in my throat now! Such a lovely thing to say. Yes, I’m with you, we can only get better at what we do if we keep moving forwards. However hard that journey is, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

  6. Great post. Abi! I know that desperate feeling so well. And like you say, even when you DO get published, there are no guarantees about anything. Whenever I start to feel scared about it all, I try to remember the reason WHY I write, which is the same now as it was before a publisher said yes – because I love it; because with everything I write, I learn a little bit more about HOW to write; and because I couldn’t not do it, whether I’m doing it for a publisher, or just for myself.

    You are a real inspiration, and I know I’ve said this a hundred times already, but I have everything crossed for you in your search for an agent, and I hope you have great success with Buttercup. You deserve it!

  7. Aw, thank you Emma *sniffs and dabs at eyes*. I have everything crossed for me too – in fact, everything has been crossed for so long that it’s beginning to hurt. And I have things crossed for you too – yes, we write because we love it don’t we? Publication is the icing on the cake! Thanks Em 🙂

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