Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Confession Time

I am going to shelve my novel. (I wasn't going to blog about this but I have finally decided to take this blog post out of drafts and into real life).

I'm not giving up on it but I think we need some space, a breather, a break from each other. I don't want to say that I am fully giving up on it because I'm not. Well, at least I don't think I am.

Reasons for Realism is a novel that I started nearly four years ago. The first sentence I wrote went into the delete folder back in draft two. The original chapter one is now chapter three. That original chapter or the first few pages also made it to the final stages of a novel opening competition. The 'new' chapter one arrived back in draft seven after some agent feedback.

I have sent it out to lots of agents. I have had standard rejections, 'the silence', attached files go missing even though they were acknowledged. BUT I have been lucky and I have had some great feedback too with lots of great advice. I even made it as far as sending the next ten chapters to one agency. So very close!

Recently, I have had advice from two different agents. Very contradicting feedback. One loved the characters and the voice but wasn't too keen on part of the plot. They asked for me to make changes to the plot. I made the changes to the areas where I thought it needed changing as I didn't fully agree about the plot but ultimately they wanted BIGGER changes. The other agent said that they liked the plot but not the voice. So what do I do? Who's advice should I take? Are they both right or both wrong? If only I could those two agents together and then I would have an agent who would want it.

In those four years, my writing has evolved. I need to write something new that reflects this. I could move onto my 11th draft but I think I need something new. I don't want this novel becoming 'the never-ending story.'

I'm not the sort of person who gives up easily. I am not going to let this beat me. The computer files are still going to be there (I'm going to put all of my paper notes up in the attic and out of reach). Maybe a break may help me.

What about self-publishing, I hear you cry. I know it's the new number one fashion at the moment. The people who have been successful at self published have had the time to do all of their marketing, selling and designing. I, honestly, at the moment, don't have the time to dedicate myself to creating a self-published book.

I have been dedicated to writing and redrafting this novel. At one point I had a 500 word minimum during the week. I wrote until the screen was blurry. I cut my long nails so I could type faster. I took my Macbook on holiday so I could keep up the quota.

In the future, when someone asks if I have a novel that's kept in a drawer, then I'll be able to smile and say yes!

I am not giving up. NO WAY. I have a slight twinge of a new idea for a novel. And I have short stories too. So after the wedding and honeymoon, I am going to be rolling up my sleeves and cracking on with the writing.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Blog Tour: Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma

Today, I would like to welcome my lovely friend Kerry Hudson to Writer's Little Helper for her #Tonyhogan blog tour.

Kerry kindly agreed to do a guest post about her writing processes and hopefully let us into a few writing secrets. AND, there's a competition too. You just need to scroll down the page, read over the fabulous prizes and getting commenting too.

Don't forget, you can read my review over here.

So, over to Kerry:


Jessica and I met when we were both studying creative writing at Roehampton University. I was older than the rest of the students by a few years, wanted to do my best and took the course very seriously. Jessica and I became friends because she took the course as seriously as I did and I've always admired Jessica's tenacity and work ethic, so I'm not surprised that when she offered to host a post she suggested I talk about my writing practices. So here you go folks:

I am not one of those writers who spring out of bed and approach my laptop with vim and vigour. Rather, I circle around it like a wary dog until I'm ready to grab the thing by it's throat and even then I tend to write in short bursts of an hour or two but unless I'm taking a conscious break (while riding the publicity rollercoaster for Tony Hogan... for instance) I do write every day. If I don't write every day I feel it when I return in the same way as I do if I don't run for a few weeks – use your muscles (creative and physical) often and they'll get stronger and faster, lose your commitment and you're in for a world of pain.

How writing goes for me:

I have an idea and it churns around for a while. I know it's here to stay if when I see interesting things (today, a pigeon picking at a fried chicken bone and a toddler with what looked suspiciously  like hair extensions) and think 'that will have to go in the book'. I don't even realise it, but I'm collecting material all the time.

When I decide to start a novel I write a double sided list of all the major events but that is all the planning I do. By that time I'll have been thinking about the characters for months so I don't need endless character studies and I like to explore how words and stories will get me from one planned incident to the next.

Then I sit down and write the first draft. At least 1000 words a day until it is done. The first draft is always quick and dirty but then I have the raw materials to build what I want to.

The next drafts always take place in the same order structural (for my 2nd novel Thirst I wrote every scene on a post-it and moved the whole novel's chronology around), finer detail edits, read aloud, copy edit and another read aloud. Read alouds are essential to me to get the language, voice and rhythm right.

During the above drafting I always have a moment in the middle when I want to buy an industrial shredder and feed in page and after page of my manuscript with some very loud David Bowie (I don't know why David just is) blasting out of some very big speakers. Instead I usually have a cup of tea and remember all the other times I've felt like this when it was all fine in the end.

I have two readers who read my writing before anyone else. They love me and my writing but they wouldn't (and don't) bullshit me. I think it's important to have that stage, to be able to fix things, before it goes out into the publishing world.

As soon as I send off a story or a manuscript I start something new. Partly for sanity and partly because nothing makes me happier than writing, I don't feel right without it.

If I have any advice to give (not that I feel I'm in a position to be dishing it out) it would be a slogan from a print that a friend bought me which says 'work hard and be kind' – I can't think of a better motto by which to live your writing life.

Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen. Growing up in a succession of council estates, B&Bs and caravan parks provided her with a keen eye for idiosyncratic behaviour, material for life, and a love of travel. Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma is her first novel. Kerry now lives, writes and works in London.

When Janie Ryan is born, she's just the latest in a long line of Ryan women, Aberdeen fishwives to the marrow, always ready to fight. Her violet-eyed Grandma had predicted she'd be sly, while blowing Benson and Hedges smoke rings over her Ma's swollen belly. In the hospital, her family approached her suspiciously, so close she could smell whether they'd had booze or food for breakfast. It was mostly booze.
Tony Hogan tells the story of a Scottish childhood of filthy council flats and B&Bs, screeching women, feckless men, fags and booze and drugs, the dole queue and bread and marge sandwiches. It is also the story of an irresistible, irrepressible heroine, a dysfunctional family you can't help but adore, the absurdities of the eighties and the fierce bonds that tie people together no matter what. Told in an arrestingly original -- and cry-out-loud funny -- voice, it launches itself headlong into the middle of one of life's great fights, between the pull of the past and the freedom of the future. And Janie Ryan, born and bred for combat, is ready to win.

Twitter: @Kerryswindow


This prize draw is open to anyone who hosts or comments on a Tony Hogan post. There is no purchase necessary. There is no limit to how many times a name can be entered i.e. if you comment on three blogs you have three entries but it's only possible to win one prize per person. The winning names will be drawn at random on Wednesday 1st August and announced on my Tumblr blog and on Twitter.

1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes consist of:
1st prize - A three chapter or synopsis critique plus afternoon tea at Beas of Bloomsbury, London (at a mutually beneficial date and time) with Juliet Pickering from the AP Watt Literary Agency to discuss your critique. Plus a personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before he Stole My Ma.

2nd prize - A  literary hamper containing a personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma as well as three of my most recommended writing theory books and Hotel d Chocolate chocolates to enjoy while reading them.

3rd prize - A personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Book Review: Down The Rabbit Hole

My review of Down The Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos is now up at The View From Here Magazine.

You can click through and read it here > Down the Rabbit Hole

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Happy Publication Day!

Happy publication day to my lovely friend Kerry Hudson!

Her debut novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma is now available from your favourite bookshop/online retailer. So get out there and buy!

Kerry's book out in the wild and sitting on my bookshelf

Kerry will be blog-touring over the next few weeks and has agreed to do a guest post. So watch out!