Monday, August 31, 2009

UPDATE: 10 things I hate about looking for an agent

10 things I hate about looking for an agent? Can't think of one. Nope. Not even a little one. The whole Great Agent Search is joyful as far as I'm concerned.

But... one additional thing I HEART about looking for an agent is...

GETTING AN AGENT! I got one I got one I got one. And a completely awesome one too. My first choice. I have an agent. Tra la la!

Number of days between heading to the post office and first hearing back from my prospective agency (asking me to send the rest of the manuscript): 3

Number of times I've said 'I've got an agent!' over the last three days: 143

So that's it. I am agented up to the maximum, and it feels bloody brilliant. I now have an ally in the battle to get published. And I've no doubt that it will be a battle. It's tough out there at the moment, particularly in the YA market. But I'm not going to think about that for a while. Instead I'm going to appreciate this milestone and say 'I've got an agent!' a few more times.

PS Did I mention I've got an agent?!

Person of the Day #1: Non (who told me months and months ago that she'd met the right agent for me. She was right)
Person of the Day #2: My Secret Agent (whose identity will be revealed in good time)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cats that represent my state of mind right now #2

Editor Cat is badass. It does not pay to mess with her. She is always right. Even when she’s wrong.   

Monday, August 24, 2009

The mysterious D

Yesterday I created a brand new character and I am VERY excited about him. He was entirely unexpected and I think he’s going to be just the ticket to move the story along to where it needs to go. I don’t know much about him yet other than what he looks like. And I know that he wears flip-flops a lot. Even in bad weather. In Scotland. I hope he has nice-looking feet (if such things even exist).

I’m not sure whether his name is quite right yet, but it’ll do for now. Let’s call him D, because that’s the letter his name starts with, and because he is a DEVICE. I intend to use him shamelessly and then probably discard him half way through the story. Good times!

Celebrity spot of the week: that Irish fella from
Cold Feet in Sainsbury’s, Herne Hill. He was also wearing flip-flops. Perhaps he was the inspiration for D?
YA book you really should read:
The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cats that represent my state of mind right now #1

My tummy has a happy too. Just polished off some delicious comte from the new farmers' market in St. Pancras. AND I've been writing. YAY!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Argh. It’s already Wednesday and I haven’t done any writing since the weekend. On Sunday night I was absotively posilutely sure I was going to get some done during the week. Was feeling super-keen and brimming with ideas. And then Monday hit me. Hard.

Instead of writing, so far this week I have mostly achieved the following: watched the last episode of Dollhouse (what was Joss Whedon thinking? Too many ideas, not enough editing/common sense); been in a grump about work; and been for lovely drinks with lovely friends of loveliness. This evening I will continue the non-writing with dinner avec my lovely cousin. And then it will be Thursday, which is practically the weekend, so I may as well just leave the writing till then, right?

Hoping for cooler weather at the weekend... hot weather + laptop on lap = sweaty thighs of grossness

Song of the day: Walking on Sunshine, by Katrina and the Waves (a song to make you smile if ever there was one)
Person of the day: Sarah Shep for letting me invite myself round for dinner. Thanks, Cuz! (So far that’s two Persons of the Day called Sarah. The question is... Can anyone NOT called Sarah possibly make the grade?)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday writing usually involves...

  1. Breakfast in bed
  2. A shower. Writers should smell good and have clean hair
  3. A trip to the supermarket. Writers deserve treats, including, but not limited to, various cheeses
  4. Reading the paper, especially the book review section (and daydreaming about my books being reviewed one day)
  5. Checking facebook, icanhascheezburger and digitalspy (the shame)
  6. A leisurely lunch
  7. A post-lunch snooze
  8. Playing with the cats
  9. Writing
  10. A cheeky, early evening glass of vino

Saturday, August 15, 2009

By George!

I find it really hard to name my characters. Really, really hard. My problem is that I like to give them names that I, well, like. Even the mean characters. I just can’t bring myself to type a name that I hate. If I’m going to have to type it again and again and again, I’ve got to like it. And it’s got to be easy to type. This is why you will NEVER find a George in any story of mine. In fact, I can hardly believe I managed to type it right just time just then. George George George. Well, now I’m on a roll. Maybe I’ll have to rethink my anti-George policy after all.

I feel funny about using the names of people I know, but I still do it. The main character in my new novel shares her name with someone at work, but I’m just going to have to get over it because it’s the RIGHT name. Some names just are. And some just aren’t. I renamed a main character in The First Novel just before I sent off submissions to agents. His new name suits him perfectly, although I do slip up now and again and revert to the old one.

My first stop for potential names is my book shelf. A quick scan of the author names on the spine can be helpful, but I seem to have a lot of books by men called John. A good, solid name, but not the one for me. Next stop is baby-name websites. These nearly always do the trick. But man, there are a lot of weird names out there. Parents can be cruel.

So when you’ve got the right name, you just know. It sounds right when you say it, you can type it with reasonable accuracy, and it fits the character like a snug pair of Calvins. Now you can rest easy, can’t you? WRONG! You’ve got to come up with a a good surname too, dammit. And it has to go perfectly with the first name. Sigh.

Atticus Finch - best name EVER. Completely brilliant in every way. If anyone can better that, I'll be impressed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So here's the plan...

There IS no plan. I’ve known for some time now that some people make plans for their novels. I am impressed. Especially if it’s a chapter-by-chapter plan that helps avoid those nasty dark alleys that the plot can sometimes get lost down, only to be coaxed back to safety with a lot of patience and love and wanton use of the ‘delete’ button.

I’m kind of jealous of these planning people. It would be nice to know where the story is going once in a while. Knowing what you’re sitting down to write on any given day might be reassuring. But would it take away some of the fun? Some of that magic that happens when a character does or says something you
never would have expected?

My planning amounts to a page of random notes and questions that I forget to refer to later on. This could just be an example of pure laziness on my part, but it’s also because I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. Seriously – not a clue. For all I know, aliens from the planet Boondaggle could land in the middle of my story and cause havoc, obliterating my favourite characters with their ray-guns. But I really hope they don’t.

Are there any planners out there who’d like to tell me about how they go about it? Are you incredibly disciplined? Is having a plan A Good Thing? Pray, do tell.

Cheese of the day: taleggio

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Today is a good day


My shiny new laptop of joy has just arrived, and it’s going to make everything better. Oh yes. I’m going to write more often, I’ll be more creative, and world peace is surely just around the corner.

It’s a thing of beauty, I’m telling you. Am I regretting not paying the extra £30 to get it in red? No sirree. Black is the new black. Am currently debating whether it’s wise to try and take it home with me tonight, given that I’m off to the pub. Hmm. Maybe I should sack off the pub and go home with my NBF? I’m sure my friends would understand...

This happy event has made me forget all about the horrors of returning to the day job. All is well in the world. (Except from some serious RSI, but I’m choosing to ignore that right now.)

Song of the day:
Supermassive Black Hole, by Muse (THE song of choice for baseball-playing vampires)
Person of the day: Sarah S, who’s looking mighty fine and is super-friendly (All applications for POTD will be considered. Remember: money talks.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Monday, Monday

Yes, I know it’s technically still Sunday, Sunday but I’ve got that ‘back to school’ feeling, big time. Tomorrow I return to the day job after a week off as a sickly hermit. In between the bouts of fever/nausea/general malaise I began to feel a bit like a real proper writer – working on the revised draft for TFN (not ‘the most shocking story of abuse ever told’), starting up this blog, and idly musing about prospective agents. Alas, real life beckons. Sigh.

So I probably (and by that I mean ‘definitely’) won’t be posting on here every day from now on. I have a life to lead. There’s work to be done, friends to see (if they even remember me…) and trashy TV to be watched. Oh, and the writing of course. Got to remember the writing.

I’m ploughing on with the next manuscript, and I can already tell it’s not going to go the way I planned it. But that’s a good thing. The characters are starting to do their own thing. It won’t be long before I can take the stabilizers off their bikes and let them wheel away, free from my steadying hand. All I have to do is keep my fingers on the keyboard and try to keep up.

By the way, I checked out my working title on Amazon, and it has indeed been cruelly stolen by a successful Chick Lit writer. Which clearly means it wasn’t the right title for my story. Back to the drawing board.

Song of the day: Bruised, by Jack’s Mannequin (who I’m going to see in Camden in a few weeks – yay!)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What's in a name?

Just found out that the name I eventually came up with for TFN is shared by one of those ultra-depressing Mis lit books. Bum. (That's not the name of the book, by the way.) You know the ones... white cover... handwritingy typeface... supposedly cute child staring balefully out at you begging you to pick the book off the shelf at Tesco because maybe, just maybe, that will make the hurt go away.

The one that shares its name with my novel is apparently 'The most shocking story of abuse ever told'. Yikes. Now I've never read one of these books, and I probably never will. Perhaps they're wonderful, and life-affirming in a way I could never even hope to understand. Doesn't stop me being annoyed that one of them has MY book title. The cheek of it.

I shouldn't be too surprised. The title I chose is, after all, just a word. And not even a particularly unusual word either. And I shouldn't be too bothered either, knowing full well that when (if?) my novel sees the light of day, it may be with a different title - one that I'd never have thought of in a gazillion years.

In my day job (children's book editor), we change titles ALL the time. The title has to sell the book, and the fact of the matter is that the author isn't always/ever the best person to know how to do that. (Note to self: be more sympathetic to authors in day job.)

Now, I'm just going to mosey on over to Amazon to see if my working title for The Second Novel has already been taken by another tragic childhood tale. I'm thinking it's a distinct possibility.

Awesome YA book you really should read: Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin (It's life-changingly good.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Getting to know you

So I’m 1500 words into the second novel and it’s proving tricky. Just like that difficult second album. (Although maybe that only applies to bands who’ve had a mega-successful first album? Currently, I have a very long Word document and not a lot else).

I’ve (kind of) decided on a plot, created a few characters, made up some suitable names, but the trouble is I don’t KNOW these people. I don’t know what they look like, what they have for breakfast, or how they’d act in any given situation. They are cardboard cut-outs.

I miss my characters from The First Novel (TFN). I spent three years with them, and I think I got to know them pretty well. They were real people (please forgive me for sounding crazy here). These new folk are strangers.

There’s only one thing for it: I’m just going to have to spend some time getting to know them. I hope hope hope they have something interesting to say for themselves.

Song of the day: Gives you hell by The All-American Rejects

Thursday, August 6, 2009

10 things I hate about looking for an agent

1. Writing covering letters (and don’t even get me started on trying to write a synopsis).

2. Re-formatting the manuscript to comply with each agency’s oh-so-slightly different requirements. Microsoft Word has never been a friend of mine.

3. Printing out fifty pages, only to realize the text is at a slight angle because it hasn’t fed into the printer properly. Wrestle with idea of just sending it as it is, knowing full well I’m going to end up having to print it again.

4. Going to the post office. Never fun.

5. Waiting.

6. Exacerbating RSI by checking for emails more often than you’d have thought possible. It turns out that pressing ‘Refresh’ is not refreshing at all. Not even a little bit.

7. Crippling self-doubt when a rejection arrives, even if it’s a really nice one from a lovely agent who liked the first 50 pages. If he/she has said five positive things about the ms and one negative, I know which one I’ll be obsessing over for the next few days.

8. Thinking that I sound like an idiot in any email correspondence. Too formal? Not formal enough? Too grateful? Not grateful enough? Tis a mine-field.

9. Not being able to focus on ANYTHING else.

10. Er… did I mention the waiting?

One thing I love about looking for an agent:
the possibility that something great could be about to happen.

Cheese of the day: camembert (baked, with garlic and white wine)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Stop! Step away from the keyboard

I have finished the final draft of the novel. Or have I?

Every time I read it I find something I want to change – usually a turn of phrase that makes me cringe or an sneaky, useless adverb. I blame the pixies that sneak into my laptop overnight, turning my perfect text into something… not even close to perfect.

Will it ever be just right? So that I can read it all the way through, nodding and smiling, and reach the end feeling proud and satisfied that this is the best I can do? Doubtful. The way I write today is subtly different from the way I wrote yesterday, which in turn is different from the way I wrote the day before. And the day before that. And so on. Maybe that’s just evolution.

But today I’m saying ‘ENOUGH! Move on to something else. This story has been told… and yes, you might look at it in a few days/weeks/months and wish you’d told it differently. But this will do. For now.’

I don’t want my story to turn into a child’s painting that starts off all bold, bright colours and ends up a muddy brown mess because I just didn’t know when to stop.

I’m going to press ‘Print’. Yes, I’m going to do it right this second. Right now. Hmm. But maybe that dialogue on page 57 could work a bit harder… and maybe I haven’t developed that character as well as I could have… and maybe…

Oh dear.

Awesome YA book you really should read: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Song of the day: Thnks Fr Th Mmrs by Fall Out Boy

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Never thought I'd see the day

Wow. My first foray into the world of blogging. Swine flu seems to have a plus side after all. I've watched every single programme stored in my sky+ box, and read EVERYTHING in Saturday's newspaper (including the sports section), fussed my cats for hours and now I'm officially bored.

Of course, I should be:
a) finishing the revised draft of the first novel
b) carrying on with the start of the second novel
BUT instead I am here, blogging for the very first time.
Procrastination is not my middle name, but it might as well be. I can come up with at least 47 reasons not to write when I should be writing. My flat is never tidier than when I know I should really be writing. Meals get cooked, laundry gets done, mail gets sorted, writing gets ignored.
Must. Try. Harder.
C x