Saturday, 18 October 2008

Go, Go, Go!

I am holding myself back from leaping into the Artists' and Writers' Yearbook and dragging out the names of independent publishers to send my Book to. I have been delighted to learn at today's workshop (run by Alison Baverstock, author of several books on the subject of getting published) that you do not necessarily have to get an agent before approaching publishers, as I have previously been led to believe; independent publishers do not necessarily have the funds to pay agents' fees and are therefore more likely than the major publishing houses to contemplate signing new authors.

Hold your horses, Jenza!

Now I am painfully aware from feedback from friends about my manuscript and the workshops over the last couple of days that I may have dashed into sending my work to agents before I was entirely ready. This is, apparently, very common. Writers are just so desperately happy to have finished their manuscript that they just can't wait to hurl it at those glamorous folk who are just falling over themselves to publish it.
Except they're not. Agents and publishers can receive upwards of 30 manuscripts every day. Every DAY. And I feel guilty about not replying to emails quickly enough.

If I was honest with myself did I really, really believe that my manuscript was flawless, dazzling with brilliance, reflecting every colour of life in its polished facets? Well, yes. Really? There wasn't anything at all I wasn't entirely convinced about? Well... maybe.
That 'maybe' is what may well put an agent/publisher off what is undoubtably otherwise the winner of the next Booker prize. Once you've whored yourself they ain't gonna come back for more. And that Booker prize is going to some other, more deserving writer who polished their work until it gleamed so bright their publisher was blinded.

And so. Back to the laptop. With my humble pie still undigested I have started to re-edit based on the advice of brave and wonderful friends who gave me honest feedback on my book.

Chapter Two has gone. Chapter Two was one of my favourites. It was the first thing I wrote and dealt with the crushing world of insomnia, as experienced by one writer who had not slept in about six months and felt compelled, after one particularly rough night, to put pen to paper (sweaty fingertips to keyboard) and confine this terrible, lonely, hallucinatory existence to the page. (For anyone who is nodding right now I can recommend this approach as a form of therapy. After all, you've got a lot more time on your hands than most when your day is 24 hours long, so why not?)

So Chapter Two was deeply personal and (I thought) beautifully evocative. But it did nothing to carry the momentum of the opening section of the book and had to go!

Oh, you feel so disgustingly ruthless, amputating the finger of your baby like that. Chapter Two, however, is still there on file and may be used one day in another novel and I must remind myself that another novel is far more likely if I actually get the first one published.

After my meal of humble pie I have felt far more open to the words of wisdom and advice from the women who have run the workshops of the last couple of days. I am a 'product'. I am even willing to do that little air-finger inverted comma gesture that annoys me so much. 'Product'. To be packaged, marketed and sold. It sounds so horribly un-writerly, doesn't it? But to be sold... To be bought. To be read, to touch someone's life, to make them smile, react, to keep my characters in their head and for them to see through my characters' eyes for even the briefest time.

That is why I became a writer. And why I may still need another few servings of humble pie and patience before I even begin to consider sending my work to independent publishers.

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