Friday, October 14, 2011

New Voices – congratulations AND a pep talk

Current work: revamping outline and then going for it (lovely ed has let me bend some rules)
Listening to: Ed Sheeran and Bon Jovi (and wishing I could talk DH into queueing up for Coldplay tickets because I don’t feel well enough to do it – daughter’s comment of ‘Well, who would be mad enough to queue up all night for a ticket?’ was answered by a grin from her father and a nod of his head towards me, cough)
Reading: Marian Keyes, Rachel’s Holiday (spent the day on the sofa yeterday with a headache and the dog – first time I’ve read MK and I do like her voice – thanks to Julie Cohen for recommending this one)

Congrats to the 21 NV writers who made it through to the next round – given that there were over 1,000 entries, be proud of yourselves, and get cracking on the next bit!

To those of you who weren’t picked – don’t give up. This is only one competition. Not making it through doesn’t mean that you’re crap – it means that the odds were small and other people had more of what the eds were looking for, this time round.

This is the time when you regroup. Of course you’re upset. So cry on your best friend’s shoulder, punch a cushion, eat chocolate – whatever it takes to get you over the hump. But limit this to a day or two at most, because it’s not going to change anything. The only thing that can change is your writing and your attitude towards it.

So sit down and take a long, hard look at it. You need to believe in yourself (and, trust me, all writers are plagued with doubts about whether they’re good enough – that’s actually a good thing because it stops you being complacent and it keeps your writing sharp), but you also be willing to listen. What can you take on board from the comments? Yes, comments are subjective (and some people will love a book where others don’t enjoy it, and vice versa). But If several people are saying the same thing (whether it’s about pace, characterisation, dialogue, whatever), then it’s worth looking at that aspect of your writing again.

And remember that this is only the first chapter. It might even be that when you get to chapter three, you discover that actually THAT is the place to start the book. What that means isn’t that you’ve just wasted two chapters – it means that you needed to write yourself into the story, and you have lots of background detail in your head that will help with characterisation. (And you’re not going to use it as an infodump for your poor reader, either! Layer in the information, through action and dialogue. And any introspection needs to be used like dialogue – i.e. keep it short, to the point, and it has to move the book forward.)

It could be that you targeted the wrong line (go for the one you enjoy reading, as that’s the one you’ll enjoy writing); it could be that as you write the rest of the book you discover that you’re writing a completely different story, one that’s much stronger.

But one thing’s for sure. If you don’t sit down and write, you’re not going to get published. There isn’t a clairvoyant editor out there, scanning the ether for you. So ditch the excuses. Just sit down and do it. (500 words a day gets you a category romance written in 3 months.) Finish the book. Polish it. Send off the outline and first three chapters, and get started on the next. It doesn’t matter if you get a rejection – most published authors I know have a stack of rejection slips. Think of them as stepping stones. Each one will give you advice that you can apply to your next manuscript and that will get you a little bit closer to your goal.

Good luck!

1 comment:

Catherine J said...

Good advice Kate. Kudos to everyone who entered. Looking forward to reading the finalists' second chapters.