Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Driven to Distraction

Friday 26th April, 2013
Is it just me or do other writers get a little distracted half way through writing their novels: unable to focus on the book because that huge ironing pile and the dirty dishes have suddenly taken precedence?  I should be researching forensics, fathoming out how best to decompose my fictional victim. Instead, I find myself searching the net for an encouraging horoscope. If I don’t like the sound of one, I’ll try another. I desperately want the stars to align themselves into some kind of auspicious position so that this Libran will get her second novel published.  
Things must be looking up, because none of these pearls of wisdom are telling me to call it a day. I’m told the lunar eclipse is going to give me a chance to reboot my life, that I’ve got a lot of balls up in the air and the cosmos has definite plans for me. Apparently, I need to factor in some spa time too, advice which will have to be ignored – how much time do they think I have? I’ve got another 30,000 words to write and I can’t get past chapter twenty for reading all this predictive nonsense.
Another Astrologer writes that Libra has been a patient writer. How true! Perhaps there’s something in this horoscope malarkey after all. So I read more. It very accurately states that there were opportunities in 2012, but nothing happened as it should. It’s as if they know just what I’ve been through. I feel I’m in safe hands, listening to a good friend, someone who understands me like no one else. So, I take comfort in the knowledge that Librans are going to be thrilled by what takes place in June. But can I wait a whole two months for something exciting to happen? No! I’ve been a patient writer for far too long. I’m getting really sick of being an unpublished author.
Maybe, I need to take another approach: stop reading horoscopes and buckle down to some work. The cosmos has plans for me. If I complete the second half of Ghost Towns by June then I’m going to be thrilled by what takes place. Only time will tell......
18th April, 2013
I received an encouraging email from my agency a few weeks ago. Such compliments keep an unpublished author optimistic. They remind me not to get too disheartened, even though the first novel hasn’t found a home.
People who don’t know this business keep asking when is your book going to get published, as if it’s a simple task to get this far. I’m sure Joe Public takes turns wiping away the grime on my windows to see what I do with my time. They’ll get distracted by the sight of abandoned breakfast bowls and an ever increasing ironing pile when they should be impressed to find a hard working professional, writing amongst kid’s toys and clutter.  Call me paranoid, but I think everyone has taken to staring at me in a questioning way, wondering why I continue to write about gruesome discoveries in snickets and ghost towns when I’m still not getting paid for it. I could easily admit defeat and do something which they’d deem more useful, like the washing up. So, I must say a big thank you to Laura at David Higham Associates. Without a little bit of praise every now and again I’d be chained to a kitchen sink and no closer to ever getting a book published.
Now I have incentive. I’m able to stand tall. I walk two paces to my left, pick up the trusty dry marker and aim it at the whiteboard, but some strange occurrence has taken place. Somehow the plot for Ghost Towns has turned into a complex mapping chart, comprising of criss-crossing lines and a jumble of notes. There’s also an asterisk, which presumably once highlighted something of significant importance. Only one thing makes any sense: the word BODY, stuck in the middle, the core of any crime novel. And now even those four letters are getting a little blurry, turning into a blob, which is surrounded by unrecognizable scribbles - a pile of rubbish – a piece of crap! Am I up to the job? Why do I choose to do this: bent over a laptop every spare minute of the day, scratching at my scalp, fretting over whether that last paragraph was too telling and not showing?
I’ve got this far. There is no going back. I remind myself that I have the support of an agency. Perhaps I should frame their last email, stick it to my forehead and show the world that someone in the publishing business thinks I’m right to let the dishes pile up.
12th April, 2013
In the week following Margaret Thatcher’s death I’m somewhat bemused to hear reports that she advocated policies which encouraged choice. During the winter of 1987, I worked several shifts on a male medical ward with just one other nurse. In those days, patients didn’t get the option of receiving any more than a quick face wash in a morning. I felt like a car washer lathering up someone’s windscreen at the traffic lights. Three years later, I witnessed first hand a situation which hadn’t improved when the lack of NHS nurses had a detrimental effect on the care of my first child. Is it just me, but I recall a miserable decade bombarded by high interest rates and cuts to public expenditure? My living quarters in the nurses home could best be described as a prison cell - complete with bars at the windows. On low trainee wages I was expected to pay the same poll tax as someone who owned a mansion. During Thatcher’s reign, we saw national companies privatised and council houses sold. Inevitably, this right to buy scheme led to a shortage of rental accommodation, which left few options for those people without the means to obtain a mortgage.
I should be busy writing my second novel. It’s not as if all this talk about Thatcher’s legacy isn’t relevant. One of the Ghost Towns in my book is overshadowed by a black slag heap; the bleak remnant of a once thriving coal mining industry. It seems to me that the New Right weakened institutions to get rid of obstacles which had got in their way. Suddenly, my mind’s awash with everyday words from the 1980’s; such as redundancy, negative equity and repossessions. During Mrs. Thatcher’s state funeral we should mourn the loss of communities where people were not privileged enough to have choice.
Before I sign off, I must give one word of thanks to Mrs. T. My rant has given me the incentive to write chapter fifteen. I’ve worked out that Ghost Towns should be finished by May or June, but gosh, look at the time. It’s almost midday and I haven’t had breakfast yet. The words on my screen are blurring into one big jumble. I’ll need a coffee to keep me awake. Then the kids will have to be picked up from school. My quiet haven will soon be turned into a mad house and I’ll never get any writing done. Perhaps I’ve been a tad too optimistic. Maybe completion time is more June than this space!
5th April, 2013
All aspiring writers are encouraged to find a literary agent. It is a vital first step on the road to publication, although it can be a huge feat securing one. There are many figures flying around, but agencies receive between 400-1,000 unsolicited queries per month, which goes to show how much competition there is out there. No wonder many fall at the first hurdle.
Fortunately, I have managed to stagger over this obstacle, but self promotion is a necessary second step in order to complement publisher submissions. Therefore, after several years of contemplation and with the help of my computer wiz of a son, my website is now up and running. At first I was quite apprehensive about showcasing my work. As an unpublished author it felt fraudulent, somewhat jumping the gun. I am also technophobic, scared of pressing the wrong buttons and therefore indebted to the 12 year old who can fathom out web design, but is unable to make his own bed. I’m also very protective of my ideas, an unfortunate trait when it comes to sharing blurbs. I used to spend hours shredding reams of draft outlines for fear of the dustman bringing out my novel first. I’ll bet I’m not the only one to have done that.
Actually, I’m not a gambling person, which is why I won’t be betting on a horse during the Grand National this weekend. I don’t like the idea of all those horses falling at Beacher’s Brook either. Instead, I’ll be celebrating the fact that I’ve cleared a hurdle of my own – I’ve plucked up the courage to post my blurbs on-line!
All this equine talk reminds me of a rather odd image that kept popping up on the web last week - one which can be described in many ways: from the backend of my little pony to an old pink mare. Was I dreaming, or has this fellow author grown two extra legs and a couple of high heeled hooves? No wonder her pink Range Rover is up for sale. Who needs a car when Katie Price can just trot around making an exhibition of herself? Maybe she should run in the Grand National, fall at the first hurdle and be put out of her misery? Please forgive me. I am a bitter unpublished novelist after all. And I promise that’s the last time I’ll bring her up - it’s left such a nasty furry taste in my mouth.....
28 March 2013 – This is a milestone date! I’m one third of the way into my second novel. So I should have finished the first draft by May/June. That’s when I’ll feel most relaxed. From then on, its plain sailing – I’ll need to make a few revisions before sending it off to my agent, who’ll get back with brilliant suggestions prior to publisher submissions. Then finally, my novel will appear on the book shelves...well, this should be the final piece in the jigsaw, but it wasn’t the case for my first novel.


Unfortunately, Into the Snicket, is still waiting for an editor to take a punt on a first time novelist with a cross genre book. It’s times like these when you wish your sister had married a Prince, because that appears to open doors into the publishing world.  I’d not only obtain an advance for my novels, but if I whipped up some drivel about party planning I’d guarantee a lucrative deal on that too. It doesn’t seem to matter if you don’t know much about your subject either. Although, I’m more qualified than most to write about organising parties having arranged my own children’s birthdays. I’ll have to ignore several successful piss-ups where details are vague and impossible to fully recall, but I can confirm that I’ve notched up an impressive amount of Easter gatherings, bonfire parties, Halloween get-togethers, Christmas dinners and the odd christening to boot. In fact, I’ve cooked for more kids in my lifetime than Nigella. If only my father had been one of Thatcher’s chancellors....


Too many celebrities get hefty advances, which leaves little money in the coffers for would be novelists. So, am I wasting my time? Should I give up and accept that people like me never get published?  Not bloody likely! Not when there are still options out there. I could write about ponies, get silicone breasts that look like barrage balloons and make some ghost writer do all the hard work.  No! God forbid! I prefer to wait and get published on my own merits. It’s much more satisfying to earn your advance.


So is there anyone out there willing to take on a hard working unpublished author with naturally pert c-cups? Come on! The mortgage needs paying, bills are mounting up and my sanity is fast diminishing. If only my sister was more Prince Harry’s age, then maybe an introduction would be in order. My Dad’s always going on about how he could run this country’s economy better than any government. But perhaps it’s too late to send Daddy into politics?


I’ll stick to the old tactics: avoiding ladders, single magpies, cracked mirrors and black cats - keep your finger’s crossed.....

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