Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Be Prepared!

 "I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that someone else wrote it and then rip the living shit out of it.” Don Roff

I have recently worked with an editor on my short story, which won a place in the Northern Crime One anthology. I’m extremely grateful to have had this experience. For many reasons, this has proved to be the perfect way to take that first step into publishing. I have come to realise how daunting it would have been if my first contract had been for a novel instead of a short story. I advise everyone mid way through the trials to delay novel submissions. Opt for articles, blogs, and/or a short story in a magazine, then try to get published in an anthology.  Do not jump head first into novel publication without any other experience.Take a little leap off the spring board rather than diving in from a precarious height. It might make less of a splash, but it’s better than producing an embarrassing belly flop.
I’ve spent years earning my apprenticeship, overcoming every trial that ever came my way, so I should have cracked open the Champagne the minute I became a Northern Crime Competition winner. However, after years of rejection this news came as such a surprise. I was in a state of shock, checking and re-checking the congratulatory email, wondering if it was someone’s idea of a sick joke.  When I realised it was authentic and that my work was finally going to be published, I started to look over my prize wining entry and (to quote Don Roff) - “rip the living shit out of it”. 

I penned my first novel in 2000, but the announcement that a short story (I’d submitted in 2014) was going to be published before the end of 2015 seemed to come all too suddenly. I’m sure I would have been a physical wreck if this had been an 80,000 word novel. Imagine, how many hours of sleep I would have lost going over and over that! And I would have gone over every single word a zillion times, because I now know how much it means to get your breakthrough publication right.

If you are like me, you’ll have been writing since a very young age, but only a few people will have read your work.  So when something of yours is about to get published, you become really anxious, expecting your work will be subjected to heaps of criticism instead of praise. Suddenly, someone out there might not like what you write. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can post a negative tweet or write a 1 star review. They have the capability to make you the laughing stock. The world will start to question why you’ve spent so much time working on pointless reams of shite. And the more you scrutinize your first published piece of work, the more you begin to believe your imaginary critics. By now you’re convinced your life isn’t worth living.
It is at times like these you might ask yourself that same old question - Who in their right mind would do this to themselves? The answer is that we are born writers. This compulsion comes to us at an early age. Mine began with lengthy notes slipped under my sister’s bedroom door. I illustrated the prose back then too. I was grateful for 'free ethos' infant’s education, so I could ignore mathematical subjects to concentrate on poetry and story writing. By the age of about 9, my work was leaning towards the crime genre. I’m not sure if it was appropriate, but I submitted my debut five page ‘horror/suspense’ book for the Girl Guide’s writing badge. I subsequently revised this for English homework, which showed an early inclination to edit and revise.  This piece of writing moved my teacher so much that she added a little note at the bottom of my work - something on the lines of, 'extraordinary' and ’inexplicable’! I did have friends back then - lots of them. I know this might come as a surprise, especially when you consider how I spent my spare time: burying dead frogs, discovering abandoned bleaching mills, roaming moors and writing about murder.    

I was a good friend. I pride myself on my ability to empathise. However, I never once put myself into the situation of waiting for my short story to be published. I presume I’d resigned myself to thinking it would never happen. So when the press release arrived with the names of other writers that were in the anthology, I felt sick, hoping my contribution wasn’t going to let the side down. The nausea didn’t subside until my short story received positive feedback. It wasn’t until that point when the achievement finally sank in and I started to feel really rather proud.

Readers are going to be subjective. Not everything appeals to everyone. Learn to accept this and then you can enjoy your writing achievements.  I don’t feel sick anymore. My work is finally on the shelves. I have worked hard to get here. The next step is to get one of my novels published. I can now categorically state that I'm ready. This time I come prepared...... 

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