Sunday, 29 July 2012

The supporting your author guide

I'm sure we'd all agree that writing is a difficult, rollercoaser of a journey (Just see last weeks post if you don't believe me!) but I sometimes think that the people who have it hardest are those unsung heroes that support us.
 After all it's not something they choose, it's not their own dream they're following but ours. And authors may have it hard but we're not alone. There are groups we can belong to, blogs we can read, courses we can attend and many books full of advice and information.
But the author supporter has nothing to help them...until now!


*****HEALTH WARNING**********

Please note that supporting your author may be hazardous to your health.

1. Neglect is common for author supporters. You may find your author will forget to fulfil many of their normal duties. This could lead to extreme hunger as the shopping, cleaning, D.I.Y or cooking will rarely be done.

2. Personal injury is also possible as you might fall over mounds of washing, unpaid bills, rubbish bags or rejected draft copies.

3.(NOTE FOR CHILDREN  _ You may be reported to social services for any of the following -
1. Being dirty, hair unbrushed, unwashed uniform.
2. Failing to bring in homework or P.E kit.
3. Having a lunchbox with only an apple and a sock inside it.
4. Repeatedly being forgotten about at the school gates. )

4. Mental Torture is extremely likely as you are forced to read miriad draft copies of your authors work. You will then be asked to offer your opinion. In detail. Your author will then ignore everything positive you say and focus entirely on your one criticism. They will then accuse you of being an idiot who knows nothing about writing. They will then recieve the same comments from their crit group and change their work accordingly.

5. Mental Stress is paramount when your authors work is on submission. They will become moody, difficult and paranoid. You will be required to be patient and considerate at all times. You must be sympathetic to their trauma if rejected and be able to offer abuse of said rejecting agent/publisher.

6.Mental Abuse is a problem when your author is attempting a revision of their work. You may find your author will disappear for long periods and even when present they will adopt a vacant expression and ignore any attempt at conversation. You may find the extreme stress your author is under will lead to snapping, sniping and occasionally shouting. All of which you must accept as being part of the creative process.

 Of course it's not all bad news. No. The author supporter will of course be rewarded for their hard work and perseverance. As soon as your author has an agent (very unlikely) or publisher (even more unlikely) then celebrations will abound. There may be parties and champagne. And of course financially you can expect - well, not very much really - but your author will be happy and may even dedicate their book to you!

A worthwhile and fitting end to the whole process I'm sure you'll agree. Although you will of course have to go through it all again and this time there will be deadlines and school visits and 2nd book traumas to go through as well...

Please pass this information on to any author supporters you know, I'm sure it will make a huge difference to have such a valuable and insightful guide at their fingertips.
(The author takes no responsibility for any abandonment that follows.)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A moment of Revelation

Last week was quite traumatic for me. After two and a half months of waiting for a response from an agent I heard back with a no. And it wasn't just a no to a submission, or a no to a full but a no to a big revision she had personally given me notes on. It was to be honest, the biggest no I'd ever had, the closest I'd ever got to the nirvana of being a represented author and now it was gone. Over.
I couldn't understand it. I'd done everything she'd asked for hadn't I? I'd revised and edited for nearly two months to improve my story and sent it back with a frisson of excitement. This could be nearly it!
Except it wasn't.
Because I hadn't done enough. I hadn't taken on board what she'd said about the plot. Not really. I'd fiddled about with it, I'd changed it, I'd adapted it but I didn't in my heart of hearts REALLY change it. I tried as so many of us do to get away with an easier revision. And now I was paying for it because I'd lost my chance.
  It wasn't laziness exactly. I believed the book was significantly better and that the plot change had been adequately dealt with. I didn't send it back thinking I'd done it half heartedly, of course not and so I was obviously hugely disappointed.
   Despite my failure the agent had very kindly given me some feedbak and her reasons for rejecting me but I couldn't understand it. Not at first.
 So I decided to put my story away. I couldn't bear to look at it. I couldn't even begin to change it when I couldn't work out what the problem was.
  Perhaps my first book could never be fixed, would never be published.. so I'd just move on to the next. That was the sensible thing to do surely?
 And so I've been editing and working on my second book for the last week and it's been hugely enjoyable.
I can see it improving every day. I can see the story shape changing, the characters developing but somehow my mind kept turning over the problem of my first book and that damned rejection...and then last night, at three a.m I had A MOMENT OF REVELATION.
  I saw suddenly that the problem at the heart of it could be changed. But not by small, careful edits. Not by clinging on to the story the way it was. I had to take a fresh perspective. I had to be willing to play around and change almost everything and it would mean another complete rewrite but I could do it.
 I got out of bed and made notes for half an hour and went back to bed knowing the solution.
 Perhaps I could have come up with it before, if I'd taken more time, if I'd really taken in the advice I was given or maybe it was only receiving that terrible rejection that allowed me to see, finally what was needed.
 Of course I could revise it all and it still might not be good enough. I realise that. But regardless I'd going to do it and hopefully I won't make the same mistakes again.

My lessons-

1. Do not rush an edit. Take your time. Let it sit with you for a while, months even, until you see a way forward that really fits, not just the easiest option.

2. Don't be scared of revision. Don't be afraid of thinking entirely differently and letting go of your original idea.

3. Believe that you can do it. You can change anything. It's your story after all.

4. Rejection may be your best friend. It may show you the way forward.

Have you had a moment of revelation? Do you have any tips on revision? Share them with us!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Princess Power - A review of "Brave"

Let's face it Disney princesses aren't exactly known for being kick ass, from the earliest days of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty their main characteristics have always been focused on their beauty and their overwhelming kindness to small woodland creatures.
 And of course their main aim in life is to nab the handsome Prince who generally comes along and does all of the heroic, fighty stuff before whisking them away to happily ever afterville.
 But be not downhearted fellow sisters, Disney has finally bucked the trend and made a stand for womenslib with their new heroine Merida, a fiesty scottish Princess from Brave.
 I saw this film in New York and was pleasantly surprised to see a wild and endearing princess with a mass of red curls fighting against her mothers constant attempts to turn her daughter into a respectable lady.
The irrespressible Merida loves to ride in the woods and is a crack shot with her bow and arrow and is none too pleased to discover the plans being made for her to be married to one of the eligible suitors from another clan.
 The story heads down an unusual path for Disney, our heroine is not interested in marriage or men and wants to make her own choices, she meets a witch and begs her give her a spell which will change her fate. The resulting magic muffin (?) is then eaten by Merida's mother but rather then affecting her decisions it turns her into a bear (honestly.)
 The rest of the film follows Merida and her mother as they attempt to reverse the spell and heal their relationship.
 I think Disney have made a great decision here by giving their heroine real personality and for once not focussing on a love story. I am sure that children - especially girls - will love this story and how marvellous to have a role model princess who's not just a ginger but a tomboy too!
 It really is very entertaining, plenty of humour and action and I'd heartily recommend it for the kids this summer hols. And parents should check out Billy Connoly's voiceover talent as Merida's dad.

 Well done Disney for finally offering girls a real heroine and I vote for more kick ass princesses in the future or even - shock horror - a girl who isn't a princess at all ?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

You can't sniff a Kindle!

  "I know every book of mine by it's smell, and I have but to put my nose between the pages to be reminded of all sorts of things." George Robert Gissing

 The above marvellous quote is clear evidence that e readers can never replace books. So there.
I mean, you just can't sniff a Kindle can you? It's plastic and metal and holds no memories in it's circuits.
Nor can you touch them. Or stroke them. Or perform other weird obsessy booky behaviour that should probably remain private between me and my shelves.
Nor can you pass them onto a friend or give to a charity shop or a jumble sale thereby allowing others to enjoy the story - I love giving my books many lifetimes, each of which  will imbue it's pages with character and memories and the unmistakable smell of a well loved book.

Now before you imagine I'm talking without experiencing the marvel of technology that is an e reader, let me tell you that I downloaded the kindle app on to my tablet and downloaded some books a couple of months ago. So I'm not talking out of my bottom, I have tried both and I unreservedly choose books books books.
But to be fair I must admit a couple of points that I liked about the kindle:

1. I loved being able to choose a book from amazon and having it on my kindle to read a minute later, no delivery times, no trips to the book shop.

2. I liked the fact you could carry a hundred books around with you at all times, giving choice and functionality.

But there were many more points that I didn't like:

1. No idea how long a book is or how far through it you are - very annoying.

2. Not being able to skip back through the pages to confirm a point or refresh my memory - not without lots of tedious finger flicking anyway.

3. No power = No reading.

4. It's just not the same experience, it doesn't feel the same, reading words on a screen is a totally different feel to reading them off of a page and far less enjoyable.

5. And don't get me started on the environmental impact of millions of unnecessary electronic devices being used, creating a huge drain on energy not to mention the fact they'll all end up in landfill sites in India in five or ten years.
 And the argument about books killing trees is pretty poor seeing as trees are a sustainable resource, so as long as publishers use an ethical supplier there is no long term impact on the planet AND books can be reused for years and if they are eventually thrown away they can be recycled or will simply biodegrade - a point that can't be made about electronics.

6.I just don't see the point of them.
 Why are we trying to fix something that is not broken?
 Why are we changing the way we read?
I know we can. I know we have the technology but is it necessary? Does everything we own
need to have a power supply? At one point books were what you did to make a change from the t.v or computer but now we're lumping them all in together so that even when we're reading we're staring at a screen and using feels like a form of madness, progress for no reason and I wonder, in my darkest hours, in a world running out of natural resources, exactly where it will all lead....?

A suitably spooky ending I think.
 Looking forward to hearing what you think. Am I a lone voice in the wilderness? Or does anyone out there feel the same way?