Tuesday 24 June 2008

Writing - art or craft? (as a pig in a poke I'm partial to old chestnuts)

It seems like a long time since I first began scribbling. It was actually eighteen months ago, no time at all; not long even as a proportion of my life. I believe I've blogged before about how I started writing because I found myself with time on my hands when my children left home and I relinquished a position of responsibility at work, although not my job iself. So, in a moment of boredom, I picked up a pencil and discovered I can write. I wrote compulsively for a few months and actually thought it was easy. I still find writing easy; producing a book is another matter altogether. Back to the confession... where was I? (OK I'll stop prevaricating) I completed a 'story' and thought, "this is rather good." So, in the spirit of having nothing to lose, and without having shown a word I'd written to another soul (talk about fools rushing in!) I typed up my 'work' and sent my MS off to 3 publishers who specialise in crime fiction.

Within 2 weeks (I kid you not) I had a phone call from a publisher who was interested. She asked me to send her the rest of the book. This is where it all began to unravel. In my ignorance - may I call it naivete? - I'd submitted what I thought was a book in its entirety, all 25,000 words of it. Discovering that a real book is a minimum of 80,000 words, I (oh the embarrassment!) cobbled together four stories I'd written (remember I'd been scribbling compulsively for about 4 months by now, 2,000 words a day every day, over 1/4 million words now if not more) and submitted that as my 'book'. Sensing a cornucopia of plots, my publisher promptly signed me up for 3 books, and brought in a brilliant editor to sort me out. Said editor read my work and immediately commented that it read like a collection of stories cobbled together. I was busted!

My publisher (whom I adore not only because she spotted potential in my (very) raw talent and gave me an opportunity to develop as a writer, but also because she is a genuinely lovely woman) and my editor (who could hone in on a splinter in a forest) have allowed me time to sort my ramblings into a coherent narrative. So I feel it's only fair to come clean and admit that the delay in publication hasn't been entirely down to 'other people'. It was me all along!!! I can only add that the past year has been the most amazing experience for me. Most writers work for years before finding a publisher. I've done it the other way round, finding a publisher and an editor and subsequently putting in the work. I've been incredibly lucky to have benefited from their advice. I only hope the book sells after all this and that my publisher feels it was worth the punt, speaking as a pig in a poke.

All of which raises the question: can writing succeed as a creative outburst, or is it a craft requiring thoughtful planning and careful refining?

I've been well and truly tagged

This is a new departure for me, as I've been 'tagged' which means I have to answer a series of questions - I think that's it. So here goes. It won't be very exciting as my life's about as ordinary as it gets. Perhaps that's why I spin off into "gripping psychological fiction"...

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
Running a large department in a school with a team of eight teachers, and raising teenage daughters. A busy but enjoyable time of life. Ten years on, I look back and think, "How did I manage to do so much?" and "Why?" I couldn't do all that now. I watch younger, energetic colleagues running themselves into the ground and feel an overwhelming relief that I've stepped back to become a mere foot soldier. Although I have to admit, the only reason I'm sitting here answering these questions is because I'm off work with no voice (not conducive to teaching) while they're all busy working.

2. 5 things to do today
Unusual as I'm off sick. I must remember to take my antibiotics. Also my cough medicine and hay fever tablets. I'm going to be rubbish when I'm old with lots of pills to pop. And it won't be any good giving me those tablets with the days of the week on them, because I won'd know what day of the week it is. And all this from someone who hates all forms of medication and has a healthy distrust of doctors, having been brought up by one. Seriously, I think it's quite amazing what the medical practitioners achieve, the problem being that we all expect them to work miracles when they're just people doing their best within the confines of their limited knowledge.
What was the question?

3. What would I do if I was a billionaire?
I always have problems with questions like this. I can't think bigger than fixing the bit of damp on the ceiling, and the loose slat on the garden fence and a rack for the newspapers that always seem to lie around our house. Not exactly billionaire stuff? And then there are the hospital wards closing for lack of funds. I think I'd want to put enough by so that I'd never have to worry about paying the bills, and then quietly siphon the rest away into a worthy cause. I like to sleep at nights. And I wouldn't forget my children, of course.

4. 3 bad habits
talk too much, can't cook won't cook, hate shopping - are these habits? I'm not divulging anything personal!

5. snacks I enjoy
not got a sweet tooth apart from pastries (yum!), kettle chips, pretzels - those little salty ones.

6. Last 5 books I've read
Lynda La Plante, Simon Beckett, Jeffery Deaver, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid. This bears some relation to my last post... I've been doing some homework.

7. 5 jobs I've had
working in a burger bar, tomato picker, factory sticking metal components in something or other person, taking classified ads on a newspaper, and teacher.

8. 5 places I've lived
Ealing, Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay, St Albans - all over 20 years ago.

That was surprisingly quite fun. I'm off to check my instructions as I believe I now have to 'tag' someone else.

Sunday 22 June 2008

confession time!

I seem to have put the image in the centre of the page this time. Probably a Freudian slip in the hope that anyone dropping by won't get as far down the page as reading what I'm about to confess... but in fairness to my publisher, I think it's time I came clean. (deep breath) I've been ever so slightly economical with the truth. (Is that allowed, in someone who admits to writing fiction?) The truth is, (dare I go on?)... the reason for the delay in publication of Cut Short has not been entirely nothing to do with me. It's a long story... I'll tell you next time. (sounds of a yellow chicken dropping white feathers)