Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Novel Racer - Jen at Spiral Skies

I think Novel Racer Jen, http://www.spiralskies.com/, opens her profile the way we all feel when asked to write about ourselves!

"Oh dear… what to write?

Oddly enough, I never doubted that I’d be a writer. From a young age, ‘I love to write’ was a standard response when asked about my pastimes. All well and good but, well, I never actually did any writing. I bought heaps of books about writing and sometimes even read them but that was as far as it went. Hopeless.

Why didn’t I write? Now there’s a question. I suppose I thought that I could write and, if I did, I’d be good at it. But there again, if I actually wrote something, I might turn out to be rubbish. As someone surprisingly lacking in confidence, I took the easy way out. I didn’t write a word. Ever.

During a funny turn one morning, however, I signed up for a short poetry-writing course with the OU. I did ok. I then did their fiction-writing shortie: if I got a decent mark, I would take the plunge and sign up for the scary ‘big one’ in Creative Writing. If I did well in that, I would write the novel I had started as an assignment. I got a distinction. Yay! Maybe I wasn’t rubbish after all.

So, biting my nails and wondering how on earth I was going to manage this novel-writing lark, I happened upon the Novel Racers. And I’m doing it: I’m really writing. ‘Look at me, I’m writing a novel’, I think as I tap away in the dark at the crack of dawn.

I feel proud to be part of the Novel Race – not just the published among us (which are increasing rapidly, how fab!) but the others like me, pottering along and trying to type with our fingers crossed. The Novel Racers support is great; I doubt I’d have got this far without it.

So, while others have finished their first drafts or submitted to publishers, I’m bumbling along and have reached the 25% mark. I shall continue my daily torture in Retail Hell, continue my neglect of the housework and keep at it. Tap tap tap. A hundred words here, a hundred words there. Watch this space!"

First to say that strangely the revision went well and was actually fun yesterday. I do have that feeling that it is totally crap but then again that is what all writers seem to think all the time. However this truly could be so I will look on the bright side - I went from nought to 12% in the day!

Now as promised a little history of August Rock. The idea began when we were in our boat (a 15 ft dory) just in Falmouth Bay just out of the Helford River. I was looking at the charts and asked my husband what was this thing August Rock? He pointed to a buoy and I said yes so what? He replied that August Rock could only be seen during the very low tides in August. I thought cool sounds like a tittle for a book. August Rock was born.

That was at the end of August and the combination of many things churned about in my head until driving in the rain on the way back to London for the start of school that the whole story began in my head. American Judith Chambers flees her own wedding and escapes to the wilds of Cornwall to help Tristan Trevenen to catalogue the papers of his recently deceased father Petroc Trevenen, garden historian of note. He needs this done so that he can complete probate and sell this glorious historic estate on the Helford River.

I wrote 15,000 words before Christmas. Researched historic Cornish Gardens (none of which ever made it into the book!) and wrote the remaining 85,000 from January to the end of March. Now here comes the part where I cringe. I was at the March meeting of Romantic Novelist Association where a panel had spoken about the state of the current market. The panel consisted of and agent from Darley Anderson, a best selling novelist and an editor from Orion. When the talk had finished everyone swamp the agent from Darley but the lovely editor from Orion was left standing on her own. Now those of you that know me, I am too well brought up to leave someone alone so I went to chat - not to sell. However she pulled out of me what I was writing and she liked the sound of it. Asked if I had an agent...no. Well, send a few chapters anyway....I said I would. She said don't rush but to finish it etc.

Needless to say I went home and worked like a demon. Polished as I knew how to then (utter crap) and had a few friends check the first three chapters (only 19 pages) for typos and so on. Then I held my breath and sent it. A few months later her reply came back.....and it was very polite no thanks and hopes that I found and agent soon. Exact words .... "It's an atmospheric read, and the character of Judith is strong but at present we have such a full schedule we really have to pick and choose."

Now you are wondering why this is cringe making.....well I'll tell you about the agent tomorrow and all will become clear but let' just say that my naivety knew no bounds.

11 comments:

NoviceNovelist said...

Oh Liz - an agent cliff hanger!!!! How cruel! Sounds very peaceful out on the boat - glad the revising is going well - Yes I agree we seem to exist in a state of thnking our writing is not up to par - yet we write on - a stoic lot - us writers!!!!!!

CTaylor said...

Oooh - what a hook to come back tomorrow! I'll be interested to hear what lessons you learned about editing as I haven't a clue at the moment (though obviously I actually have to finish writing my first draft before I begin!)

liz fenwick said...

I am still learning lessons of editing........

Yes you will have to wait until tomorrow for agent tale...

Phillipa said...

Yes, Liz. I can't wait to read more. My naivety knew no bounds either - and still doesn't.:( I shall never reveal the 'query' letter I sent to my (now) agent. Ir ran along the lines of, well... let's just say it was a mite too self-deprecating. Good job she ignored it! Good luck, Liz. August Rock sounds a fascinating read.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks Phillipa! It's the having ones eyes opened that is so painful!!

Pleased though you have made it through with shinning colours

Phillipa said...

Liz - I was just VERY lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

liz fenwick said...

Phillipa you are too modest. Don't forget I have read the book!!!

Lucy Diamond said...

Can't wait to read on tomorrow!

Will you go back to Orion with your new ms, do you think? It sounded quite a positive rejection, if you know what I mean.

liz fenwick said...

Lucy, I do think it was a positive rejection but Orion normally only accept agented manuscripts so I need to jump through that hoop first.......

My plan for this rewrite is too throw it at the Daily Mail comp and also the RNA's new writers scheme and then the at the agent I met at the RNA Savoy lunch and then.......

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I too am fascinated by your agent tale, but also want to say that I love Jen's profile - very interesting, and well-written too. I particularly liked 'trying to type with our fingers crossed' - I know EXACTLY how that feels, it's a great image.

liz fenwick said...

Yes, it's a brilliant image :-) and I agree it's so well written.