Aimee Horton

#WriteThinking Holly Seddon

Feb
29

hollyseddonI’m feeling very cool today, because I the AMAZING Holly Seddon has written a post about how she fits in writing books around her kids. Oh, and not just any books, but blooming amazing, gripping books, that you can’t put down!


 

How do you write books when you’ve got lots of kids?

I get asked this question a lot. I understand why, I do. I have four children, which – in 2016 – is not the norm. It’s a curiosity. Add in the fact that being an author is also a curiosity and I understand why a lot of questions spring up from the Venn diagram of big family + author.

I don’t think there’s anything murkier beneath the furrowed brows and logistical questions. It’s not about mums, or dads. It’s about time and headspace. I think.

So, how do you write books when you’ve got lots of kids?

The same way you write books when you have lots of dogs. Or lots of hours of overtime. Or lots of uni essays to write. Or all of the above. You have to choose to.

That sounds flippant. But I don’t know how else to explain it. It doesn’t just happen. You have to choose it, put it above other stuff, plan for it.

The fact is, having kids is an ah-mazing excuse to get out of almost anything. The more kids, the more excuses. They get ill. They’re tiring. They have endless rounds of school trips and parents’ evenings and tooth fairy requirements and on and on and on. They can get you out of work engagements at the last minute and they can get you out of social engagements whenever you’d rather stay in your jammies (almost every time, for me).

So if you want your children to give you an excuse to not sit down and write the book you’ve always wanted to write, there you go. Wish granted. I do wonder sometimes if that’s why people are asking. To work out why I have and they haven’t. Because they’d really love to ‘but’… Perhaps they hope my answer might be “I have a full time nanny” (God, I wish). Or “my husband is a stay-at-home dad but also, somehow, a billionaire” (nope) or, I don’t know, “I shut my kids in the cellar” (I promise I don’t).

The truth is: It’s really hard but it’s worth it. I prioritise. I make little changes. My husband and I take it in turns to have lie-ins at the weekend. I use mine to write. I write every evening. I write when the kids are in bed. I write when the baby naps. Sometimes I can’t sleep and I get up in the middle of the night or at dawn and write.

I’m very, very lucky. I am very privileged. I don’t deny it’s easier for me than many.

My husband is a rock god of supportive partners and I’ve managed to be freelance i.e. flexible working for a while now. That helps immensely. But I used to work in a full time job when I had three kids, and I did other stuff too like Open Uni (we all have other stuff) and it was at my busiest that I wrote the first draft of Try Not to Breathe. I had to be selfish, actually. I had to be indulgent. Taking myself off to the bedroom to write while the kids played, writing with headphones in while my husband played Fifa or watched something that didn’t interest me. Going for dog walks and paying zero attention as I tapped dialogue into my note on my phone.

Four kids, three kids, two kids, no kids, there’s always a way to not write but even if it’s only 100 words a day, there’s also always a way to write. And I’m not going to pretend otherwise. So if you have a story in you, choose to let it out. Even if it takes you years.

Holly’s latest book Try Not To Breathe is now available in the US. 

To get it from the US click here, from the UK click here. Alternatively you can follow Holly on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

#WriteThinking – The Unmumsy Mum

Feb
22

unmumsyARGHHHHHH! Happy Monday! So excited to have Sarah – aka The Unmumsy Mum – on the blog today. I’ve followed and nodded along to her blog for quite a while now, and as soon as I knew she was going to release a book, I couldn’t wait! This week Sarah talks about her journey.


You Are A Writer.

I’m one of those really annoying people who became a published author without having a motivational backstory filled with disappointment and setbacks. [Sorry about that]. I think that was the reason I initially found myself feeling a bit sheepish whenever I was in the presence of other authors. You know, proper authors. Folk deserving of book deals because they had been grafting at the business of book-writing for donkey’s years before they ‘made it’. Who had worked long hours in a loveless job to pay the bills, but never once lost sight of seeing their words immortalised in print on a bookshelf somewhere. Proper authors should surely be able to recall the number of book proposal rejections they have collectively amassed – making their first published masterpieces all the more worthwhile. They are justified in their exchange of knowing glances with other authors because they have shared a steely determination to realise their book dreams.

They have waited an eternity for this break.

There have been far too many rejected proposals.

This is all they have ever wanted to do…

As a ‘hobby blogger’ – whose professional writing experience amounted to the square root of jack shit (my last pre-blog piece of writing being a GCSE English Literature exam) – I felt it would be disrespectful to join in with the look-we’ve-finally-made-it glances.

I haven’t waited an eternity for this break.

There haven’t been far too many rejected proposals (there haven’t been any).

And although I’ve always liked writing, never in a month of Sundays was I going to seriously pursue it as a vocation. I have always been far too worried about those pesky bills, taking comfort in a steady pay slip, paid annual leave and a bi-annual Performance Development Appraisal where a 1* review is highly unlikely.

In fact – and this makes me slump down into my seat in the hope of becoming invisible to those proper authors – I didn’t put any proactive legwork into getting myself an agent or a publisher because they found me. [Sorry about that, too]. Somebody once teased me that I had been handed a new career on a plate (‘You lucky bugger!’), and I couldn’t help but agree with them. Getting approached by both an agent and a publisher the very same week (and subsequently quitting my day job to write a book) is the absolute dream – the writing equivalent of being scouted.

The problem with being scouted, as I soon began to realise, was that expectations seemed somehow higher from the outset. I felt a huge amount of pressure (from myself, it has to be said!) to make a positive impression because I hadn’t spent years working tirelessly to secure a book deal. I kind of felt like I’d cheated. I would have to impress the world/his wife/his dog with my book to justify the leg up I had been given…

Fast forward nine months to today, when that book is sat proudly in bookshops and on supermarket shelves (whaaat???!!), and I think I am finally getting used to saying, ‘I am an author.’ (I’ve been practicing in front of the mirror). I have concluded that any sheepishness felt was probably rooted in my own self-doubt about my abilities as a writer. As it turns out, that writing process has provided an unofficial license to share knowing nods. Nobody handed me 320 pages on a plate and perhaps it is the standout book-writing memories – like the night I sat typing until 1am before setting my alarm for 5am (to finish a crucial chapter before the kids woke up) – that have helped me to finally relax into feeling deserving of the author title. I now have an understanding of the blood, sweat, tears and yelling-at-husbands that goes into writing a book, and if I’m honest, this is something I had massively underestimated when I was dancing around my kitchen singing ‘I’ve got a book deal.’

Having never before been edited, I savoured the opportunity to have my words tweaked and sent back to me looking polished. I discovered that I had been incorrectly using ‘whilst’ instead of ‘while’ my entire life, which is an extremely basic error but one I told my editor I was not surprised at ‘given that I am not really even a writer!’

“What are you on about, ‘not a writer?’” She laughed out loud over the phone. “You write stuff and people read it. You are a writer.”

She was right. I didn’t start from the bottom and I didn’t stare rejection in the face but I did put hundreds of hours into an online blog and it just so happened that a random matrix of social media sharing landed something I’d written on the Facebook timeline of people willing and able to give me that leg up.

Regardless of the backstory, regardless of whether you unwaveringly tried for ten years to get published or had a lucky break as a blogger, I take my hat off to anybody who has ever written a book. I was silently toasting you all whilst drinking fizz on publication day. Sorry, while drinking fizz. Or is it whilst? No it’s definitely while. I think…where the hell is my editor?

To read more about The Unmumsy Mum check out her blog here. She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and you can buy her book here.

 

#WriteThinking Charlene Ross

Feb
20

Charlene PWI’m so happy to have Charlene Ross on the blog today. Charlene’s latest novel Frosted Cowboy is out now, and today she posts about the roller coaster of signing that book deal.


 

The Roller Coaster Ride of Signing a Book Deal

It took me a long time to write my first novel. I won’t say how long (because I don’t want my publishers to regret signing me), but let’s just say that when I first started writing my book chick lit was all the rage and I thought Sandra Bullock (who was older than my protagonist, Laney Delaney, at the time, but still young enough to play her) would be perfect for the movie version. Laney is thirty-two. Sandra Bullock is now… never mind!

Of course all of that time was not spent writing. A lot of time was spent crying over how horrible my manuscript was. Or ignoring it (for months) as it sat on a shelf silently taunting me. Which lead to where most of my time was spent: editing.

When I was finally finished (book is no longer horrible, now it’s awesome – yay!), I started sending query letters to agents and mostly heard crickets. If I was lucky I’d receive a form rejection letter. If I was really lucky I receive personalized rejection letter. Occasionally (or should I say seldomly?), I’d get a request for a partial or a full and then have those rejected as well. (Sigh…)

The good news is this long process made my book better. I couldn’t figure out why my book was getting rejected. It was so good! (I mean, my mom thought so.) And then I would re-read it and realize, “oof, not so good” and would get back to the drawing board. (Or rather the editing board.) When my book was once again “perfect” I would send it out again only to face more rejection.

With every rejection I received my response would be, “That agent is stupid. How does she even have a job? She obviously has no taste and no idea what’s funny. My book is awesome. It’s obviously them, not me.” Then I would have some chocolate. And chase it with some freezer vodka.

Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) the rejections would get to be too much and I would stop querying for months (and months and months) at a time. (Which was not helpful because while Laney Delaney stayed the same age, dammit if Sandra Bullock -who looks fabulous-times-one-million BTW- kept getting older.)

I knew that chick lit was supposedly “over,” but really? It can’t all be vampires and kick-ass teenage heroines in dystopian futures can it? What’s wrong with a modern-day, thirty-two-year-old, kick-ass heroine who’s just… funny?

Then one day I received an email from a writer-friend with a link to a new publishing company with an open call for submissions for chick lit. An open call for chick lit? Don’t they know that genre is dead? Hadn’t they heard of dystopian teenage vampire lover/slayers? Or, even the newest trend, sick-lit? What was wrong with them? But I sent them a query anyway. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go with a small publishing company, but figured I had nothing to lose.

They requested a full manuscript three days after my query. Eight days after receiving my manuscript they offered me a publishing deal.

Side note: I go the offer the day after my 50th birthday. (Yes, like my friend Sandy -that’s what her friends call her, Sandy- I kept getting older too.) And in case you were wondering if getting offered a publishing deal the day after your 50th birthday is the most amazing present ever, the answer is YES!

But, do you want to know what my first thought was?

Those publishers are stupid. What kind of company is this? They obviously have no taste and no idea what’s funny. My book is terrible! There’s too much dialogue, too many F-bombs, it’s not the least bit literary. Why do they like it? It’s crap!

Immediately followed by…

My book is too good for them. It’s funny and quirky and engaging. I’m going to find a proper agent who will sell my book to Random House or Simon and Schuster and broker a movie deal starring Anne Hathaway and Bradley Cooper. (BTW, Bradley Cooper is also too old to be one of the male leads in the movie version of my book, but who cares, because: Bradley Cooper.)

Plus, I had a query out to an agent that seemed like a perfect fit. And then that agent rejected me (with a nicely worded, most-likely form letter).

So I started doing some research on Velvet Morning Press. The authors they signed seemed pretty fantastic and the owners, Adria Cimino and Vicki Lesage had a great reputation in the blogosphere. Maybe going with a small publishing company was  the way to go. Like everything else, the publishing industry is changing at lightning speed. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.

I mean, if Sex in the City creator Darren Star, once the poster boy for HBO, can take his new show Younger to the quirky little channel, TV Land, who am I to say my book is too good for a small publisher?

And so, as they were taking a leap of faith in me, I took a leap of faith with them. And I’m so glad I did. I’m proud and excited to be with a company with a growing list of fantastic authors that pays so much attention to me and thinks my book is awesome. (I’ve heard horror stories from other authors about not even being able to get their agents to answer an email!)

As I said, the publishing industry is changing and I believe small companies like Velvet Morning Press are better able to adapt to the changes and become leaders and innovators in the industry. The road to getting published has been a crazy ride, full of highs and lows and I look forward to the twists and turns that surely lie ahead.

Click here to buy Charlene’s book. You can also follow her on her website, Facebook and Twitter