RACHAEL LUCAS!!!! I’m SO excited to have Rachael on my blog today. I’ve been a fan and followed Rachael’s story (stalked) for a while now. Rachael isn’t just a great writer (her latest book Wildflower Bay – Part 1 is OUT NOW, and on my kindle for my next read) but she’s a great person. Well, either that, or every time a message from me pops up on her phone she pours herself a gin. Either way, over to Rachael and her post about procrastination.
I was going to sit down and write something helpful like FIVE WAYS TO FIND THE TIME TO WRITE or HOW TO JUGGLE FOUR CHILDREN AND WRITING or something like that.
You know the sort of thing – the ones you read and think ooh, I’m definitely going to take those hints on board, and next time I sit down to write I’m going to be super efficient and organised.
The thing is – it would be a lie. I’m appallingly bad at finding the time to write. Very good at finding the time to stand at the kitchen worktop burning dinner and tweeting. Excellent at sitting in Costa reading a magazine and looking out of the window. And yet the books get written, somehow. A post on HOW TO HIT DEADLINES WHILST PROCRASTINATING WILDLY doesn’t sound quite so appealing, mind you.
But I’ve learned that procrastinating wildly is actually part of the process for me. This morning when I was supposed to be writing this (and about fifteen other things, and doing a million other publication day related activities) I decided instead to drive across the countryside to go and try on riding hats. (There is a logical reason for that. As a random displacement activity it would have been a bit odd, even by my standards.)
As I was driving along listening to dodgy songs from the 90s a snippet of thought from the character I’m trying to write floated into my head and lodged itself there, waiting in an obliging manner until I could stop and scribble it down. And as if by magic, whilst faffing, I have the beginnings of the prologue for book five – proof that procrastination can actually be useful writing time.
I spend ages floating around, scribbling bits of ideas down in notepads which I then lose. I type character sketches into my phone. I drive early to school and sit in the best car park space (the one where you can see them come out so you don’t have to stand freezing your arse off in the middle of winter) and watch people and think. It all looks like I’m doing nothing, but that’s where the stories come alive.
If you’re thinking this is basically an extended justification for wasting time online, avoiding boring housework, and spending a fortune in coffee shops, you’d be right. The good thing about it? By the time I’ve done all that, the deadline is usually looming, and that gives me The Fear (I suspect because I’m always convinced someone’s going to come along and tell me I’ve been found out, and I’ll have to go and get a proper job). So the work gets done. And then I write blog posts which end up being HOW TO HIT DEADLINES WHILST PROCRASTINATING WILDLY – because it’s the only thing I can talk about with any authority.
(Well, that, and what’s happening on Twitter.)
My new book Wildflower Bay is published by Pan Macmillan. It’s released as an exclusive three part ebook serial starting today, and will be available in the shops in paperback on 11th August.
SORRY! Life has got in the way, and I haven’t had chance to get near my blog, or if I have, I’ve been easily distracted. This week we have the fantastic Catherine Hokin writing a guest post. Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This kick-started an interest in hidden female voices which resulted in her debut novel, Blood and Roses.
BAMBI GOES TO AUTHORLAND
Do you remember that scene in Bambi when our eponymous little hero first steps out into the snow with that wide-eyed grin and confident bounce? Yes he falls through the snow and gets buried a couple of times by piles of the wet stuff dropping on his head but he gives himself a little shake and skips merrily on unbowed and then he lands on the ice…
Bambi, dear reader, is a newbie author.
One day a professional, competent person who understood the world and its tribal languages and could even (sometimes) get its teenage kids to do what was needed, the next a wide-eyed ingénue staring at a message that isn’t the expected rejection but contains the magic word yes glittering at its centre.
It’s a wonderful feeling which I hope all authors will get to share at some point in their career but it is also the gateway to a world that can feel like Wonderland crossed with The Hunger Games. So here’s some things I learnt on the road to the publication of Blood and Roses and beyond:
Your publisher wants your book – they may not want you with your crazy questions about sales and marketing and covers and launches and…Watch how the UN works and learn diplomatic skills. Quick.
Define words carefully: my publisher told me I would have cover input but not control. Beware that phrase. My book is about the Wars of the Roses, more specifically a feminist revision of Margaret of Anjou. There is a lot of blood and no romance; it is not a ‘bodice-ripper’. I said that a lot, yet the ‘holding cover’ which appeared on the publisher site looked like a soft-focus gardening catalogue. Teeth were gnashed. We discussed crowns, we discussed blood (a drop, not a crime-scene), we discussed colours (black, red, gold). We agreed it wouldn’t be girly. At all. Timescales came, timescales went, then, with 24 hours to go before the wholesale catalogue needed the completed artwork, the cover came…It was pink, the palest pink, with pastel blue flowery blood bursts and a wishy-washy watermark of Margaret. Toys flew out of the pram like nuclear missiles. The UN were called.
Throw yourself on the mercy of other authors – they will explain things like hashtag days and blog tours, they will share their own war stories, they remember your pain and their scars have healed…almost. There are lots of communities out there so pitch in.
Promise your family a dedication in the book – you are about to ignore them for months and have melt-downs they were never allowed (teenagers have long memories). They will forgive all this on launch day when people point to their names on the inside front page. Also lie and tell them you sold the film rights and they’re going to be in it…
Enjoy every mad moment and celebrate every little success (there’s a reason authors and alcoholics are often mistaken for each other) – why? Because you did it…you’re an author.
This is the best rollercoaster you will ever ride: when you finally get to the end, you will be sat in a bookshop, signing copies of your book, surrounded by people applauding your achievement. You will be in Authorland and, trust me, you’ll be itching to get back on the ice as soon as book one is done.
ARGHHHHHH! 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, properauthors. 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.