Writing Heroes and Heroines
It’s tricky to write a good hero or heroine, but that’s not what the title means. I’m talking about the heroes and heroines we have as aspiring writers. Not the characters, but the people. Authors.
To continue my trawl through my early days on Blogger, here’s a post from the 17th of December 2008 in which I refer to one of my writing heroines: Jilly Cooper. Yes, I have all the usual literary writing heroines, but she’s my big heroine from the popular fiction side of the fence. Hers were the books we smuggled to each other as teenagers. She wrote about people who were like the people I knew. In some cases, I was convinced that I DID know them. It was delicious to read about the place I knew so well, and to imagine that one day I might write about it too. Maybe, one day, people might fall in love with my characters, and cry for them and laugh with them the way I did with Jilly’s.
Anyhow … here’s the post …
From Post Office to Publisher
Waiting for the First Reply
Well, it’s been a couple of days since I handed over my words to the chap at the post office. The agent will definitely have received them by now. I wonder if the envelope has been opened yet…intriguing…
Wonder who will read it first? I have read all the usual horror stories about manuscripts being returned unread. I believe that, actually: I worked as a casting agent for a minute or two in the nineties and actors’ letters were constantly being thrown away unread. I hope someone does read it though: I took the postage out of the food budget. My in-laws are coming over for roast chicken and I’ve stuck their chicken dinner to an envelope – monetarily speaking. I hope they will forgive me if I bung something cheap into the slow cooker and light some festive candles.
Writing in the Freezer
I’m quite excited to receive my first rejection letter actually. I hope it will have loads of handy suggestions in it. I’m leaving my manuscript with this first agent exclusively until next year when I’ll start sending it out to all the suitable agents I can find. My printer is almost out of ink though so I’m hoping for some cash from rels at Crimble so I can buy ink and stamps. We can afford to keep the house heated until mid-January so it would be great to get some good news by then: I don’t mind taking money out of the food budget for stamps but after a brush with hypothermia last month I’m too much of a wimp to steal from the heating budget too. I’m just going to have to get really good really quick: it’s the only affordable option!
Wouldn’t it be great if there were no rejection letters at all? I can hardly allow myself to imagine such a world. I spoke to Jilly Cooper about preparing myself for this bit of the journey: the bit where you send out millions of manuscripts and receive millions of rejections and she looked at me as if I were potty. She said that I will be published immediately and then said some really sweet things about why that may be the case… modesty forbids. She’s nice like that. It would be wonderful if she were right though.
From what I gather, the important bit with an agent is that they know their stuff, love your work and you get along swimmingly so maybe rejections aren’t a bad thing after all because they just help you cross people off the list and get closer to your perfect agent.
Well, I’d better hop off and tap out some words. I plan to finish the first draft of my second novel by mid-February so I need to get a wriggle on. I’ll try to get 4,000 words down today. Wish me luck!
Okay, modesty no longer forbids. 🙂 I remember clawing together the funds to go and see her speak at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. During a Q&A session with her and Ian Rankin, I plucked up the courage to ask a question. I believe I actually asked about the ‘tricky middle bit’ – see previous post – and I was so nervous that I can’t fully remember what they answered, except that they asked the name of the book I was working on, and I told them. Jilly said Palaces and Calluses was a great name. Ian said it was such a great name that he planned to Google it until I was published. Now, of course I know he was just being nice but that didn’t stop me from sticking the stub of that ticket to the back of the door next to my writing space, where I could remind myself of it every day.
So, what of Jilly? Well, before I left, I went to get my book signed. When I was there I said that I knew it would be hard to get published but that I wished it would happen. She stopped signing the book, closed it, ignored the people in the queue behind me and looked straight into my eyes. She said:
‘You are clearly very talented and intelligent, and look at you! You’re beautiful! You will be published immediately. How could you not?’
Now, to put this in context, this was right at the start of my big recession drama. The funds had dried up, but I was yet to go through the starvation that followed. I was considerably overweight and felt the furthest ever thing from beautiful, but she said it with such sincerity that I felt like a princess for just a second. Yes, I know, that goes against everything I stand for … and the pen IS mightier than the pin-up … but it was the first time somebody had noticed anything noteworthy about me in such a long time. I felt as if I could reach for an impossible dream. I didn’t have a mentor or a support group or anything. Just me, a ticket stub, and two sentences from two authors. It was enough.
Yesterday, I discovered that Palaces and Calluses was out-selling Jilly’s latest book on Kindle. It was oddly poignant. As I said on Facebook, ‘they don’t make an emoticon for this’.