Monday, 25 November 2013

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there was a daydreaming bookworm who wanted to be a writer more than anything else in the world.
Only she was too afraid to try. What if she got it wrong?
Sitting down with a pad and pencil or a typewriter or at a computer felt too pretentious.Like a little girl playing dress up. Much easier to make up stories, alternative endings, fantasies in her head and not try.
Because if you don't try then you can't fail. And it's all still a possibility.
But then, one day, she got fed up with being scared and she sat down at a computer and typed those all important words. 'Chapter One'.
Those words weren't bad but sadly the words that followed were. They really were.
So she wrote some more. Then more and more and more.
And slowly they got better. They began to turn into a real story. With a plot and character and even, a few more words later, conflict.
It all took a long time. There were some tears, a little despair, two courses, craft books and a conference. And some amazing, supportive friends.
But then her dreams came true. Someone wanted to publish her book and she lived happily ever after!

Actually that is mostly true. But guess what? It's just the prologue. All that work, all those many, many discarded words, those books and chapters that will languish forever in the Well of Lost Plots (copyright the great Jasper Fforde), the hysteria, tantrums and rare moment of euphoria? That just gets you to the beginning of Chapter One.

Being a writer isn't about writing one book and getting it to publication point. It's about writing another and another and another. It's about constantly improving, meeting deadlines, staying creative. That's chapter two and three and four and five.

I have a second contract now with deadlines and no finished books to conveniently slot into those spaces. I have had to start a new book knowing that this time I don't have limitless time and the big comfort blanket of the New Writer's Scheme. This is Chapter One. It's all very exciting. And scary as hell.

But I wouldn't have it any other way...

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Not my Lego friend

Today my daughter's long awaited copy of the Lego magazine arrived.
The only problem was the five doe eyed smiley girls on the cover. The Lego marketing team had flagged my daughter's gender and assumed she wanted the Lego friends version. Focus? School, pets, friends, baking. The pictures and text are bigger than those in the 'traditional' Lego stories, the themes blander.

When I was a kid all children wore orange and brown corduroy no matter what their gender and Lego came in standard red, blue and yellow. Black and white were novelties, I may have seen the odd bit of green. Then at some point they began to make kits and the genderisation of Lego began.

I bought her Lego long before her first birthday, first duplo then the stuff I remembered though the variety was bewildering; Harry Potter, City, Star Wars, Knights. So I went for a box of plain bricks and waited for her to create. And waited and waited...

Barbies, Sylvanians, Playmobile, Moxie Dolls. All preferable to the small bricks. So, Lego I get it. You see the lucrative female under ten market playing with these things and you want a share. I can just imagine the Board Meeting now. No matter that you live in one of the most gender progressive societies in the World, home of Birgitte Nyborg and Sara Lund. 'The little girls want pink and ponies. We must give them pink and ponies!'

Thus Lego Friends was born.

I don't mind the pink to be honest and I am pretty partial to purple. I don't even mind the beauty parlours and the dog grooming. I just mind how limiting this all is. I mind the larger pieces, the less taxing builds, the narrow focus on some kind of Clueless life. They could have been cleverer, less obvious and for opted for a more diverse Lego City - a city with more female characters, more animals, a focus on more than rescue services and vehicles by adding a whole High Street of shops that includes the beauty parlour but with the police station next door. A City for boys and girls no matter what their tastes. Cause right now girls are being told that the vast majority of Lego kits are not for them. And boys are steered away from anything domestic. It's unfair on both.

In the end all she needed was time. Eighteen months ago she discovered that small box. Now she's hooked asking for gothic castles and airships for Christmas, saving her birthday money. She couldn't wait to be part of the Lego Club. It's a shame the Club excludes her because of her gender.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Minty's Progress

Final edits have been accepted and Minty will finally be published in June next year, title tbc *sets off quiet fireworks so as not to upset the dog*.

Regular readers of this blog (lucky, lucky folk) are more than aware what a titanic struggle this book has been. My fingers are very firmly crossed that this was second book syndrome done and dusted and book three will be a breeze to write, even if only in comparison!

There were times over the last two years when I wondered what on earth I was doing - there's a fine line between obstinacy and perseverance and I really wasn't sure which side I was on. Many, many times I nearly put Minty aside to start on something new, sure I was fooling myself and that there really wasn't a book worth writing in this idea. But I couldn't. I loved my heroine and I loved my hero and I adored the setting. Everything else might - and did - change but they remained constant.

So here's a recap of how the book evolved from rewrite to rewrite. If you're currently struggling with a WIP that just won't work I hope this shows you there is light at the end of the tunnel, just sometimes the tunnel is a very, very long one!

Aug 2011 - First chapt competition - I wrote four alternative first chapters each centred around a socialite who embarks on a fake engagement with her gay Italian flatmate only to fall for his disapproving cousin, Luca. It didn't final.

Dec 2011 - I read India Grey's brilliant Craving the Forbidden about a girl's fake relationship with her gay best friend. I know there are many common tropes and themes in romance but this was far too good to follow. Back to the drawing board.

Jan 12 - Rewrote from scratch, still with a fake relationship theme, but this time with Luca, engineered by his cousin/Minty's flatmate.

Apr 12 - Sat down to edit. Rewrote from scratch removing one secondary character.

May 12 - Sent off to the New Writer's Scheme and also entered the first chapter in a Romance Fast Track comp.

June 12 - Didn't hear back from the Fast Track. Received an EIGHT PAGE letter from the NWS reader. Took to my bed, wallowed, cried, sulked. Got out of bed and rewrote killing off another secondary character and changing the theme.

July 12 - Entered new first chapter for a one to one at the RNA Conference. The editor quite liked it but suggested it would be better without the last secondary character. The gay best friend had to go. Rewrote again - the whole book

Sept 12 - Entered the latest new chapter in SYTYCW. Didn't place. Fell into pit of despair.

Oct 12 - Got an email from M&B asking if I was planning to submit a full mss for the Fast Track event. My email had got lost, they wanted to see it! Edited hard.

Dec 12 - Submitted.

Waited. Waited some more. Chased. Waited. (edited and submitted another book).


Oct 13 Edits

Nov 13 Final acceptance.

For all our sakes (and especially my soon to be long-suffering editor's) I hope that this steep, steep learning curve full of rewrites, tears, tantrums and endless first chapters is a one off. Thank you for sticking with me through it and for all your lovely comments about Minty. I can't believe she and Luca will get their HEA at long, long last. x