Tuesday 20 November 2018

Meeting my Editor, the RNA Party and the Tube!

It's hard to believe that the RNA Winter Party has come around again. It doesn't seem twelve months since I was at the last one. I've always enjoyed the event but, this year, there was something else to look forward to. I was being taken out to dinner beforehand by my Bookouture editor, Jennifer hunt.

Now, since Jennifer approached me with a publishing deal in May, we have been in contact by telephone and email but it's not the same as meeting someone in the flesh. At last, I was going to meet the person who had loved my novel enough to offer me a contract... and I was super excited.

Me and Jennifer
Jennifer had booked a table at Tozi in Pimlico so all I needed do do was get there in time and find the place. It didn't start well when my train was cancelled and I had to travel to Victoria via Brighton. Not good when you suffer from travel anxiety at the best of times. The train was then held up outside Clapham Junction due to a signalling failure and I could see the minutes ticking away. What sort of impression would it give if I was late? it wasn't even as if I could let Jennifer know as I didn't have her mobile number!

Finally the train arrived at Victoria and I ran all the way (with the help of trusty Google Maps) to the restaurant - which wasn't a bad thing as it meant I didn't have time to get nervous. After all, meeting your editor for the first time is like going on a blind date. What if you don't get on? What if you have nothing to talk about?

As soon as I was shown to my table, I knew I had nothing to worry about. Jennifer was just like she was on the phone, warm and welcoming, and the meal was very informal. We shared a selection of tapas dishes, helped along by a glass of Prosecco, and talked about all sorts of things. It wasn't long before we were looking at our watches and realising we'd better get our skates on if we were to make the RNA party.

This year, as last year, the party was held at 1 Birdcage Walk, in a beautiful room lined with books. It was Jennifer's first RNA party and I warned her it would be very hot and very loud - but also very friendly.

It was lovely to catch up with old friends and new (many of whom I only knew through social media). People such as Jenni Keer, who's been tavelling a similar writing journey to me these last couple of years. If I'm honest, the whole evening went by in a blur and it took me a good twenty minutes to get to the bar for my first drink as I kept getting stopped along the way.
Me and Liz

To top the evening off, I did a very brave thing. With the help of my lovely friend, Liz Eeles, I went back to Victoria on the underground! Most of you will know that I never EVER go on the tube (the last time I tried, I felt panicky and had to go back out again) but this time it wasn't too busy and the District Line isn't too deep, so I survived. Quite an achievement!

All in all, it was a very successful evening and if you've been thinking about going to one of the RNA events, but haven't felt brave enough, please consider going. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it. 

Saturday 3 November 2018

Scared to Let Go

In September, I wrote a blog post called Moving on a Bit. Although, I hadn't announced it yet (I had to wait until I was given the go-ahead) I had already signed my two-book deal with the brilliant Bookouture and had started writing the second novel in my contract.

My post was about how difficult it was to write short stories alongside longer-length projects and how, even though I'd managed to do this when writing my first two novels, I had decided to take a step back from magazine writing for a while to give myself the very best chance of success.

I think it was the only decision I could have made as, very quickly after this, I began work on editing novel one. First there were the structural edits, then the line edits, then the book was sent to an independent editor for copy edits, which I shall get back in December. At the same time as this, I've been working on novel two. 

Last week I had an email from my lovely editor at The People's friend. They were buying two of my stories. This should, of course, have been cause for celebration, but instead I felt nothing but anxiety. The reason for this was that, when I came to enter the sales into my records, I realised that they only had one more of my stories left to read. In the six years I've been writing for the magazine, this has never happened, as I always like to have at least ten with them. I then looked back and saw I hadn't written them a new story in two months (I used to write one a week).

It was a truly unsettling moment and I vowed that I would leave my novel and write a story there and then. I looked at my list of ideas and chose one before doing what I always do and just to start writing. This technique has never failed me yet as, along the way, the small kernel of the idea usually starts to grow quite quickly into something story-like and, if I get stuck, a dog walk usually sorts it out.

Not this time.

To my horror, by seven hundred words, my idea was still just that... an idea. The characters hadn't come to life, the plot hadn't taken shape and the end wouldn't reveal itself. Eventually, I had to stop.

I've tried to analyse what happened. It might be a) I've got out of the habit of writing short fiction b) I was writing it because I felt guilty not because I wanted to c) My head was still in my novel 

Whatever the reason, it's worried me. I've always been successful writing for the magazines and I don't want to forget how to do it. It's where my income comes from and I've always enjoyed it. I'm also afraid that, with the magazine market shrinking, the competition for story sales is greater than it's ever been and taking a step back can be a dangerous thing to do. 

Getting my publishing deal has been one of my greatest achievements but there's no way of knowing what will happen once the books come out. All I know is that I have to give it my very best shot. In the meantime, I'm going to leave the story and come back to it with fresh eyes. I've done it three hundred times before, so I shall just have to have faith in myself that I can do it again.

Anyone else out there in the same boat?