Jun. 30th, 2012

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Okay, so maybe it's time to go public - sort of...

I mentioned some Very Exciting Things coming up in the near future, and now I think it's time to elaborate. 

Long term followers of this blog will no doubt remember that every so often, I have had angsting sessions about a historical novel-in-limbo.  Well, I'm delighted to report that things are finally moving on this front.  It's been a long hard struggle, but publication is at last on the cards!

Since this was my first proper attempt at a novel, the teething pains have been immense.  I was lucky: I had connections in the publishing industry, and way back in the late ninetiess, I circulated an early draft for feedback and (I hoped) publication.  On reflection, I rushed into things too blindly.  The book was still in a fledgling state - it got knocked back, as usual, with very positive feedback (along the lines of 'nice plot, but not what we're looking for just now, and it's not quite there yet, either').  I tried a few more agents, with similar responses, so I gave up submitting the MS, and just spent ages rethinking it, rewriting it and generally making the narrative more brisk and taut.

In the meantime, I learned a whole lot more about the publishing industry, and the art of achieving that elusive first contract.  I joined the Paisley Writers' Group, and still regularly meet up with what has become a group of very enthusiastic and in many respects very talented beta-readers.  Above all, I learned the maxim that getting published is more to do with finding a compatible publisher than churning out something that just so happens to tick all the trendy boxes for what's popular at any given time.

It should be every writer's dream to find a solid, enthusiastic and hard-working editor who believes in their work and is determined to support it, and five years ago I thought I'd got exactly that. 

I was over the moon.  All the work I'd put into that novel was coming to fruition...

I was overwhelmed with euphoria.  Then...  Nothing...  The publisher remained enthusiastic and really supportive, but...  She was a sole trader whom real live just seemed to keep kicking in the teeth, time and time again.  I was urged to find a better deal, but...  It wasn't easy to break loose.  First of all, I believed passionately in what she was trying to achieve and I just kept kind of hoping things would improve.  And then...  Getting published isn't exactly like trying to catch a bus.  You can't just stand there with your hand out hoping something'll turn up in the end.  And it's a whole lot easier communicating with those in the publishing industry when you can write in your letter/e-mail that 'I've already had my first novel accepted and it's due to be published in the -ahem!- near future.'

In the mean time, I threw myself into writing a follow-up.  I finished it in first draft and started editing it, too.  I was really pleased with the result, but gradually, my enthusiasm faded.  In the end, it was like being aboard an abandoned ship with the sails shredded and the rudder snapped off.  You're kind of stuck there, You don't want to jump overboard, because you can't see land, or even spot any distant ships on the horizon.  And you're not entirely sure how good the lifeboats are, either.  The question is: how long do you wait until you just leap off and start swimming?

Well, I didn't jump.  I just held tight.  I suppose sensible folk would have chucked the dream of getting published and just got on their lives.  Or started writing something entirely different in an effort to break through with a different kind of book. I suppose I did a bit of both.  I resigned myself to being an archaeologist, first and foremost, and I started working on the MS of something which was completely unlike anything I'd worked on before.   But I still couldn't help hoping that some day, things would work out.

Eventually, circumstances turned out right.  I've been incredibly lucky: I've now found myself another editor who's just as enthusiastic about my work as the first one was.  The break with Publisher #1 was amicable - in fact, it probably took a load off my poor former-editor's already-sagging shoulders- and now things seem to be moving forward with extraordinary rapidity.

I'm not making any major announcements yet, not until it's truly 'official', though the contract's being sorted out as we speak and it's already open knowledge on my Facebook page.  It's a great feeling to think that in the end, all the trauma and the stress and the worry will have been worth it.  I'm five years behind schedule now, but hey, at least I HAVE a schedule.  My life is structured. I'm no longer aimlessly tapping away at the keyboard, in the hope that some-day-I'll-make-it-I-hope-or-I-might-as-well-chuck-it-and-then-oh-dear-my-life's-as-good-as-ended-anyway.  

I can see a future now, and I'm working steadily towards it.  As I mentioned earlier, I'd already written the follow-up to my novel, so now the time has now come to dust it down and polish it off.  Since I haven't read it for at least three years now, I've largely forgotten what I wrote in the first place, so I'm having great fun rediscovering it.  This is, I think, a good sign.  So far, I haven't cringed and gone 'Eooww. Did I REALLY think I'd get away with THAT?'  Life is now a series of goals and time schedules, with set tasks to be established each day/week.  I even have time set aside each night for  - shock, horror - recreation!!!

Life feels so much better this way, and I can't wait to see how all this progresses.  You will, of course, be kept fully informed...


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