Friday, 26 May 2017

Just Do It! by Sophie Claire

What stops you writing?

For me, it begins with distractions: internet ‘research’, Twitter, writing blog posts, eating biscuits.

Then there are the crows of doubt: I worry, where is this story going? Is it any good? Will I make my word count today? What if I can’t think of anything to write? There are days when the prospect of beginning and completing a 90,000 word novel is so daunting I want to hide behind the sofa!

But last November I took part in NaNoWriMo and was amazed that...

1) I did it!

2) How fast I managed to complete my daily word count.

At my peak I wrote 2,000 words in as little as 2½ hours. It made me realise how inefficiently I had been working before, and how much time I’d wasted worrying when I could have been writing.

I resolved to learn from this. I would keep up the good habits which NaNo had instigated, and write each morning before I did anything else. No Twitter or Internet or fun of any kind until I’d written.

And, curiously, I found that writing became fun again!

A few months on, I’m still doing this. Yes, the anxiety still lurks – that niggling voice which asks, what will I write next? – but I don’t allow it to hold me back. I sit down, I begin to write, and things start to happen, they take shape of their own accord. The story takes flight; the characters speak and move and think and come alive; one scene triggers another, and before I know it, that little number at the bottom of the page is in the tens of thousands.

The writing process is so difficult to describe to those who haven't experienced it for themselves. It’s unpredictable: ideas can take me by surprise, or hide themselves away when I'm desperately willing them to appear. When it goes well I get lost in the story, only to resurface hours later. It sometimes feels as if, when I’m writing, magic happens.

It’s not something I can control, but once I stop trying to, I realise that this is exactly what’s so powerful about it.
So why not embrace this powerful, uncontrollable process? After all, unpredictable and surprising are wonderful attributes for a story. And magic? Well, we could all do with some of that.

Try it! Just write.I hope you find it as rewarding as I did.

Sophie. x

Next month: I’ll be blogging about why you should stop writing and step away from your computer!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Ask Annie: Pitching Your Story

On the first Friday of each month, Novelista Annie Burrows will be drawing a question out of the jar where we've been putting all the questions about the writing process posed by readers –

This month, the question is...

What are the differences between pitches?
For your book?
Elevator pitch, etc.

Annie's reply:

Elevator pitch?  Oh, yes, I’ve heard of them.  That’s when you go to a conference, and stalk an agent until she gets into an elevator (or a lift as we say in the UK) then jump in after her and rapidly tell her all about your book and why you should buy it before she manages to escape at her floor.

I’ve never tried one of those.  I have a sneaking suspicion that if I attempted one, the agent would not only not want to buy my book, but may never look favourably on anything I attempted to submit in future, either.

But then I’ve never managed to get an agent, no matter what I submitted, or how.  Instead, I kept on submitting first chapters to Mills & Boon, until eventually I’d learned to write well enough for them to ask to read the rest of the story, and then, when I’d done the few revisions they requested, offered me a contract.

For subsequent books, I’ve had to submit synopses for any new stories I wanted to write for them, before I start work on the story itself.  Which is a form of “making a pitch.”

And I’ve got to admit, it’s a process that I dread.  How can I condense all the twists and turns that my protagonists will go through before they reach their happy ever after, in the two pages that seem to be what writing gurus tell us is what we should be sending?  How can I make the characters come to life in so short a time?  How, in short, can I persuade the editorial and marketing teams that I have an idea that will turn into a story that lots and lots of people will enjoy reading?

Most of the time, my lovely editors give me the benefit of the doubt after reading the brief outline, containing the protagonists motivation, the rough idea of how I’m going to get them together, tangle them up, then bring them through to their happy-ever-after.  I’ve only had one or two story proposals rejected when I’ve pitched them.

But last year, I pitched ideas for a full length story, and a novella, and the team came back with the offer of a 4 book contract.  Which was rather worrying, since I didn’t have ideas for another two stories.  Only vague scenarios, a couple of characters I thought would be interesting to work with, and one opening scene.  So I owned up to my editor at the time, and she volunteered to have a brainstorming session with me.  From that lunchtime session, we hammered out a series of three books with linked heroes, who are each on the trail of a criminal and come across their heroines in their pursuit of him (or her).  I then came home and wrote out a synopsis for each story, as well as the over arching story that runs through all three books, and a trilogy was born!

Book 1 will be out in August/September, under the title “The Major Meets His Match”, and I’m in the process of writing the second of the trilogy.

So…pitching books?  In my experience, it’s different for every book, every editor, and every contract I’ve had.

One thing I do know, though, I am far too diffident to ever pin an agent into the wall of an elevator until I’ve told them all about my latest brilliant idea!

If you can't wait until August to read the first of that trilogy Annie was telling us about, look out for "The Debutante's Daring Proposal" which will be out in the UK, US, and Australia in June.