Thursday, April 11, 2013

making my way through

As you may have noticed, I've ditched the numbering system.  Forgot what it meant anyway.  Days 'till Christmas?  Days 'till The Ashes?  Days 'till Harrogate?  That's right, days until the Theakston's Old Peculier crime writing festival kicks off - that was it.

Actually, to be more specific, post Harrogate 2012, I set out a plan that would play out over a year and yield me, with any luck, an agent and publisher for my current book.  I had an idea to document that progress over this blog, take you all along on a ride towards success!  Fact of the matter is, I have hardly been able to keep up my novel writing, let alone this blog (apologies for that).

Up and down . . . and back again.  There's no other way. 

The past 8 years working on this novel has been a challenge - I have learnt so much from the heartache, the frustrations and the good times.  Yet, still no completed book.

If you took out the time factor, I am actually very happy with my progress.  The plan was to go through the book one last time (5th draft) with an eye to tightening up the story and reducing the word count.  With the elimination of a major character (BA-BOOM!), I am achieving this.  I liked the character but he rarely appeared but was often mentioned - kind of like Keyser Soze (but not).  Anyway, he's gone, and with him, so far, 40,000 words.  Almost as much as I had written down in NANO writing month many moons ago (and no, these were not the same words that were deleted).

So: 250 pages in, I've managed to cull almost 40 pages - and it reads like a dream now.  Not a wet dream, but satisfying nonetheless.

Meanwhile - Harrogate approaches . . . a deadline if I ever needed one.  I'd feel a total failure if I went to Harrogate this year without a completed novel.  Not in terms of being able to shop it around, but in terms of saying - yes, I've completed it; instead of "getting there" or "one day at a time" or laughing nervously and reaching for another Theakstons.

There's no real plan that will work, trust me, I've tried plenty.  The only approach is to write everyday, make sacrifices along the way (to the Writing Gods), and maybe take a few days off from the paying job to get some momentum going.

Goal is still the same: finish it off before Harrogate.  It's achievable, no doubt, and more importantly, I have no choice.  I'm a writer, as painful as it can get, and there's no backing down.

More to come . . .

P.S.  Very keen to start something new too - I have a plan (concocted with the help of the better half).  More on that later - hopefully not too much later. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

196 . . . debut dagger 2013

The weekend before last, it was my 2011/12 tax return.  Last weekend, it was my 2013 Debut Dagger submission.

The tax return was piss easy; the Debut Dagger was not. 

But what a feeling it was when, on Saturday 2 February, at 5pm GMT, I became the 393rd submission in the CWA Debut Dagger competition.

The Debut Dagger is a competition for unpublished authors with a grand prize of £700.  Many of the shortlisted authors over the past 14 years have reached that most coveted of goals: publication.  So the money is good, but the exposure is better.  There's no guarantee of a contract as part of the competition, but the shortlisted entries, including, obviously, the winner, will be seen by top agents and publishers, thus increasing the chances of securing the dream of every budding writer.

A synopsis and up to 3,000 words of the opening chapters were required as part of the submission.  When I started on my submission at the beginning of January, I knew this was not going to be an easy task.  I was happy that completing the opening chapters would be manageable even though the first two chapters of my 5th draft were waaay over 3,000 words; it was the synopsis that had me slightly worried.

Back in 2009, as part of my successful Dragon's Pen experience at Harrogate, I submitted a synopsis to a prospective agent.  It was a steaming pile of poo, predominantly due to the fact that I hadn't completed the novel and had some story structure issues that I tried to cover up in my synopsis.  A disappointing result, but I learnt a lot.

Now in 2013, I've pretty much completed the novel and story structure is not an issue, so building up the synposis should not have proved a problem.  It wasn't a problem, but still a challenge.  The main part of that challenge was summarising the plot into 1,000 words.  Not an easy task.  But I did it - and I am happy with the end result.

So after many quick reviews and spell checks and grammar checks, I hit "Submit", paid my £25, and released my novel out into the wild, wishing it good luck and godspeed. 

Shortlist will be announced in May 2013, winner in July.  I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, the game plan has changed . . . more later.