Danielle over at http://ahappypeach.wordpress.com/ made a comment on yesterday’s post asking about the book I briefly mentioned I had written. I am going to oblige and use today’s post to answer her.
How and why I started writing
I’ve always been interested in writing, stemming from my lifelong love of reading and my enjoyment of studying English at school. I first wrote a book in my teens and it closely resembled Sweet Valley High but it was just a fun thing to do in my spare time. I think the writing bug struck again after university. I broke up with my boyfriend of 3 years (well, he dumped me) which left me with the time to pick writing back up.
I wrote a few stories but I found that whilst plot ideas would come fairly easily, once I started writing, it was really hard to get a novel’s worth of words out of the story. My first real attempt was a middle school aged time travel story (a 12 year old girl went back to 1940’s London) but I think it just scraped 15,000 words.
Then I read Twilight. I’m not going to start a debate about what’s good or bad about the books, something about them struck me and I was addicted to finishing them. It also opened me up to the young adult genre and I’ve been hooked ever since. I decided I wanted to write in that genre. I wanted to write the next Twilight (yes, I think big!)
I wrote two books before the one I’m going to go into more detail about. One was about witches, the other about ghosts and both got me to about 30,000 words. I was starting to really want to write a book and then I got the idea for this one….
My first proper attempt at a book
I started writing this in December 2009 and it took me to August 2010 to finish. I took some of the elements of the above two books and found the words flowing more easily than they had done before. I was actually filling up words and pages and a book was building. I had to write it in my spare time from my full time job with a long commute and studying for an HR qualification. It was HARD.
I tried to write in the evenings, usually in bed from 9pm to 10pm and at the weekends. I wrote the whole thing in longhand first because I write faster than I type and then had to type the whole thing. This was a useful opportunity to edit though and the story changed and got moved around, I cut bits and added bits. Then I printed it out and went through it with a pen marking all over it and re-typing it. I showed the first bit to my mum, the only one who knew I was writing it, and she made some suggestions to make the opening have more impact.
Finally, the story in my head was on paper.
The Shadows is a young adult fantasy, 62,000 words in length. It’s about a seventeen year old girl called Rose who has the ability to see people’s memories by touching them. This makes her feel like an outcast especially as she was adopted when she was three years old and she’s terrified her family won’t want her if they find out what she can do.
Twins Beth and Robert arrive in Rose’s village and her connection to them leads to the discover ythat they are witches and their parents were part of a coven together. As they unvcoversecrets that have been buried for years, they become embroiled in a murder mystery that threatens to destroy their very existence.
(NB: The title comes from the village they live in – Shadow Lake and the house their parents lived as a coven – The Shadows. The coven ends up going by that name to tie it all in)
Here’s the first page to give you a taste (Argh I find it really hard to share this!!!)…
Loud music thumped in time with her heartbeat.
Rose Taylor pulled into the small school car park and killed the music. Her pulse was still running too quickly when she switched off the engine of her battered blue Ford Fiesta and looked out of the window at the uninspiring stone building in front of her.
Summer had faded into a grey and wet September. Rose’s vision was clouded by droplets of rain as she sat in front of Shadow Lake School. Her mood was dark, not from the weather itself but from the fact that it’s descent into autumn meant that school was starting up again. That meant she had to focus harder to make sure her carefully constructed barrier built invisibly around herself was strong and inflexible. She mentally prepared herself to go inside by taking a couple of deep breaths.
Rose sighed as she saw the time and knew she had to get out of the car. She grabbed her bag, climbed out and hastily pulled up the hood of her jumper. A throng of weather-beaten students filed past her and hurried up the stone steps. No-one hung back in the rain. She locked her car and followed suit.
Rose paused and squinted as a girl bounded up to her, her face smothered by her hood.
“So, ready for another year?” Jessica Woods asked her as they fell into step together.
Rose peered across at her enthusiastic smile and could not contain her grimace. They had been best friends for years but Rose could still not fathom Jessica’s love of school, particularly as she was just as much of an outsider there as Rose was.
Trying to get published
I knew I wanted to get published one day and be able to call myself an author. I had no idea if my book was any good but I read loads of author websites and none of them seemed to really know either, they just gave it a shot. So I decide to do the same.
I got advice from those websites and writer’s forums and the general consensus was I needed to find a literary agent who would take my book on and sell it to book publishers and generally support my career. If you read thank-yous in books, they will no doubt include their agent (have a look!)
The rules were to choose agents that represented the type of book you had written. I also decided to pick agents of writers I liked in the hope we’d have the same tastes and they’d do a good job for me too! Each have their own submission guidelines but generally UK agents like a covering letter, the first 3 chapters and a synopsis and US agents like a one page query letter and a writing sample.
All in all, I’ve submitted The Shadows to about 50 agents, mixing UK and US ones. What I got back was mostly rejections. They usually just send out form replies so you don’t know what the reason for rejection is – is it the writing, the plot, they already look after a similar book etc. Some say if you don’t hear within a time like 6 weeks it’s a no.
I got two replies that didn’t appear to be form ones – one said I had some nice ideas but they didn’t think it would stand out in the competitive market of young adult fantasy books. The other said they liked the first chapter I had sent and asked for more, which I sent. I haven’t heard back and that was in November but I suppose you never know 🙂
I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t disappointing and the process wasn’t hard. It’s never easy to hear no so many times. I consoled myself by going back to other author’s stories – the majority were also rejected many times before they got the yes. Only a handful have that overnight success. Even J K Rowling was rejected by publishers and look how that turned out 🙂
So I’ve decided to put this one to rest for now and try something else. I am working on a second book and have about 28,000 words so far in draft form. I’d like to keep going until I find the one that gets me an agent and a publishing deal but we’ll have to see how it goes. Right now, I still want to write in the young adult fantasy genre and I make sure I read widely around this so I can see what works and what doesn’t.
I have no idea if I’m a good writer or not or whether plot actually matters more anyway. All I know is, I have an ambition to have a book published. I just need to keep trying!
Any other aspiring writers out there? Any stories to share?