My writing story

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

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!!!)…

Chapter one

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!”

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 🙂

Now what?

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?

Vix

xx

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37 thoughts on “My writing story

  1. Your book sounds really intriguing! I’m an aspiring writer too! I did National Novel Writing Month last year, and wrote a 50,000-page book in 30 days! It was a crazy experience. I know my book needs so so much editing, but I hope one day that I can publish. I couldn’t care less about the money, but just knowing that something I wrote will love forever…it’s a surreal feeling. I’m glad someone else feels like I do too!

    • Thanks Sophia 🙂 I can’t believe you managed to do that in 30 days so impressive, well done! Good luck on your publishing journey, it def feels good to hear about others with the same dreams. Mutual shout-outs on our book thank-you pages?!

  2. Um…I love this post…and I like you even more now 🙂
    I have tons of dreams also….I ADMIRE you and your perserverance and your CONFIDENCE!
    (and yeah…I liked Twilight too…no shame)…
    that chapter is good!
    Hey, I”m 30 years old….and I have yet to write a single word 😦
    But, I know an idea will come when I can relax…and ‘let go”…(and maybe I need my health to be a bit better before I can finally fully focus on writing).

    Anyway, I knew I have loved your blog for a long time, cause you say a lot of the same things I think (only you are more positive, confident, and PRODUCTIVE 🙂 )…
    LOVED Sweet Valley High 🙂
    And Nancy Drew, Fear Street, Babysitters Club, etc, etc…fun stuff.

    • Aw you’re so sweet! We have plenty of time to make our dreams come true, don’t be so hard on yourself – you’re writing a blog and that’s a huge achievement. It’s so nice to hear you think and feel the same way, sometimes I think I’m weird but now I can proudly say I’m not the only one 🙂 I loved the Babysitters club too lol.

  3. Your story sounds great and interesting. I love young adult fantasy as well. (We are twins after all). If you ever feel like you want some feedback on it, I’d love to read it.

      • I understand that, obviously. 😉 The most upsetting thing about rejections is they never include real feedback. Why doesn’t it stand? What can I do to make it stronger? Etc. So, letting someone read it who is willing to give you constructive criticism (and letting go enough of your ego to welcome that criticism without offense) is both scary and important. I know I haven’t sold my story, yet, but I also know it is much stronger because I got feedback from people I trust.

      • So true, you just get standard responses and no clue if you should still pursue it or not. You’re right about the feedback thing, I’ll work on letting go of my fear there 🙂

      • Do you know what, you’re right! I’ll email it to you if you’re sure you want to read it and I’ll crack out a glass of wine to read your feedback 🙂

      • No problem. Just realize that I may take a little time (so that I can do it properly). I’m just getting a bunch of papers back to grade, and that has to be my priority (even though right now I feel like pounding my head into my desk and giving up in frustration–my students just don’t care).

      • Of course, take your time – I’ve put it to rest so there’s no rush! I’ve emailed the first three chapters for now. I’m sure they care really 🙂

  4. I so admire your ambition and perseverance. Don’t let the no’s get you down. And Lisa is right…you need to get feedback and constructive criticism from more than one source (your mom) if you are to grow as a writer. Let her read it!

  5. Thanks for sharing your writing journey and your story with us. It isn’t easy – no part of it is easy. But we write because we have to and that’s all that matters.

    Good luck!

  6. I myself have aspired to be a writer someday but recently have had a change of plans. I’ll still do some writing but I’ve had a lot more people tell me I should go into public speaking and stand up comedy so I think I’m gonna pursue that for a while at least. HOWEVER I think your dedication and obvious talent has WRITER written all over it so I think you’re doing he best you can and keep it up!

  7. Vix, I feel so proud of your perseverance, and the fact that you have already written a full novel and now into your second one! You know your ambitions and youa re serious about it, thats’ a really good start. I say don’t give up, keep writing, keep polishing, keep sending it out to agents until you get that yes. All the best! 🙂

  8. So you’re writing your fourth book!?! That’s so great! 🙂
    I love the beginning of your book, really want to keep on reading 😀 I hope (and am sure!) you will get an agent one day, just continue to write with your heart and I bet your books are as original as your blog 🙂

  9. I think it’s awesome that you’re writing and trying to get published. I always thought publishing would be a little easier since there are millions of books out there. But it’s not, so keep trying and your dream of being an author will come true. Most of the stuff I’ve authored has all been professional literature except for my children’s book on cancer, which we successfully self-published. Keep up the good work though! Writing is an art and is very subjective, so don’t feel discouraged by rejections.

    • I know, I thought it would be much easier especially when you read less than amazing published books, I soon came crashing down 🙂 I am def getting a thick skin from hearing no’s. Well done on your writing!

  10. great write up…hope it succeeds! how i know how you feel….i am in the process of writing my own book. I just started lol. its very hard…but in the end it surely pays off…great post..i enjoyed it

  11. I think your story, of your experiences in the publishing world, is really interesting especially since I am not familiar with it. Writing is so personal, it’s part of your soul that you are willing to bare to the world. The first page was enjoyable, which is good because it reaches an audience past young adult (me = grown up, well sort of). It seems like the publishing world is a meat market, it’s a business, they want to make money off of you and fewer and fewer people are purchasing books, we all have kindles and the market for literature is shrinking. You just want to be published, it’s an earnest desire and to me it should and will be fulfilled. Now I am just throwing this out there, what about self publishing? Go through some rounds of editing with some people whom you respect till you get it to the point where you know it’s good. Then publish through amazon for the kindle, market it through your blog, see how that goes. It will give you the experience of putting it together, going through edits, marketing, and publishing. If you need any guidance in any way from me I will be more than happy to assist. I’m here to support you, you are talented, and as long as you persist you will be successful. This I believe my friend 🙂

      • Vix, I came up with an affordable marketing strategy which takes advantage of free social networks and is based upon Japanese distribution. Let me know if that sounds interesting to you.

  12. I wanna read the rest of your book! Props to you for having worked so hard on your writing hun! Seriously, keep at it; I’m confident you will be published one day (I’d like to have one of the first signed copies, thanks 😉 ) I have aspirations of having a children’s book published one day ( actually several) but haven’t done much but think on it and brainstorm possible storylines. You’re way ahead of the game Vic… Keep your head up high.. your time will come 🙂 Maybe try your hands at a Sex and the City type theme with the main Characters being Vixter, Tinkerbelle and Maggie Mae 😉 What do ya think? ha ha!

    • You can def have a signed copy hun, my blogging friends might even make it onto the acknowledgements page 🙂 haha can you imagine that – I’m not sure the world is ready for us!!

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