It’s been a little while since my six week writer’s summer camp came to an end in September, making this postcard a tad belated.
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that I finally took the plunge with the first draft of my children’s book (as yet untitled) and signed up to a one-to-one boot camp with an editor over the summer.
I wrote my book back in 2010 whilst residing in Room 2 of The Rutland Hotel in Edinburgh for four months.
Despite existing completely gratis in uber luxe surroundings and feasting on fayre like guinea fowl and steak every night of the week, I was really starting to climb the walls; I was on a horrible work secondment and I could feel my grip on reality getting dangerously slippy. I became desperately lonely, reclusive, plump and unhappy.
Having always been a keen writer and ravenous reader, I had toyed with making a more serious attempt at a novel a few times but always found other pursuits to occupy my time. This time, I became convinced that my misery in Edinburgh must be part of some fatalistic and positive grand plan. There was a small desk in my hotel suite beside the window and I suddenly felt a magnetic compulsion to start writing at it. It became my retreat from reality, and most probably my saviour. I would write every evening for hours, often late into the night every and then return home to life in London at the weekends. I was a woman possessed!
Et voila! After three months I had a 30,000 word children’s novel. Aside from my husband, I hadn’t told a soul that I had been writing. It felt nice to have a “thing” free from external judgement or criticism in the face of nothing but that in my working environment.
Before July this year, the last date I saved the draft book on my laptop was Christmas Day back in 2010. The plan had been to let the draft rest, put some distance between me and it so that I could return to appraise it more objectively in due course.
I hadn’t quite intended four years to pass but let’s just say life has been busy! *With a pinch of procrastination thrown in for good measure!*
Yes, an issue I have with my writing is a tendency not to completely see things through. I suspect I have an underlying fear of being told I’m rubbish! I lie. I HAVE a fear of being told I’m rubbish and it creates the most awful confidence road blocks all over the place.
When I stumbled upon the summer camp, I was already thinking about dusting my draft off. What better way to assess its merits than by employing a completely independent person to read and provide feedback on it? This would avoid any awkward or overly “kind” words coming from friends and family who I had force fed the book to.
I needed someone to sock it to me straight for better or worse.
This proved to be the number one benefit from signing up to this process. Whilst the draft was not perfect by any means, I feel that I came away with a very honest opinion and a huge confidence boost.
I’m not going to lie, I found the whole process pretty intense, particularly in trying to juggle a toddler against the commitment to submit, review feedback and edit a minimum of 3000 words each week. Despite this, with a lot of focus and forward planning I managed it, even if it meant working when I was totally exhausted in the evenings!
Over the weeks, I learned a lot about my natural writing style and it became easier to pre-empt what tweaks my editor would come to expect week on week. Amending aspects of the narrative to incorporate “more show, less tell” and the addition of a few extra small action scenes really made a huge difference to the overall content and flow of the storyline. I had previously worried about adding too many more words to the novel incase my young target audience became overwhelmed. Actually, in most cases the opposite outcome held true – adding more words *of the show not tell kind* can provide extra levity and depth of character, an area that my editor loved when I did it but still wanted more. Her wish was my command!
You’ve made it this far into my post, so you may have noticed my tendency to waffle. My editor encouraged me to hack away surplus piffle by suggesting that I read the whole story aloud as if to my own daughter. This was/is a very important aspect for my target parent/reader. Such a great writing tip!
So what did my collaborator think overall?
Well, I’m super proud to say that she liked it…rather alot!
There’s still a bit of editing work to do on my part though. For example, we both agreed that the ending feels a little rushed and the story needs a few more fantastical bells and whistles generally. Once all that’s done, the search for an agent and/or publisher shall commence!
I can totally recommend this method of re-working your draft if you are in a bit of a rut with your work-in-progress. It isn’t for the faint hearted mind you!
The draft is currently having a little rest as I recharge my batteries to go again.
I hope it’s not another four years before I feel ready to re-visit it again!
Watch this space as they say….
Are you writing a novel? Do you have any top tips on the best way to get a draft into shape for submission to agents and/or publishers?