Scary publishers… are scarier in my head

I mentioned in my last post about sending away a story to a publisher and completely mucking it up thanks to my limited understanding of how my laptop actually works. I’ve always had Windows, and my move to a Mac hasn’t been a seamless one. Anyway, I was worried, after figuring out how to send my MS away mere minutes after sending a panicked ‘can you please help me,’ email. I had assumed\hoped it was a generic email address that an intern or someone similar would read – basically, I was pinning my hopes on some random IT person, separate from the editing side of things, playing witness to my stupidity. But, alas, not even 12 hours after sending my email the editorial assistant emailed me back.

And she was lovely.

I was momentarily taken aback at why this was so surprising, that she was not only helpful, but also just very nice. I don’t think the mental image I had built up of publishers as being a little bit scary was a conscious one. I studied Creative Writing at uni for five years, and I think this scary image was somewhat drip fed into my brain little by little. We had talks from agents, writers, poets, and publishers themselves. Don’t get me wrong, they were nice. The most prickly characters actually turned out to be the writers themselves. All the words of doom were from the mouths of writers: Don’t set your goals too high, you’ll only be disappointed; Most of you will fail; Self-publishing is something you should seriously consider, it’s the only way you may end up getting something immortalised in print. It was all very grim. Honest, of course, and not anything I hadn’t already realised. I walked into my first Creative Writing class knowing JK Rowling’s story was unique, that I would be lucky to even have someone ask to read my whole MS, never mind actually publish it. My sights were low. But in each talk I could feel my heart sink just a little more as all my fears were encouraged, and any hope shooed out of the way.

This idea of being published felt like an impossibility. And the publishers themselves were the stern faces behind the resounding no I would hear over and over again for the rest of my life. As a writer, you absorb all these stories – as many as you can find if you’re anything like me – about the process of getting published. And the one phrase you’ll hear repeated is: Keep trying.

I remember talking to one of my mum’s friends who used to work in publishing. He said something to me that helped ‘Keep trying’ feel less trite: Getting published is all about luck. Luck on what mood the person is in who is reading your story. Luck if it’s their preferred genre. Luck of timing. So, make a list of your favourite agents/publishers, edit, edit, edit, and send it out. And after you reach the end of your list? Edit, edit, edit again, and go back to the beginning of your list. Time has passed, trends in the market change, and luck may be on your side this time.

I realised recently that I’ve spent a very long time just opening my stories and staring at them. I’ve been scared to send them away. Daunted by the prospect of writing a synopsis (those things are insanely hard by the way – oh yes, I’ll just condense my 90,000 word story into two pages, no bother.) But has anyone else noticed how quickly time goes as an adult? And I’m wasting a lot of mine too frightened to try. A bit silly, really.

Crippling panic, my old friend

Rabbit FC

I’ve never been much of a New Year Resolution-er. (If you’re going to make changes in your life, why does the starting point have to be relegated to one moment in the year?) I suppose, I’m also not much of an active ‘changer’ either — I do about as much self-reflection as most people, I’d guess. But I have a tendency to make half-hearted plans to change that I am fully aware are half-hearted when I think them.

Last year it really struck me how long I’ve been out of education. I miss it. I miss the structure, even my procrastination was structured in that it existed around pockets of time where panic would set in and I realised, ‘You really need to actually do something or you’re going to fail.’ I wrote stories when I was meant to be writing essays or studying for exams. And then in my Masters, when my main procrastination story during undergrad became my dissertation, I wrote other stories. Now, my life is filled with Netflix and irritation when the crumbs from the food I’m eating in bed dig into the backs of my legs – It’s always baffled me how jaggy crumbs can be. They’re tiny, but they’re like very very small knives when they’re in your bed.

I realised, there isn’t enough panic in my life. Panic seems to be my motivation for change, not this (much healthier) collective conclusion people seem to come to on the 31st of December. At the same time it hit me how long I’ve been out of education, I started to worry what direction my life is taking. Like most mid- to late-twenty-year-olds, I can nowhere near afford to move out, the idea of being in a long-term relationship scares the ever living be-jeezus out of me, and I’ve been working in the same place for over five years now, a place I started on an eight hour contract and never saw myself staying longer than a couple of years. As soon as this panic set in, I started to write again. I’ve even finished something enough to send it tentatively away to a publisher. My hopes are not high – especially as I had issues sending it. To sum up, they only accepted .doc format. My Mac exported my pages to .docx and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. I emailed them and figured out what I was doing wrong like five minutes after emailing. Had to send them back a ‘So, sorry to have wasted your time, but I got it on my own… eventually’ email. I’ve probably sabotaged my MS before it was even considered. Idiot.

But hey, live and learn and all that. I suppose the point isn’t about potentially getting published right now. It’s that I’m actually sending things away again. It’s different, obviously, to sending something away to uni, where you know a lecturer will reply with helpful tips on how to improve, and give you a grade that 99% of the time makes you feel relieved because-uni-is-stressful-and-how-do-I-have-any-hair-left-but-yey-I-passed!?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m watching an insane amount of TV. I think I’m juggling over ten shows right now. But I’ll take my small victories… I’m writing again. Thank you, panic, I’ve missed you.

 

Terrible blogger is a terrible blogger…

Weird, right? Not funny, I know.

Anna lights

Grumpy Anna will be unimpressed with any excuse I can come up with…

In all seriousness, though, it is shameful how bad I’ve been about getting on here. I have no excuses… except, well, finishing uni has been far more traumatic than I fully expected. Leaving has highlighted how poor I am, which has resulted in me asking (yes, actually asking) for extra shifts at work. I’m now finding it difficult to do anything apart from stare vacantly at the TV when I get back from work.

So, what’s new since I was last blogging away? Not much. In-between spouts of serious writer’s block, work – somehow I’m still poor, how is that even possible? – and vacant TV staring, I have edited my story into some semblance of ‘done-ness.’ It is at the point now where I’m looking up agents. This process has not been a fun one. There are countless ‘you can do it if you just keep trying’ and ‘you’re not a real writer until you can cover your bedroom walls in rejection letters’ stories. Each one outlines the struggle of the hopeful writer sending their stories away, but none answer one question that is burning a hole through any hope I have: Rejection is all well and good, but what on earth am I going to do if no one even asks to read the rest of my manuscript?

In the past, this would not have been as big a hurdle as it is now. Before my Masters, my story never felt finished. No matter how many times I thought it, there was always a little niggling doubt that said ‘you hate this bit, and that bit, remember?’ Only now, after a year of intensive edits, do I actually feel happy. This happiness is somewhat tinged with fear. There’s nothing to change, nothing I hate, or feel unsure about. So, if no one even gets through my first three chapters: what the actual hell am I going to do? Do I rip the story apart again, for the millionth time? Do I change the plot? Do I start to doubt my certainty that I had at the beginning of the year, where I went and changed the tense from past to present and the POV from third person to first at the same time (this was my most ambitious edit that nearly cost me my sanity.) Do I blame my lack of success on my cover letter or synopsis?

All of these questions and fears are running through my head right now. You may point out this fear is a little premature. I need to get the ball rolling. I need to plaster my walls with rejection letters (hypothetical letters, anyway, everything is digital now and there’s something a little macabre about printing off rejection emails to then stare at them glumly before I go to sleep.)

Whatever happens with it, I promise not to abandon the blog again. I’ll definitely do better!

Maleficent

Maleficent sketchesMaleficent, for me, is one of Disney’s greatest villains. I think one of the best descriptions of her came from tumblr (a picture I can’t find now) that the entire plot of the movie comes down to one simple fact: Maleficent had a strop about not being invited to a party.

quite distressedIt’s a detail that made it into the new film, sort of. On the whole, I’ve only seen positives about Disney’s 2014 release of ‘Maleficent’ but after deciding to write this blog post I’ve stumbled upon a couple of disgruntled bloggers who miss the old Maleficent. There is a certain lost charm to a woman who curses a baby because she wasn’t invited to said baby’s party. But what was lost was replaced with other charms.

For example (the second scene only becoming cuter when you found out little Aurora is played by Angelina Jolie’s own daughter. Am I right?):

Both characters exist as separate entities. Somehow, Maleficent hasn’t changed in my head the way Elphaba (The Wicked Witch of the West) did when I read Wicked. Maybe because I loved Elphaba and disliked the film witch. Wicked also felt more like a remake, or at least a story that stayed true to the original story so closely both Elphaba and the ol’ Wicked Witch were one and the same.

‘The Skull Collector’ by David P. Singer-Carter

the skull collector

I haven’t blogged properly in ages, I do apologise. Blame the combination of working in retail at Christmas time. But, what better way to start the new year with a new story! I’m always on the look out for stories with fairytale-esque themes and this definitely floats that particular boat.

So, a quick run down of the plot: This is a story that reads like it could be for children, but will scare adults more. A little girl is sold to a sinister man called the Doll-Maker. In exchange for the promise of being reunited with her parents who are dead, the little girl agrees to steal skulls for the Doll-Maker. There are monsters, magic, evil, friendship, and innocence all wrapped up in this story, which is what immediately made me think ‘the Grimm brother’s would have loved this’ when I read it.

There’s something rather fascinating about the lack of names, too. The little girl, the Doll-Maker, the Violinist… Only the periphery characters are given names, which almost turns the convention of naming your main characters on its head. I cannot count the amount of conversations I’ve had with people that centre around this statement: ‘He/She suits their name, don’t they – can you imagine them being called something else? Weird, right?’ It’s a bold move, denying the reader of a name. It means more words on a page each time the character is mentioned, and more distance between character and reader… But it works with fairytales. And it works here.

I think, ultimately, what it comes down to is that this ‘distance’ works when the story in question has an edge of darkness to it. Creepy works best when the reader can’t guess exactly what is going to happen, and I had no idea where this story would conclude or how it would do so (and satisfyingly at that.)

I wrote a much shorter version of this post here on the book’s amazon page. If you’d like to see it, have a look at the book itself, find out more about Mr. Singer-Carter, click anywhere on this red, italic-y sentence ^^

Love this…

so prettyI have no idea who wrote this, I found it on tumblr the other day, but it’s so beautiful. I really like the idea of the princess not wanting to leave her tower. A really imaginative piece.

Although, after some searching I found this page. Have tried to contact them to ask if it is, in fact them who wrote this, but tumblr just comes up with an error page for each option (eg. Twitter.) Still, beautiful, beautiful writing whoever the author is 🙂