If You Write It, They Will Come

It’s not easy being a would be author. First off you have all the time and effort you have to put into creating your work, which you do for free in your spare time since the publishing industry is only interested in finished novels (if you’re writing fiction that is). And then when you want to try and get it published you come up against the great machine that is the publishing industry itself which, like pretty much every other industry in the world, has been designed to protect the people investing the money, producing the highest yield for the least amount of risk.

money & politics

Now I’m not saying it’s unfair. It is what it is, and so mote it be. But! it does result in the same old overly pessimistic advice being given to authors who are starting out, and after a while this can be a little wearing.

I recently read this blog post, How To Turn Your Blog Into A Book, which lead me to this one, How To Get Your Book Published, an excellent post which pretty much encapsulates the viewpoint of the industry in general.

Now I’m no industry insider. I haven’t got an agent, had a book published, or anything like that. But this is a subject I have studied since I was eight and first dreamed of becoming an author, so I flatter myself I know a little something on the subject. And yes, whilst in general the advice is sound, and well meaning, it is also very general indeed, and studiously ignores the exceptions that prove the rule.

Yes the – write and re-write, get help, find an agent, approach them in the right way, don’t be precious, keep trying – approach is a good one, but it’s all too easy to become discouraged when faced with such an arduous, and limited, journey.

The advice is understandably cautious, and maybe hopes to stop people wasting their time pursuing a career that might never happen, but it is also a bit of a downer. Like the news it focuses on the negative side of things, and offers very little encouragement. It reminds me of things like the Dragon’s Den, which people might watch and think “My idea would never make a good business”, just because it doesn’t fit into the very narrow criteria of what this small group of people will invest in.

beginning buddhism

You can equate it to the music industry, for example, where all eyes are concentrated on pop music and all advice is given on how to make it big in that one genre. Yes, the advice given is ‘the truth’, but also there are many other types of music out there, and many other ways to become successful, and those stories are equally as true as the ‘tried and tested’.

For example:

* The book The Horse Whisperer attracted a lot of interest and even got a six figure deal when the author took just the first 100 pages to the Frankfurt Book Fair and showed them to Robert Redford (who subsequently agreed to do the movie).

* L. Frank Baum had to invest his own money in publishing The Wizard Of Oz just to get it off the ground.

* Recently Fifty Shades Of Grey, a piece of New Moon saga fan fiction, became a number one bestseller and the subject of a Hollywood bidding war despite being a self published e-book.

* And finally, JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was turned down by 12 publishers before finally finding a home at Bloomsbury (and even they advised her to get a day job as she’d “…never make any money in children’s fiction.”

recipe book cover

Now I’m not suggesting you pin your hopes on something like this happening to you, or that you rush out and start self-publishing right away, just remember how general ‘general’ advice really is, and how there’s still room in this world for something new and dramatic to happen.

Don’t get weighed down by other people’s pessimism. Deal with their well meaning and knowledgeable advice the same way you deal with both compliments and criticism; with a warm smile and a polite “Thank you very much.”

making headspace

As ever, these are just my thoughts on the subject, garnered through many years of trying and failing. Like so many others before me I’ve sat for hours in the coffee shop trying to come up with ideas. I’ve spent my nights writing, and my weekends editing. I’ve written to publishers and cold called agents, read the trade magazines and spoken to people ‘in the know’ at events, all just to find a way to get me started in the industry. And y’know what, after all that effort the best advice I ever got was in a standard rejection letter sent to me by an agent years ago.

Would that I could remember it word for word, but it went something like this:

“It is a myth that there are hundreds of great, unpublished works out there. 99% of them are rubbish. So if you have something that’s really good, keep at it. Eventually you will get published.”

This was proven to me when, about a week later, another agent accidentally returned to me two other would be authors’ submissions along with my own. I couldn’t resist, I had to read them. They were terrible. The ideas were bad, the description poor, the grammar awful. I hate to admit it, but it gave me hope.

Of course you have to make sure that you’re not one of that 99%, but as long as you work at it, take advice, be self critical, but above all don’t lose hope, there’s no reason why one day you can’t become a published author too.

And if it never happens then for God’s sake make sure you enjoy yourself along the way, because there’s no point chasing after your dreams if you’re going to be miserable about it. That really would be a waste of time.

And So It Goes

First of all, if you haven’t seen Crazy, Stupid, Love, do! It’s really well made, well written, has some genuine laughs, and Ryan Gosling is brilliant in it. Very cool, very sexy, with some of the best lines in the movie. But anyway, enough of that…

So I’ve asked work for a year off, from September to next August. Just got to wait and see if they’ll go for it now. Not sure what I’ll do if they don’t. Will deal with that bridge when I come to it. For now it just feels like there’s this big boulder on top of a hill and I’ve just given it a nudge towards the edge.

The month of no chocolate is over so expect a perfected vegan swiss roll some time soon. Just need to find the time to do some cooking. Doing so much overtime this month, to help pay for upcoming shenanigans, that I’m in work more days than I’m not (which I know most people do, but when you’re doing 12 hour shifts that’s something else).

So my days off in March are just that, days off. I’m not going to fill them with junk. Taking it easy for the next 30 days or so, The only thing I do want to do is write. I’ve neglected the book and it’s time to get back on it and get it finished. I want it done before I go away, and six months is more than enough time.

That’s it for now. Nothing dramatic, and no pictures. Just checking in. Should have some more interesting stuff soon though. I have a side project on the go for March that may bear fruit. Stay tuned for further results.

Until then…

Bad backs, bakeries, and book publishing

I wish I could take my own advice.

I had this ‘great revelation’ about not doing vs. trying too hard, especially when it comes to my yoga practice, and then I go and over-stretch doing a sitting forward bend and pull a muscle in my back. Lord what fools these mortals be.

But, no experience is wasted if we learn something from it, and even though I was forced to take it easy for 4 days – which meant canceling getting my car serviced, canceling my trip to Brighton, and missing out on a yoga seminar – at least I may have learnt my lesson when it comes to exercising properly (I recognise the fact that, like a naughty puppy, sometimes I need to be smacked round the nose with a rolled up newspaper :)).

The reason I went too far is simple; I’m over-eager to advance in my practice and thus one day become a teacher. You can’t force these things, and I now have to admit it may take me a year or two before I’m of a good enough standard to teach. After all, if you can’t do, you shouldn’t be teaching.

hazel gingernuts 2

I do however want to teach, at least that much is clear. I’ve been getting distracted recently by the idea of opening a vegan bakery, so much so that it had become forefront in my mind. But it was only meant to be a secondary project; something to do in addition to the yoga studio upstairs. It was just the immediate possibility of the idea, the fact that there’s a gap in the market, and watching Stranger Than Fiction that shifted it’s position in my head. Really, if I’m honest, the idea of getting up at 6am every day and having to deal with the General Public does not fill me with heady enthusiasm. I mean I can do it, but I need to be doing something else too, just to help balance it out a bit.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been distracted by ‘reality’ either. Back in the day I wanted to be an author. When I was 8 I asked for a typewriter for Christmas. By age 10 I was sending stuff off to publishers, and though I’ve yet to have anything published, I still write. However, what I write has changed throughout the years. It started with books, then comic strips, then movies, until finally I’ve come full circle back to books again.

I recently asked a friend of mine, if you could do one thing before you die to somehow make your mark on the world, what would it be? Now I’ve had lots of ideas over the years, things I’ve invented, memes I’d like to be taken up, but in the end it boils down to one thing: Before I die I’d like to get a novel published. I want to see my name on the spine of a book in Waterstones, squeezed in between Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson, then I’d feel like I’d accomplished something tangible, something that will live on after my death. How funny it is that, after 30 years, it all comes down to the same dream I had when I was 8 years old.

So there’s where I’m at at the moment. I’m going to finish the novel I started working on last year, whilst gently getting back up to speed with my yoga practice, and to appease the baking Gods I’m going to produce a series of recipe cards to sell online. That should keep me busy enough for a while, then in the summer I can reevaluate and see where I want to go next.

NB: Had some feedback on the script I finished in December. The friend I gave it to the other day to proofread said she picked it up to look at and couldn’t put it down again ’til she was finished. That’s the sort of stuff a writer wants to hear! No major problems either. The odd bit of dialogue that slowed things down a little (mostly expositional stuff that needs to be there, what they call ‘laying pipe’ in the business) but generally it sounds like it’s 95% there. Look forward to getting a more detailed analysis, plus the thoughts and opinions of my other proofreader, but it sounds like it’s on the right track so far. Happy days. 🙂

Hello My Beautiful Lovelies

It’s true y’know, the only constant thing in life is change. A couple weeks ago I had no idea what I was doing. Now, all of a sudden, clarity has come. First some thoughts:

1. Inventing recipes and blogging about them in no way means that I should write a cookery book. Why not just have fun?

2. There’s no point moaning about work, they’re gonna get as much out of you for as little as they can. It’s just the nature of business.

3. Changing jobs will not solve the problem of work. However, if you do something you love you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.

4. If you don’t enjoy the journey you won’t have any fun when you get there.

5. Always know what you want when you go get your hair cut, otherwise you’ll end up with something… weird.

So, you can see where my heads been at for the past week or so. Work has taken a decidedly ‘interesting’ turn recently, with changes in procedures, hours, and working practices, meaning it’s gonna be a lot less fun to be there from now on. I’ve been looking at finding a new job elsewhere doing the same thing, but why bother since I don’t want to be doing this anyway? So I might just chuck out the odd application, see what happens, but really I’m going to spend my free time writing, see if I can’t make a go of that somehow. Because that’s what I’d rather be doing if I’m honest, spending my days doing something creative, not this TV drivel. It would also be a flexible enough job that I could fit it in around all the rest of the stuff I want to do.

Still on with the yoga. Had lesson two a couple of days ago. She worked us harder this time. More stretching, and holding, and grunting and groaning here and there. I’m still doing my sun salutations in the morning but it was a bit of a struggle today. Had to force myself a bit. Still, I felt much better after doing it than I would have if I hadn’t, so there’s that to think about.

Keep an eye out for a new recipe from me shortly, as well as another film recommendation. It’s been a while since I’ve done either of them. For now I’d like to leave you with a wee link to a mini playlist I’ve done called “In The Land Of Kiki”. It’s just a random selection of the last 10 songs I added to my iTunes (where there was an album I chose one as representative). I hope you like it. Should give you an idea of what’s going on in my head space at any given time. 😉

Time to think

Took a mini hiatus from doing anything to think about what to do next. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Cook more. Gonna stop buying pre-prepared sauces and do more recipes, especially other people’s. Should expand my horizons a bit as well as increase my skill set.

2. Write more. This is actually a no-brainer as it’s what I’m doing already. Just need to make sure I keep making time to do it.

3. Yoga more. Loving the early morning sun salutations. Really looking forward to going to class tomorrow.

And that’s it really. No need to over complicate things. If I can do all of that I’ll feel like I’m getting somewhere.

And now for a couple of links:

Terry Wogan hosts Never Mind The Buzzcocks
I’m not one to push TV programmes, but I just watched this and it’s f-ing hilarious. Only available to bods in the UK I’m afraid, and then only until Sunday night (ah the vagaries of the BBC iPlayer).

Jill Bolte-Taylor’s Stroke of Insight
After re-watching this talk I’ve had to re-write this paragraph. This is the most amazing tale of one woman’s insight and understanding of the day she had a stroke, the profound effect it had on her life, and the monumental understanding of the Universe which she took away from it. Watch it! You will laugh, you will cry, and you will be touched by her story. I guarantee it!

Apropos o’ nuthin’…

For some reason I’ve suddenly started getting an inordinate amount of dirt spam in my inbox. You know the kind of thing, e-mails from “frasco horner” entitled “kat pigtail toying inflatable drunk” (no kidding, that’s one of them word for word!).

It was really starting to get on my tits, ’til I decided to have some fun with it. So I took the first word of each e-mail (31 so far this week) and made a poem out of them. I was trying to make something beautiful out of the unsolicited filth, but inevitably it ended up a bit dirty too. Still, I like to think I injected a bit of romance in there along the way. See what you think.

Giant group, serious bedroom friends.
Have room. Knock obediently, until…

Cheyenne, petite Mexican, dance way beautiful.
Tiffany, leggy sweetie, good hands.

Haley, rubber cougar: Swallow,
while she pounds ball. Sexy cat!