Thursday, 5 November 2009

The very first nibble

It's been a long time since I've written here, mainly because I've been suffering the effects of my wedding. Or two weddings, to be exact, as I had one in the UK and one in Australia. Not to be recommended. The major effect of all this fussing has been that I haven't had the time or headspace to sit down and concentrate on writing, editing or coming up with new ideas for absolutely ages. Each time I did, worries about invites, menus, photographers, decorations and family issues popped into my head. Perhaps I should have started writing about weddings instead, but I'm not really into the horror genre...

Anyway, the first good news came through a month or so ago, when I found out I'd won a Highly Commended place in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. It's a 600 word story - a real lesson in brevity for me - and I'd felt quite hopeful about it so it was wonderful to hear some good news at last. £100 isn't bad either, and has gone towards paying off one third of my beautiful little Samsung NC10 laptop that I'd bought in the first throes of ambition.

The winning stories are read aloud by actors and broadcast on various radio stations around the Commonwealth. I was a bit disappointed by the person who'd read mine - firstly because she'd mispronounced my name (it's Fel-iss-ee-a, not Fel-eesh-a), and secondly because she delivered the final three words like the punchline to a joke, rather than as the poignant, wry observation that was intended.

Ah well.

In a rather less auspicious success, I also succeeded in winning one of those 'true confession' online magazine spots, which thankfully will not have my name attached to it. But it's AUD$200, so another third of that laptop has been paid off. Ok, so it's hardly the upper echalons of literary success, but it's all practice, right?

And the final good news is that I finished the latest edit of my second book last Sunday. Of course, that just means I have to start all over again, but I was quite relieved to see that it's hovering nicely around the 100,000 word mark without any artificial interference from me. I was concerned for a while there that it was going to keep going up and up and up. But no. So all is well. The editing process has taken me about two to three times as long as the writing process did, and I'm still a way off. I find it hard to stay focussed on editing and it doesn't give me the creative buzz I get from writing something new, but I really want to finish the book before the end of the year, so the proximity of nose to grindstone must remain close.

A few months ago, I received my first actual constructive feedback from an agent. Alice Lutyens from Curtis Brown took the time to send me some suggestions and gave me the real reason why she didn't want to take the book on rather than the usual meaningless drivel you get from most agents which is far more focussed on aiming not to offend than being honest. Ok, so Alice's comments weren't what I had hoped for - she found my writing style plodding and overdescriptive, rather than sparky and fresh, but at least she told me. Noone else has bothered to. The really interesting part about her response is that I would have thought the opposite. I rarely describe scenes, focus a lot on dialogue and felt like the book was a little fast moving. So, to hear from a professional that she thought just the opposite tells me something. At the moment I've put that book away and will come back to it and see what I think about it when I start the process of sending the new one out. I'm sure that my writing will have improved through the practice of writing the second book, and no doubt I'll cringe with embarassment about the quality of the first, but I wouldn't have known what to look for if she hadn't bothered to reply. Give a cheer for constructive feedback, hey?