Friday 20 April 2018

What's Your #amwriting Journey?

Me, just before I pitched at The Write Stuff, The London Book Fair
After all the rain and grey skies over the Easter hols, spring is finally here in the UK, and it’s time to cut down on the chocolate and booze, and increase the yoga and walking. I did go on a few lovely trips: to Cambridge, where I visited the Fitzwilliam Museum; to Oxford, where I visited the Ashmolean Museum; and to National Trust property, Ickworth in Suffolk. In all of these places, I had a good peruse of the eighteenth century art, which I love doing as part of the research for my book.

Loved this blossom in Cambridge
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks. Last Thursday (12 April 2018), I took part in The Write Stuff at The London Book Fair as a finalist, and this Tuesday (17 April 2018), I was interviewed on Brooklands Radio by Jackie Mitchell. I really enjoyed the experience of being interviewed for the radio, and will add more in my next neetsmarketing blog post.

My interview with Jackie was to talk mostly about my neetsmarketing work, but she also asked about my writing: when I started to write and about my work in progress, as well as about The Write Stuff. The link is here, and I talk about The Write Stuff from 3:20.

Me, arriving at Brooklands Radio, Weybridge, Surrey.
I thought back to how I loved writing as a child, and won a local short story competition when I was nine years old for a story, The Bottle on the Beach. I remember dressing up and going to collect my certificate in an award ceremony at the local library. All very exciting. Then, I wrote a series of stories about a pink mouse on my mum’s typewriter and sent them to Ladybird. They sent me a lovely rejection letter, which I still have (my first of many, ha!).

Stunning magnolia tree in Oxford
As I got older, I stopped writing stories, but did write a lot of letters-as we did before emails- and diaries (which I tore up and binned in case anyone found them-would love to read them now!) for a time.

I commuted into London for several years, reading a great deal on the train. Some of my favourite books were released during that time: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Chocolat, Memoirs of a Geisha; amongst others. I discovered Anne Tyler by browsing the books alphabetically in Waterstones, Canary Wharf-something I used to do more. Now I usually head for the tables first. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to write novels.

I started to write properly in the summer of 2003, which I can’t believe is fifteen years ago. Since then, I’ve been to many writing classes and conferences; and written flash fiction, short stories and a couple of novels. My progress may seem slow, but there have been times when I haven’t written and a lot of the time (like many writers), I’ve been fitting it in with everything else (kids, work etc). But, I’ve almost finished the current draft of my work in progress and then, after a good edit, I hope to start submitting it properly, and to move onto my next book.

The Smoking Room at Ickworth

Since I started this blog in 2011, I’ve recorded my writing journey, and the latest item to add to the writing CV is being a finalist in The Write Stuff at The London Book Fair. 

The Write Stuff is a Dragon’s Den style panel event where six authors pitch their books to a panel of literary agents in front of the Author HQ audience, with the chance to win a follow up meeting with an agent.

L-R: Paul Blezard (host), Jo Unwin, Julia Silk, Carrie Plitt, Diana Beaumont, Tim Bates.
The agents were: Tim Bates, Peters Fraser & Dunlop; Diana Beaumont, Marjacq; Carrie Plitt, Felicity Bryan Associates; Julia Silk, MBA and Jo Unwin, Jo Unwin Literary Agency.

I emailed a 250 word submission to Midas PR which included a cover note and synopsis without expecting to get any further. After that, I was longlisted and asked to send the first three chapters of my work in progress. Then, I received news that I was a finalist, totally unexpected.

Preparation took a long time. I had to reduce key points about my novel and myself down to a three minute pitch. Initially, I wrote the pitch as though it was a speech. Then, I recorded it on my phone which came out at four minutes. I reduced it down to the main points, and removed any repetition until I got the pitch down to 2 minutes 46 seconds. I divided the pitch into fourteen points and wrote them on a piece of card. Then, I learnt each point off by heart, so I only needed to glance at the card to get the next point. My biggest worry beforehand was that my mind would suddenly go blank (which thankfully it didn’t), so I also cut out the pitch into three parts and stuck it onto back-up cards, which I didn’t use.

The pitch went as well as it could (i.e., I didn't get stuck and forget what I was talking about) and each agent gave two minutes of feedback. I wish I'd asked a friend in the audience to record their comments on my phone-a good idea if you ever take part. All I remember is the feedback was mostly positive-they said I spoke well. One agent said she wished I’d given a one line pitch, which was a shame as I’d taken that out in order to get the pitch down to three minutes, thinking I didn’t want to repeat myself. Should have kept it in, but never mind!

My novel is a dual timeline set in the eighteenth century and present day, and a couple of the agents said they preferred the eighteenth century parts. They suggested I remove the present day part of my novel, making it a historical novel. For now, I’m sticking with my gut which is to finish the novel as a dual timeline-as I’m almost there-and will see what happens when I submit.

The winner was Michele Sagan, who chose to have a meeting with Julia Silk. There is a lovely photo on Facebook (which I've shared from London Book Fair's page) of all the finalists with the agents and host, Paul Blezard.

Me and fab friend, Jules Wake, having a glass of fizz after The London Book Fair
So, that’s my writing journey, so far, although I still feel after fifteen years that I’m near the beginning, but who knows what might happen if I carry on…?

What’s Your Writing Journey? Have you always written? Have you been writing for years, and hope to get a novel published one of these days?

Other posts on this blog:
Not Wanting the Book to End (inspired by Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine)

Latest neetsmarketing post:
11 Ways to Promote a Blog Post

Recent guest post as neetsmarketing, via Emma Darwin:

About me (Anita Chapman):

I’m a freelance social media manager with clients in the world of books. I run my own one day social media courses for writers in London and York, and I’m a tutor at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College (Surrey), where I run Social Media for Writers and Bloggers courses #neetsrhacc (next course starts 7 June 2018). I also have a blog on social media for writers with lots of how-to posts. Find out more via my website.