Monday, 23 August 2010

BLOG-FLASH...New York agent, Nat Sobel, has 'signed up' little old me...!!!

But things could've been so very different...

Around October 2009 I heard from A Twist Of Noir Editor, Christopher Grant, that a powerhouse in the publishing world was hunting on the internet for new talent. I believe Chris put forward a few names, and, being the type of genuine guy who looks out for his mates, Chris kindly pointed Nat Sobel in the direction of Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers. Matt Hilton gave me the heads up that Nat Sobel had described my writing as 'impressive' and informed me to expect an email. Gulp, I thought, recalling what Nat had done for Stuart Neville and The Ghosts of Belfast.

Now then, obviously the tingle of excitement was there, but I heard absolutely nothing for a few weeks, yet there were rumbles in the blogosphere that other writers had been invited to send stuff to Nat.

Then it struck me like a slap in the face...

While co-editing TKnC, Matt 'n' I were receiving lots of spam per day, as our emails were on the site for all to see 'n' abuse... I had deleted Nat Sobel's email!

Had I blown my big chance before it had begun? In early November I wrote Nat an email designed to resurrect my chances, and thankfully, he requested the first pages of my crime novel. However, those pages changed several times, with Nat looking for 'improvement'. I later sent him the whole novel and he suggested many, many changes.

By early 2010, when Nat asked me to basically start from scratch, my head nearly popped! It was very heavy going, but I soldiered on, and re-sent it. When many more changes were suggested it nearly sent me under! If I change that bit, then that bit doesn't make sense... I was tired from work... the kids kept interrupting me... the dog kept interrupting me... the wife kept interrupting me... sleep kept inter'... you get the message. My family have been brilliant throughout and I sincerely appreciate their patience.

I did the changes, and noticed the novel was taking shape and reading better. A couple of months ago, I sent off draft three. The waits in between each draft being sent were torturous. Expecting a, 'No, you're shit really, and this was a big mistake.' It came back requiring more edits... so I did them, wondering when I'd actually reach a point when it would be good enough.

Last night at 3.00 am (I write better at night) my email pinged with Nat's response to draft four... That tingle of excited again... "...It seems to me that you have done all the work I’ve asked for... We are going forward... My plans for the novel are... ...I can’t guarantee publication, but I am going to really try...."

I didn't cry (okay there was a solitary tear, but don't tell Nat!), but my relief was tangible.

Nothing has happened yet, I know, but big steps have been taken on this steep learning curve, and I am honoured to be represented by someone as experienced and professional as Nat Sobel. And it's fair to say that he squeezed this novel out of me.

I would like to thank all my friends in the blogosphere for your support and encouragement, in particular those I'm in daily contact with - you know who you are.

Also a big shout to Chris Grant for the fateful role he played. And who says networking doesn't work?

The moral of the story is... check your spam before clicking delete!


Ps. Off to Scotland for a few days for a rest :)

Monday, 16 August 2010

Proof of crime novel... 'completed', at last.

After twenty years of spasmodically learning my craft, last Sunday - August 8th - saw a huge, psychological milestone reached for little old me... the completion of the crime novel, I'd tentatively started in early 2007. BUT, the 'journey' wasn't without its 'moments'... 89,300 words of sweat, tears, tantrums and turmoil!

A year later, I hit a brick wall, plot-wise, at 41,000 words. Dispirited, frustrated and doubting I had the stamina to write a novel, I left it for a while.

Around April 2008, I began a second novel that had been pecking to be created for months. It included many of the same characters as my first attempt, but was set some years later. My enthusiasm for this story was boundless... initially.

As the 41,000 word milestone loomed, I began to encounter similar problems... stamina and enthusiasm fading, as I struggled, 'head-poppingly', with plot... again!

In August 2008 my great friend, thriller writer Matt Hilton, suggested I start a blog, post some short stories - I had loads of ideas for them - and get some feedback. So I took an audibly deep breath and took Matt's advice, thinking, But I've only ever shown my writing to me pets n me mum before now...eeek! However, positive feedback spurred me on, keeping the dream alive. Maybe I could write, after all... but could I write a novel?

In a eureka moment, in early 2009 , I decided I could merge the two 'half-novels' together. This was very tricky, but I managed it... well, sort of. Chopping and cutting, re-writing and editing, until I had a mishmash of 70-odd thousand words... but, alas, it still wasn't right.

There was a point where, despite my tenacity and ambition - or because of it? - I had to pull away from it all, as it was becoming too much. But that's when you know who your friends are, right? Many offered encouragement and I'm truly thankful, but there were four in particular, who have been constant throughout, and had more faith in me than I probably had myself... my brother, Dek, Dave Barber, Lee Hughes and Matt Hilton - cheers, lads!

A couple of trusted friends gave me feedback, and liked it (but they would, I hear you say!). By this stage, my confidence was up, due to having successes with numerous short stories accepted for e-zines, plus a few online competition wins, and even bagging slots in three anthologies. However, two other factors, in keeping me upbeat and focussed, were crucial too. The growing success of Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, whereby I read and edited many top notch stories, and had contact with some really talented writers. Plus, the online writers' group, Writers' News Talkback, where I found, not only encouragement in abundance, but also many genuine friends.
Obviously, the followers and commenters (except the Chinese porn trolls) on this blog have been a Godsend as well.

So, in summary, the writing community within the blogosphere kept me going, and pushed me that extra mile. Well, that, and the fact I'm a stubborn old git! :)

And so, I kept my head down, between work, the kids, and life, rattling the keyboard and, after much turmoil, the result is... proof, to myself more than anyone, that I do have the stamina to complete a novel.

This is sounding like an acceptance speech at the Oscars, and I've done nothing yet! But it's a really big deal, to me, getting to this point, after looking like it was impossible. I have high hopes for this book. I'd say it's a third draft, but in reality it's probably a sixth or seventh draft. No doubt, there'll be more tweaking to do in the future, too.

And, yes, someone is currently reading it... and it's not me mum! Can't say anything yet, in case it goes tits up, but watch this space...


Ps. I'm still undecided on the title, so feel free to vote on your favourite, top right.