The Hardest Thing I Ever Wrote

Writing a book is hard. It takes a lot of time and when you’re particularly stuck, that blank piece of paper or the blinking cursor can be the scariest thing. You’ll do anything to avoid looking at it.

Writing this blog can be just as tricky, but once I’ve got the first few sentences down, I can write it fairly quickly. It’s a stream of consciousness that doesn’t need to go anywhere and doesn’t need to achieve anything.

But the hardest thing to do is to write a covering letter. Writing something to try and persuade someone that they ought to be interested in your novel is the trickiest thing I’ve ever had to do.

The industry standard is to send the first three chapters, a full synopsis of the novel and a covering letter.

It drives me mad, because the sample and the synopsis is there to sell the book, the covering letter is there to sell you. I understand why it’s important, but boy is it tough.

I’m going to spend this weekend trying to come up with the perfect covering letter and will post a blog looking at what I’ve uncovered.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever written? It would be great to hear about them – and I might make them the subject of a future blog post!

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Where Do You Write Yours?

It is very important to have your own piece of space, somewhere specifically set aside, and complete with all the possible accompaniments you may need in order to write.

At least that’s what we’re told.

The truth is, if you can do that, if you can have a separate place, which is  only about writing, then brilliant. When you’re sat at your desk at work, it’s easier to be in the right mind-set to fill in spreadsheets and push pens, and perhaps the same is true of writing.

But, perhaps, the more important thing is to find somewhere that is free of distraction, free of association to another activity. It would be much harder for me to be in the right mindset to write while sat at my work desk.

The truth is, though, we can’t all afford our own study, our own bolt hole away from our friends and family. It is possible you might be able to hide in a corner of coffee shop, but what if you get there and someone’s in your seat?  That could throw your whole mindset away from being able to write.

Maybe the best thing to do is to create your own study within yourself. Learn to cut yourself off from the outside world so that you can write whenever you get the opportunity.

Over time I have written in my bedroom at my mum’s house, in bed in my own flat, in fields, on airplanes, trains, coaches and bean bags.

If you’re struggling to find the time to write, you should ensure that when the opportunity does present itself, that you are able to write, and not mentally blocking yourself because you don’t have the right pot plant to your left, because the sun is hitting the wall at the wrong angle, because you are sat in the wrong seat in a coffee shop.

Where do I write? Wherever I happen to be at the time.

Pass the Gin

I mentioned in a previous post – at least I think I mentioned it, if I didn’t, then I’m mentioning it now – that a friend/colleague/flatmate of mine once said that I was too social to be a writer.

His view was that a writer is one of those people who sits inside, burrows themselves away and stays alone for months at a time, pouring their heart into their work – and likely, pouring gin into their mouths.  Simon romanticizes the process – and, there is likely nothing more romantic to him than being able to drink from morning to night.

But I disagree (not about the gin part). I like going out, of course I do, but there are some weekends where I get home from work at 6pm on a Friday night and don’t leave again until Monday morning. Even on these weekends, I often get little to no writing done.

It’s not because I’m too social, it’s because I get too easily distracted. Twitter. Facebook. The Simpsons: Tapped Out. The complete box set of Lost. Ironing. Painting the hallway. The flatmate (it’s a small flat, and he has a big mouth).

I recently deleted twitter from my phone. Not because of any misguided notion that without it I would become a 10,000 word a day writer, but because I just felt like I needed a break.

I did think that coming off twitter would give me a little extra time. But I’ve just found other distractions (Game of Trones, Grindr, this blog).

The trick to it is having a routine – and having one that you can stick to. I’m slowly trying to find one that works for me, but it’s difficult. Even if I do get all the little irrelevant distractions – life just gets in the way.

I will go back to twitter at some point – maybe soon – maybe I already have by the time I’ve posted this, because quitting it is not the secret to writing a bestseller.

I’ll try to give up some of the distractions and settle into a proper writing routine, but in the meantime, I need more friends on The Simpsons Tapped Out – I’m bertypop – add me!

The Nicest Rejection Letter I Ever Had

I said way back in the first post on this blog, that I was doing it because I wanted to start writing again.

Specifically, what I mean by that is I want to start concentrate on my writing again. It’s not just about writing, it’s not just about story telling, it’s about trying to get Memories of a Murder published.

Having worked in the book trade for the last seven and a half years, you might ask why I haven’t tried before. The truth is, I have. I’ve just never done it to any great extent.

I have contacted a couple of agents that I’ve met, I’ve spoken to other authors and I’ve spoken to publishers. Ultimately, I’m in the wrong part of the industry to really influence my writing career – at least right now.

Don’t get me wrong – once I’m published, I can put my book in front of store displays in every WHSmith in the country, but before then, I need an agent, and then that agent needs to find a publisher who’ll take the book.

I have only spoken to a small handful of agents – literally, you could count them on one hand – and from all of them I’ve had polite rejections… except one.

Camilla Wray works at the Darley Anderson Agency – the agency which represents the likes of Lesley Pearse and Martina Cole – and a short couple of weeks after sending off some sample pages, Camilla rang me.

We discussed the book, we discussed plans for future stories, and she asked to see the rest of the book – I even rewrote sections of it based on that initial conversation while I was waiting for her verdict.

Camilla emailed me back with the best rejection letter I’ve ever had. Memories of a Murder was not the sort of book that the agency normally focuses on:

“I was thinking we could try and work on focusing the crime and bring it to the forefront at the beginning, but after reading your manuscript I don’t think this would be a beneficial thing to do and would be charging the essence of your story

 

I don’t think it is right to pigeon hole the manuscript in the genre and for me, Memories of a Murder is as a fantastic tale about families, deceit, greed and love. The murder is the crescendo of the story as opposed to the cause and pushing force, and it was important for me to recognize this.

Camilla’s response both encouraged and discouraged me at the same time. Here, I had someone finally telling me what I thought I had known all along – I’m a good writer – but she was still rejecting it.

However, as important as it is to get an agent, it’s important to get the right agent, and vice versa for the agent, it’s important to get the right book. Although I knew it, I didn’t really get it until quite recently. It doesn’t mean that the book is bad or that the agent is wrong, it’s just not a fit.

Camilla even went so far as to say if I ever wrote a more traditional crime novel and was without representation, then I should get in contact.

For the next couple of years, I started trying to write that more traditional crime novel, and a few false starts and some scribblings I wrote the first ten thousand words of The Killer Inside.

I don’t feel the same way about The Killer Inside as much as I do about Harry Hicks, though, and that’s partly why I stalled in my writing career. I was trying to fit into a box that wasn’t the right shape.

Maybe one day, I’ll finish The Killer Inside or something similar and I can get in contact with Camilla again – but for now, I’m refocusing on Harry and Memories of a Murder.