Thursday, 16 October 2014

Building Castles and Shit-Scrubbing

The ball is no longer in my court. I have passed on the manuscript to my trusted proof-reader as well as to a dear friend with whom I bounced off ideas and storyline progression during the whole writing process. I have finally shared my newborn creative offspring with a closed circle of people.

After the necessary cosmetic and structural changes to the book I anticipate carrying over in the coming month or two, I will be able to share my work beyond this closed circle and test the waters with literary agents, or why not with publishers who invite authors to submit their manuscripts directly to them. I say necessary, because no matter how many times you read your own work, there are always corrections to be made. After the third read, your eyes are blinded and less critical of what's written. As Ernest Hemingway elegantly put it, "the first draft of anything is shit." So with the editing work and shit-scrubbing ahead of us, I'm going to be realistic and aim for January-February 2015 for the novel's submission. Quite annoyed with myself, I actually missed the boat with a recent HarperCollins initiative entitled "Killer Reads". My manuscript was 90% complete, but it was too late to meet their deadline! All is not lost, though. Apparently they will be opening their doors for submissions again. I may have another opportunity further down the line.

Needless to say my approach with agents this time will be different. This is my second book and I have learnt lessons with the first one. I know where many of my strengths and weaknesses lie, and I've taken into account a lot of the feedback with regard to 'Out of Bounds'. Furthermore, I can demonstrate that I've been through the whole process before and that I oversaw everything a publication entails. I can even prove it by sending the agents to the weblinks for 'Out of Bounds'. This time I enter the fray with more confidence and experience. I also have more of a social media presence than before I published 'Out of Bounds', and I have a larger network of contacts than before. All bodes well.

Naturally my work doesn't stop here. To ensure I get a proper chance with the agents and publishers, I have to pen down a cover-letter as well as a plot synopsis to hook the reader. The latter is especially difficult. It's like an administrative submission form: if everything isn't in order, the agent might not want to check your manuscript, and reject your enquiry. However, contrary to a bureaucratic submission form, the synopsis must be entertaining and well-written, while remaining short and sweet. It's an opportunity to showcase the strengths of your novel and direct the reader's attention to what you think makes the book so great.

Besides the synopsis and cover-letter, I'm planning a few short stories before I begin a third novel. Writers & Artists have another competition on the theme 'Joy' and their deadline is February 2015. I've also been asked to write a story for the Christmas edition of a local magazine. So I'll be busy writing and imagining, imagining stories and interesting characters or situations I want to write about, bringing some of these ideas to life, and hell, why not have one of those revelatory moments when I realise I have substance to commence a new book.

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry David Thoreau