Saturday, 23 February 2013

After the First Three Chapters

A budding author can put a lot of time and effort into ensuring their first 3 chapters are pristine and worthy of submission to an agent / publisher. After receiving a request for the rest of the manuscript it can come as a surprise to then receive a rejection and an explanation may not be forthcoming.

It's a bit like going on a blind date - you could be pleasantly surprised by what you first see but then waste a few hours trying to get behind the facade before you realise that there's little substance.

Will your story fulfil the promise of those opening chapters? To the reader, your first book is going to be either a great first date, a pleasant way to pass a few hours or a huge yawn - you can't please everyone but, if the chemistry is right, who knows? It might lead to a long relationship between the reader and you.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Prepare for the Unexpected

In the film "Field of Dreams," the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson said: "But watch out for the one in your ear!" He was answering a question about how to expect the next baseball to be pitched, high and light or low and away. It's a phrase that I guess could apply to most of what life throws at you and the situations we find ourselves in.

Don't ask me why but I have a profound love of baseball, which is an unusual thing for an English author. From the moment I heard the crack of leather hitting the hickory sweet spot, I fell in love with the game. It's odd really, because I hated playing rounders at school but who can compare that with baseball?

The phrase also applies to any budding author who has finished their novel, polished it so that it shines and has great expectations. Watch out for the "one in the ear!" When the rejections start coming through the post and you read them, it can feel as though someone has thrown you a curve ball and its knocked you off your feet.

Remember this: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by 121 publishers, more than any other bestselling book. Rejections will take many forms: a postcard, badly photocopied letter, a scribble across your initial pitch letter (look - baseball again!), or even no response at all, silent but deadly.

Throw them away! The rejection may not be a reflection of your work. Publisher criteria varies and you just have to keep at it.

Maybe one day I will get to see a baseball game live, even if it is just a little league in a small US town somewhere. It would be a privilege.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Opening Chapters

Agents and publishers will often make a judgement based on the first page of your proposed book, even though the submission requirements ask for the first 3 chapters. The rest of the first chapter should then set the time, pace and setting and entice the reader to continue.

While I was writing Temptation, I went to the cinema to see Iron Man 2 with my husband and son. Before the movie began, we waited for the trailers but I was still thinking about the chapter I had just written, then the trailers began and I will never forget it. They started with Speilberg's "Super 8" and in the first 30 seconds I wanted to see the film and it was at that point, while looking up at the giant screen, I realised an opening chapter should have the same kind of punch. The trailer grabbed me visually and I thought, how do I do that with words?

There are some great opening lines to books and if you have one in particular, then let me know.

I like the books that immediately get you into the mood of the main character. I read Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" when I was 15 and it had me hooked from the first sentence even though I didn't know at that time what a huge deal that book was; to me it was just really good reading.

Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" had me too, but it was because I instantly felt relaxed and almost felt the warm wind in my hair as the narrator and his son travelled towards the Dakotas. Little did I know, I would soon be plunged into the deep turmoil that followed. I used to read sections and then have to put the book down so that I could digest its words and meaning.

I love film as equally as books, both topics are debated heatedly by a group of misfit geeks in my second book "Star Keeper." The beauty of being a writer is that you can be and say whatever you want and you can be both sides of any argument: Dr Jekyli and Mr Hyde if you will.