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Writing Novels

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Out of interest, are you able to make a living out of this yet, or do you supplement your income elsewhere?

Not a hope in making a living out of it at the mo and I know a few writers who are way more succesful who also don't make a full on living out of it. I think someone said to me something along the lines of ten titles in print with two good sellers will eke out a monthly wage (although that probably changes on a person to person basis).

So anyhow, I've got two part time jobs and they pay the mortgage. The books paid a signing fee and contract fulfilment fee and that's pretty much it for the moment. They have to sell out the initial shipment to start to bring in anything like remotely decent royalties and book 1 is close and book 2's only been out a couple of months so has a way to go...

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Not a hope in making a living out of it at the mo and I know a few writers who are way more succesful who also don't make a full on living out of it. I think someone said to me something along the lines of ten titles in print with two good sellers will eke out a monthly wage (although that probably changes on a person to person basis).

So anyhow, I've got two part time jobs and they pay the mortgage. The books paid a signing fee and contract fulfilment fee and that's pretty much it for the moment. They have to sell out the initial shipment to start to bring in anything like remotely decent royalties and book 1 is close and book 2's only been out a couple of months so has a way to go...

Have you got a link to your books?

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_ss_w_h_/2...o.y=0&Go=Go

On a similar subject just spent the past two weeks working in and around the Guildford Book Festival (partially because I was organising two events). Excellent place (this and other fests) to get advice, help and suggestions, especially in the semi-related events that you um and ah about going to)... If anyone was into looking writing spending some quality time at a book fest is definitely worth a go.

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Oooh, haven't been in here for a while.

Anyway, the book I last mentioned in this thread got submitted it to a few agents (one asked to read the whole thing, but ultimately rejected it). I then realised that it just wasn't good enough to launch a career with and stopped submitting it.

I completed another book (100k fantasy) a few weeks ago, and am busy editing it at the moment. It's much stronger (imo) and I hope to start it on the agent rounds very soon.

While all my online friends take part in NaNoWriMo , I plan to edit/rewrite yet another book - one that's incomplete and was aiming for 100k - into a young adult fantasy of around 60k.

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Such an old thread... But certainly worthy of bumpage.

How many other aspiring authors are on here?

I've just finished my first novel yesterday. 18 months, 100,000 words, 12 chapters, a lot of sweat and effort and reading. God. I think I read as much as I wrote during this time. Did you know most scorpions aren't fatal to humans? Only a few species are. A box that's 1m cubed holds a thousand litres of water? That you can make estrogen from horse urine?

But at last it's finished! Now I just need to go back, add the bits I forgot, then sub-edit the whole thing and start writing to agents/publishers.

Anyone else here a published author who can give advice? (or is there a newer topic for this subject?)

Quick question to Captain Helanio if he reads this:

Why did you think the book was too weak to get published? Did you feel that previously during the writing? Where do you get your energy from?

I honestly can't stomach another 18 months of being cooped up in my flat and not doing anything else just to try again with another book (I juggle an office job too). This is my first, and if it's not published, my last attempt at writing a novel. I wrote it purely based on what I would want from a book. So it kinda breaks every rule there is, because I went through all the books I've read and made a conscious effort to avoid all the stuff which annoys me.

Looking at it, it's kinda insane and off the wall, but it's exactly what I would enjoy reading.

How did you approach your first book which you're now not submitting?

Anyway, good luck with the agents!

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The writer's yearbook from your local library will have agents who accept and look over plays... I think it might even have a comment from a successful playwright.

Let me check...

2009 edition has a piece by Christopher William Hill on writing for the theater.

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Perhaps a bit off-topic, but what about publishing plays (as opposed to novels)? Does anyone know how one ought to go about that?

Thanks. :)

Can't remember where I read this, but I'm pretty sure Radio 4 broadcast somewhere in the region of 40 radio plays by new authors each year. Might be a good route in, although obviously there are a hundred and one different things to consider when writing for the radio.

I've tried, and it just doesn't go for me. I feel much better having five unfinished novels, all about three chapters in. :D

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Ground to a crawl on mine, its been on 48,000 words for quite a while now, I keep finding distractions ( the only success I've had recently is turning those into more creative distractions, such as a couple of Warhammer 40,000 short stories I'm working on for their future competitions ).

I still think its a good book thusfar, but every time I think of how much is left I feel paralyzed, my work ethic is so bad its taken me a few years to get just to this point! I feel I'm reaching a crunch point with this where I need to ask myself how serious I am about it all, to stop seeking approval from friends on my latest chapters and just press on with the next ones, I suppose ultimately I'm worried that if I write for two hours a day then writing will swiftly lose all magic and become just another chore.

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Do you know what's to happen in later chapters?

When I knew the specifics, I could write 8000 words in a weekend. Maybe set aside one day a month and write solidly throughout, putting at least 5000 words down, then afterwards, if you realise you wanted to added certain bits to certain areas, note it down on paper, and when you next have have 30 minutes spare, go back and make the changes.

I'd write every second weekend and do nothing else, then while at work or with friends, I'd carry a secret notepad, and if anything happened during that time to spark my imagination (which it always did), I'd take 30 seconds to jot it down for addition later.

It's terrifying to think you've got 50% or however many more chapters to do, and really, that feeling didn't go away for me until I'd finished it. But come on, 48'000 words would be a waste if you stopped now.

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Thanks for the response, some good advice.

I do have a notebook I carry with me most of the time, its got a fair amount of character observations, sights, musings etc in, I just need to get over the mindset of hoarding them for future work!

I do have the book planned out, well...major scenes anyway - it's the bits inbetween which are stressing me out, but a first draft should be broad strokes, doodles in and out of the lines, so I need to kill my perfectionism and just keep moving.

Having one entire day and just hammering it is an approach I haven't tried before, I always tried to do a bit every day ( though obviously that hasn't worked out ) and got aggravated/disheartened when nothing was forthcoming, so I'll definitely give your method a try.

One thing I won't be doing is abandoning it entirely, there's too much of me invested in it now.

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As Biglime said, no first draft is ever perfect. Nothing I've ever written, book or otherwise, has not undergone tweaking to some extent. The exception being forum posts. :lol:

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LOLZ at that deadline I set myself. ^_^

THE DIARY OF REJECTION

I finished the first draft of Eighthours almost exactly a year ago. It was 128,000 words. It then went up to a peak of just over 130,000 words. I sat on it for a couple of months, then tinkered with the edges and sent it out to a couple of agents. Two rejections. In my arrogance, I'd thought that getting someone to like it would be easy. In the meantime I'd given the draft to my girlfriend, her father, my mother, and one of my friends to read. Thing is, you never know whether your novel is actually good or not when someone really close to you praises it. I was told that it was great, very publishable, and that everything would be fine. My friend spent an entire night with me, having made copious notes, and we went into excruciating levels of detail about everything. But the third agent I sent the novel to also rejected me.

The next few months were frustrating, as certain important family and work issues occupied my mind to the extent where I couldn't dedicate any proper time to sending out the novel. Then, in about April I took a look at the book and decided that it was proper shit. This was partly because one of my ex-friends from school (we used to be massively close, then really weren't) read the first 100 pages and tore a strip off it, castigating me for too much exposition and an unlikeable main character. I was very defensive when I talked to him but, having read the opening section again, saw that he was absolutely right, if a bit OTT in what he was saying.

So I embarked on a line-by-line edit, which took me (on and off) about a month. About halfway through this, I started sending submissions out to agents again. One in particular sounded very promising. A friend, who's trying to sell his first novel himself, had been dealing with her and said that she was really nice, supportive of new authors, and that Eighthours was perfect for her. Four weeks later - rejection. Fuck. I had finished the second draft by that point, and it had gone down to 118,000 words. It was a lot leaner, a lot tighter, and far better written. The friend trying to sell his own novel loved it. I decided to change tack on agents, and submitted to one out of left field. He said that the submission was "slick and original" but he didn't think he was the one for it (the "left field" aspect concerned him very recently moving from representing non-fiction to fiction for certain of his clients, so I thought it might be interesting to see what he thought), and recommended someone else. That person rejected it also. Aaaarrgghh. I've also submitted to three major agents, two of which should be replying in the next couple of weeks, and one who might respond as late as DECEMBER. I have to be honest - I'm not feeling confident given my lack of success thus far.

In the past couple of weeks I've tried rejigging my beginning to make it move faster and address some of the problems with the standard three chapter submission process for this book. This version moved faster, sure, but the smoothing out of some character stuff knocked a lot of the punch out of it. Now I'm thinking about a version where I keep the pace of that redrafted beginning, but keep the character stuff from before. Turns out that making the character more likeable in that opening, also made me consider the new beginning wimpy as fuck. My problem is that the first three chapters aren't representative at all of where the plot of the book goes. Its nature is ever-changing, things always up in the air, keeping the reader guessing. (Believe me, my forthcoming second novel is very much targeted towards those first three chapters being really representative. I've learnt from my mistakes!)

The agent feedback I've had so far has been very confusing. Aside from standard rejection letters, I've been told that the plot is very strong indeed, but by someone else that the story doesn't work as well as it should do. I was told once that I should change the novel from a first person to third person narrative, which everyone who's read it agrees is a terrible idea. I've had one not warm to my narrator. I've been told that there's a real sense of pace, but by someone else that the main character's asides really slow the pace. The only consistent bit of feedback from agents has been that the breaking of the fourth wall which happens a few times in the first few chapters (and ironically, very rarely in the rest of the novel), is a bad idea. So my next submission will have that taken out - having considered it for a while now, I agree with them.

My main frustration with this whole process is the lead time between submission and response. I can see why it happens - after all, some agents get hundreds of submissions a week - but it's such a time-consuming process, one that sees you left in limbo for long periods. I don't honestly know which feedback to take on board and which to ditch, since it differs so much between agents. All I do know is that I haven't yet found the agent who likes the book as much as most people who've read it seem to (again, recognising the possibility of extreme bias!). The latest person to read it - who I'd call an acquaintance rather than a friend - really loved it and drew everyone in the pub on Saturday night to talk about the themes of the novel and what came out of them, for ages. If only I could get an agent to think the same! Short of spamming the thing out to ten at a time, I don't know what I can do to ease my frustration, and I don't really want to do that.

Anyway, sorry for this overly long post! By way of recompense, have a read of the short synopsis I'm sending to agents along with the submission. I really like it, but I'm starting to wonder whether a comparatively horrible plot summary would actually be more beneficial. I include the nature of a couple of the big (good) twists in my cover letter, and only hint at them here:

EIGHTHOURS SYNOPSIS – by Mike Grant

You’ve caught its name in hushed conversations. You’ve seen it written hurriedly on Internet blogs that disappear overnight. Something is happening. It started off small, but now it’s spreading and they don’t want you to know about it. It’s a new type of virus. It’s Darwinism for a digital age.

What would you do if you only had eight hours left to live? If you could see your time remaining counting down – hours, minutes, seconds – in a digital display in the corner of your vision? How would you spend the rest of your life?

Here are some suggestions: Try to kill your ex-boss. Trash a computer store. Get arrested. Be controlled. Watch someone you know die. Find the girl of your dreams. Crash a rich man’s party. Blackmail a Home Office minister. Confront a suicide bomber in a packed nightclub. Exchange fire with a helicopter. Wake from a coma. Find a new family. Have the rug pulled out from under everything you think you know. Come face to face with the silent nemesis that now governs your existence. Learn what happens if you save a life. And if you’re desperate enough to take one…

Welcome to the world of Sebastian Leonard… conflicted, unsure of his place, but now, finally, with a purpose, a reason to fight, a reason to live. He has Certainty, the technological terror that shouldn’t be possible, and he has learnt the mantra that will keep him alive: Save. Kill. Survive.

EIGHTHOURS is an ever-twisting high paced thriller, full of action, sacrifice, political intrigue, conspiracy, friendship, humour, and romance. Below the surface, it is a treatise on how far mankind will go to survive, the corruption of power, and the nature of choice.

EIGHTHOURS is the debut novel from author Mike Grant.

So, I'm now starting to wonder (in my paranoia) whether I should turn this into a conventional plot summary. The trouble is, summing up the plot in just a page, and also going into character motivations and the other stuff, is nigh-on impossible. I like my style of synopsis! I thought the agents would bite! But whether it's the fact that the exact plot points aren't in it, or that the first three chapters submitted don't adequately show where the plot is going to go, it doesn't seem to be working at present.

Is anyone else in the same position as me, or approaching it? Or has any advice? If so, feel free to drop me an email at eighthours@gmail.com

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This is a pretty banal question, but how many pages would 130,000 words be, in a paperback, roughly?

Fuck knows. The size of typeface varies very dramatically between books according to the market the book's aiming for and the number of pages the publisher is prepared to print.

If that's the length of a draft, though, for anything other then a sci-fi/fantasy epic (these seem to have their own "rules") it'll probably be classed as too long by an agent.

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Wow. Depressing story. :D

Especially since the synopsis makes it sound very good.

I've had four rejections so far, and am waiting for replies from five others, but reading that makes me not want to get my hopes up.

The only thing that keeps me going is that when I read my own work, I love it. I wrote everything to appease what I always want to find in a book - it's pure self indulgence. I only hope that agents/publishers have a mindframe where they feel they're being indulged by reading it.

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Wow. Depressing story. :D

Especially since the synopsis makes it sound very good.

Thanks, fella. The good news is that the new beginning is written, and the early feedback (not from agents yet, obviously!) is that I've finally nailed the balance between pace and character, solving the issues that I had before in terms of the narrow bit the agents read. So that's gratifying. I'm a lot less annoyed than I was when I wrote that uberlong post and, surprisingly, I actually think it's now better than it was previously in terms of an introduction to keep the reader with me. Now for the next batch of agents!

The thing I never realised was that there would be so much fiddling about of bits I considered finished, bar a later editing tidy-up in consultation with eventual publishers! For people starting a novel and having any intention at all of publication, I would really think about your structure in terms of frontloading an amazing beginning. If your good stuff starts on Chapter 4, then even if it's subsequently the best book in the world you'll be swimming against the tide when trying to find an agent. And, frankly, any advantange you can gain is worth it. I think the process is, to a certain extent, a crapshoot. It's frustrating because I know that my chances increase markedly the more an agent reads... there are parts later on in the book that I think are really, really good. It gets better all the way. But saying "it gets better later on" isn't an option! For me, it's a case of making all the other bits be as close to the high points as possible.

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This is true, I struggled for a while with the first 4 pages until they were really hot... At least I thought they were. Based on the double-spaced printed versions you send to agents, would you mind if I had a read of just your first page? Feel free to PM if you're happy with this. :lol:

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I think perhaps you should tell everything in the Synopsis, remember it's not the blurb, it's like an executive summary for an agent or publisher. I wouldn't worry about spoling the ending for them, just tell them what it is.

Also, keep trying. You've got a finished article and that is the most important thing. And one day, if you feel that it's never ever going to get published then bang it up onto lulu.com and we'll all buy a copy!

EDIT: Oh and remember Rowling took years before she got published but when she did... oh boy!

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I think perhaps you should tell everything in the Synopsis, remember it's not the blurb, it's like an executive summary for an agent or publisher. I wouldn't worry about spoling the ending for them, just tell them what it is.

The problem really is a lack of consistency throughout the industry on exactly what is needed in a synopsis. Some want one that's a page, others two pages, others eight pages, others a short "outline", others an outline of every single chapter. For some, it's encouraged to be a blurb; for others, a detailed breakdown of character and plot.

As I say, it's a crapshoot, and when you ask for specific details of what style they want it in, they often can't tell you! I'm going to write a version that's a plot summary and see how it goes. The problem is not making it too dry. The plot's compelling, but while the book is plot-driven, it's the character stuff and questions that come out of it that really make the book fly. And I think that's very difficult to put over in a plot summary.

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I've been told several times to summarise the overall plot, but to avoid giving the game away, or avoid spoiling the ending. My synopsis is very similar to Eighthours'. Though I listed some books similar in theme to mine, so they can picture how to market it.

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Well, to be honest, the only Synopsis I've ever read (other than one's written by me) was from an advice site. And it was quite sterile, didn't big up the story or try and tell the story, it just stated what happened, including the twist at the end. That was for a published novel (though it wasn't a first time author).

I think your best bet is to write somehting that you feel comfortable with and then leave it alone, that way if someone (an agent or whatever) likes it then you know they feel the same way as you and I imagine that to be invaluable.

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It really depends what the synopsis is for and at what stage its being written.

I read books and wrote synopses for a film company and they were minimalist dispassionate summaries because all my boss wanted to know was if it was the next big film adaptation. I imagine if you want to sell to an agent you want to hook them in and make them read it, so giving away all the suprises is likely to detract from the reading. You've got plenty of time in the process of publishing a novel to show your hand. I doubt it would be a good idea to give it all away from day one. You can imply suprise without ruining it.

Then again, if the enjoyment of your novel is not focused on major plot twists and tricking the reader then maybe just give as complete picture as possible.

Eighthours - I think your summary is really well written but perhaps a little too vague and list-like. There is too much hint, not enough substance to anything, so no real sense of what you are getting soldifies in my mind. Maybe anchor us in the set up more - the guy, the Certainty thing, and leave us to imagine all the crazy happenings that can unfurl.

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Eighthours - I think your summary is really well written but perhaps a little too vague and list-like. There is too much hint, not enough substance to anything, so no real sense of what you are getting soldifies in my mind. Maybe anchor us in the set up more - the guy, the Certainty thing, and leave us to imagine all the crazy happenings that can unfurl.

Yeah, it's more of a blurb at present. The cover letter I'm sending goes into more specifics, though. The aim is that the combination of the two reinforces the story concept, but if I'm unsuccessful with my latest submissions then I'm definitely going to have a re-think.

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I read books and wrote synopses for a film company and they were minimalist dispassionate summaries because all my boss wanted to know was if it was the next big film adaptation.

Oh man. How'd you get such a gig?

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I've been having a crack at a novel on and off for about five years now. About eighteen months ago, I decided (far too early on) on sending out my first three chapters to agents, and got a bunch of rejections from four of the five I submitted to.

About six months after getting those four rejections - a six month period of procrastination, where I hadn't written or edited a word - I sat down at my computer to make some progress. I was interrupted by the sound of the postman. I popped downstairs, and on the doormat was a rejection from the fifth agent!

Unfortunate coincidence? Yes. Sign? Who knows. Further procrastination and self doubt? Fuck yes.

My two biggest mistakes so far have been submitting too early and constantly fiddling with and editing what I've already written. I wish I could just leave alone what I've done, and push on and get the first draft finished. I think just the self-confidence boost I'd get from that, from knowing I could just do it would be immense.

Reading Eighthours' tale of rejection above is a familiar story. I've had either encouraging rejections, or contradictory criticisms from the agents, but nothing but praise and helpful critique from friends and other wannabe writers (www.writersbeat.com). The friends who've read it, i've begged to be honest with me...one of them will probably read this, and if he's not been honest, I hope he's burning with shame right now :(

"Don't keep picking at it" will be my new mantra.

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