Dusting Down

Time to regroup. I’ve written the first book, rewritten it, rewritten it again, and still don’t have an agent. I do, however, have several rejection letters – ranging from the nice, ‘You really are a talented writer,’ to the, actually-not-that-cutting, ‘I haven’t fallen in love with your book in the way that I wanted to.’

So do I carry on sending the first book out?  ‘Cooee, look at me – I’ve been shortlisted in a few things.’ ‘I can write, you know; I’m a journalist.’ Or do I give up searching for an agent and try to self-publish?

Perhaps I would, were it not for what takes hold after an agent tells me my book wasn’t for them. I kick harder, work harder and have a bloody good laugh at my friends’ indignation on my behalf.

And that approach seems to be working. I felt flat when a piece of my work wasn’t longlisted in a competition earlier this year. But I dusted myself down and poured thoughts into a new story about the tea industry in Africa.

The result? I’ve been shortlisted for this year’s Bristol Short Story Prize and my story is to be published in the anthology in October. Gulp. A real book, with an ISBN number and everything – that’ll also be available to buy on Kindle.

And my first novel? Well, self-publishing, finding an agent can wait. Because the fight is back in full force. I am deep into writing my second novel. 52,739 words in, to be precise. I’m using all that I learnt in writing the first book and this one’s flowing – the characters, the terrible central dilemma. I’ve made a deal with myself: The first draft by the end of December.

And maybe, just maybe, someone might fall in love.

Anybody out there?

I’ve been a magazine and newspaper journalist for 17 years, writing about a wealth of subjects from tantric sex to travel. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that I switched on my computer and wrote those ominous words The Novel 1. Months of keyboard tapping and about 27 drafts of The Maid’s Room later, I started the search for a literary agent.

They all ignored me apart from an agent from AM Heath who was positive about the book. I then entered The Maid’s Room into a competition for debut novelists run by literary consultancy Cornerstones last year. When I saw my name on the longlist I star jumped my way around the house and shouted a lot. Then, much to my surprise, the book went on to be shortlisted into the final three. Although I didn’t win, a literary agent was interested in my book and recommended rewriting about a third of it.

So far, I’m unagented but have some exciting leads (fingers and toes crossed, plus lots of pressing of the email refresh button). And, after that, there’s always the self-publishing route.

Yes, it’s slow. Yes, it’s frustrating. And yes, I do wonder whether trying to get a novel published is sending me slightly loopy. But I can’t seem to stop writing so I’m in it for the long haul, with all its highs and lows.