Almost there authors Nick Cross and Kathryn Evans each share five things that helped with sanity and personal happiness in their journey to publication. Nick, who writes dark and funny fiction for children, is a winner of the 2010 Undiscovered Voices. He blogs on Who Ate My Brain. Kathryn Evans, who swings between dramatic mice and Young Adult fiction, is a one-time actress, farmer's wife and belly dancer (natch) who blogs as Mrs Bung.
Nick Cross: The Five Things That Kept Me Sane in 2011
Well, it did, but not for me. Several of my close friends got wonderful deals for wonderful books – Nick Bromley, Amy Greenfield, Paula Harrison, Bekki Hill , Teri Terry, et al.
I'm not bitter about that – disappointed, yes, but not bitter. They all deserved their success and I was able to bask in their reflected glory. But it's tough to be a "nearly there," as many others can tell you.
Here are the five things that got me through another tough writing year (I'd include my high-achieving Oxford critique group in this list, but they're getting a whole post in this series to themselves!)
1 Blogging - There were some dark periods in 2011 when writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Yet, every Friday, I managed to write something for Who Ate My Brain? Most of what I posted even made sense! I wrote silly posts (5 Hot Publishing Trends for 2012) and serious ones (On Writing and Rioting), about technology ( Apps and the Single Author ), marketing (Your Cut-Out-and-Keep SCBWI Marketing Session) and (yikes!) business theory (Developing a Thicker Skin). One week, I even wrote a blog post about how I really didn't want to write a blog post.Throughout it all, having a blog kept me writing and kept me hitting deadlines. When people shared, retweeted and commented on my posts, it made me feel that perhaps my creative efforts had value after all.
2 The Undiscovered Voices 2010 Winners - You're probably sick of me gushing on about these people. After all, I've already blogged about them at length. I'm also aware that I risk looking cliquey, talking about the exclusive club that you can't get into. But it remains to be said that these eleven people have been a wonderful safety net for me this year. For all my whys and wherefores – was it too early for me to win the competition? Would I have been happier if I'd never entered? – I wouldn't have missed being part of this fabulous group for all the world.
|The UV 2010 gang|
3 My Day Job - It's true that my day job sometimes kept me away from my writing in 2011. But it also gave me a whole load of things that writing struggled to provide – money, positive feedback and real, live people to talk to. Suddenly, I'd done something that people had actually heard of. When you tell someone that you're a children's writer, they rarely know about the book you've written, even if it's been published. But when I told people that I'd designed a key part of O2 Priority Moments, they would often be users of the system, or at least seen it advertised on TV, in newspapers or on the side of a bus. It's amazing what a multi-million pound marketing campaign can do for your self-esteem.
4 My Therapist - Every writer should have a therapist – it practically comes with the job description. But my results from this process have been a little variable. Certainly, my experience in 2010 prompted me to cast a therapist character in my novel and literally blow him up. There he is, in chapter ten, and... Blam!
In 2011, I have a lovely new therapist and things are much happier. Well, as happy as you can be and still need a therapist, anyway. It's probably breaking doctor-patient confidentiality to say any more, but I've put down the dynamite, hopefully for good
5 My Family - Like a day job, having a family can sometimes seem an impediment to writing. It's hard to concentrate on plot or character when someone is demonstrating a new game show they have invented called The Toast Factor, the winning of which requires the contestant to sing "I'm taking on toast!" in an escalating parade of silly voices.
|The family that reads together ...|
Yet, family is what makes writing worthwhile - having a loving group of people to share your successes and commiserate on your failures. My family are excellent at brainstorming, and I developed some of my best ideas around the dinner table this year. We also read, enjoyed and fought for possession of a plethora of great children's books. It was my youngest daughter who put it best, when we were trying to come up with a slogan for literacy: The family that reads together, succeeds together.
So that was 2011, a year in which the process of getting published became challenging in ways I'd never imagined. And these five key reasons were why I didn't end up gibbering in the corner, zonked out on prescription drugs. But it's ok. Because 2012 is the year when it all happens.
Kathryn Evans: Five things I’m grateful for
You see, one day, when my son says,‘So is this one going to be an actual book?’I am going to be able to say ‘YES! IT’S GOING TO BE AN ACTUAL BOOK.’ I am. And it’ll be true.
2 SCBWI in all its glorious forms. This amazing organisation provides endless tools to equip children’s writers and illustrators on the long journey to publication and beyond: Masterclasses in everything from plotting to pitching; Networking with other writers, agents and editors; Competitions to showcase your work; Friendship, Understanding; Cake, YES CAKE and best of all, to me at least, highly focussed critique from people you can trust which leads me to….
|Lovely SCBWI moment at the Great Expectations conference|
3 My YA critique group. *Happy Sigh* A critique group you can trust allows you to view the mechanics behind a good story; helps you fine tune your work; gives you fresh eyes and honest advice when something isn’t working - and when it is.
I KNOW my writing is better for these people: Nicky Schmidt, Candy Gourlay, Jeanette Towey, Jeannie Waudby, Jackie Marchant, Pat Walsh, Ellen Renner, Carmel Waldron I wouldn’t be without you - GROUP HUG :o)
|YA Critique in 2010. Back row: Jeannette and Candy. Front row: Jackie, Jeannie, Nicky, Kathy and Ellen|
4 Facebook, I <3 FB.
I know, it’s meant to be the curse of us all, the ultimate procrastination tool but I love it. Sat at my desk all day, with only my characters, a stinky dog and a senile cat to keep me company, Facebook is a portal to meet up with Other Writing Buddies (OWB's). Funny, understanding, provocative they enrich my day.
Status: OMG Have typed The End, think it’s complete rubbish. Might as well burn script and saw off my typing fingers.OWB: Want me to read it for you?
Status: Have hit rejection Wall of Doom. With head. Several Times.OWB: Did I tell you about the millions of rejections I had for my multi award winning book…
The kindness of OWB’s has astonished me: Keren David, Fiona Dunbar, Philip Ardagh, Anne Rooney, Mariam Vossough, Lucy Coats, Philippa Francis, Jackie Morris, Gillian Philip …just a few to whom I say thank you, just, thank you. And those of you who have defected to Twitter, come back I NEED YOU. We’ve got Cat videos….
And last, but possibly first:
Sophie Hicks has got my back. Just knowing this adds a strand of steel to my spinal column. She keeps the faith, maybe more than anyone, maybe more than me. She’s currently reading my new novel and, despite the usual gut clenching fear that I’ve somehow deluded myself I can write, I’m excited at the prospect that this might be the one, the breakthrough book, the one that gets shortlisted for the Branford Boase, the one that pays my debt to Sophie, the one that finally, finally enables me to say:
‘YES SON. THIS IS GOING TO BE AN ACTUAL BOOK’
Well, it IS Christmas.