…I would be published already

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook (which I imagine is most of you reading this!) will have seen that on Thursday I completed my third novel. This was an incredibly emotional point, where I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to dance around ecstatically or cry, so I thought I would pause the library blogging for a moment to tell you about my writing, since that is another passion of mine.

Furthermore, I’ve read a fair few posts about writing, and a lot of them come from people who have already been published. While it is always fascinating to read their advice and hear how they ‘got there’, I thought it would also be nice to start documenting my struggles/hopes before I reach the hallowed halls of Authoress Castle, as I feel very ignorant of the whole process and think it will be helpful to track my learning curve. And, hopefully, it will be of interest to some of you!

So, you want to be an author? What does that actually look like?
Not nearly as glamorous, or pretentious, as it might at first sound! Blocks of uninterrupted time where I can sit in my ivory tower and just write are very rare, so what’s really involved in being an author is squishing writing into the tiny slots around work, life admin, and socialising. I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember, and obviously how I’ve approached it has changed a lot over the years, particularly once I started (when I was about 16) to actually consider getting things published as opposed to just writing for my own enjoyment.

But, by and large, this is what happens. Every weekday I get up earlier than I need to so that I can try and fit in some writing before work. How much I manage depends on how fast I get ready, and what time I’m needed at work, but on average I carve out about 30 mins. If I manage to write for an hour then I feel absolutely amazing! Then, once at work, I gobble my lunch in about 15 mins, in order to have the remaining 45 available for scribbling (which I do in a notebook – all writing at home I do on my laptop, because I type so much faster than I write [and editing is much easier!], but I still like to write in my notebook too). If I’m free that evening (which I likely am, unless I’m at Bible study, or out for dinner with friends) then I’ll aim to get another hour’s writing done, or at least type up what I wrote at lunch. The output varies dramatically depending on how tired I am after work, but if I’ve managed to get a good chunk done in the morning then I don’t let myself feel too bad about that.

Saturdays are my favourite. If I have a free Saturday that means roughly 8 hours uninterrupted writing time (aka, my happiest happy place!) I can usually get about 2,000 words (approx. 4 typed A4 pages) written on a Saturday – sometimes, when the Muses have been particularly kind, I’ve managed entire chapters (roughly 4,000 words) but that is a rare and exhausting feat! Generally another thousand gets written on a Sunday, and then it’s back to frantically scribbling during the week whenever I have a spare 5 minutes!

What are your novels about?
Well, of course, I don’t want to give any spoilers, but generally I write either fantasy or historical fiction (set in times that are long enough ago to feel fantastical in and of themselves). Studying Classics has been a huge influence on my work: partly because the literature of Ancient Greece and Rome is just beautiful, partly because the politics and social life of the time is fascinating, and provides much inspiration, and partly because immersing yourself in myths is the perfect way to get the imagination whirring!

To specifics: my first novel (working title, The Dawn Star) was finished when I was 16, and has been through three re-drafts since then! It contains all one might expect of a fantasy novel: warring gods/goddesses, tyrants who must be cast down, riddles to solve, and many magical creatures. When first completed it was a weighty tome of c.200,000 words, but I’ve since managed to cut it down (with many tears!) to about 130,000 by basically re-writing the entire story… It will be part of a trilogy when I find time to write the rest!

The other two (The Obsidian Poplar and The Obsidian Crown) have been three years in the writing, and are my retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth from Persephone’s perspective. So, again, we have warring gods and goddesses, but also an incredible amount of emotion that still shoots through to the present day. When I was looking at what other books had been written on the myth I found a lot of modernisations, and a lot of erotica (which, of course, I avoided) but very little that actually took the original texts and brought them to life. So, that is what I have tried to do, because I passionately believe that Classics is still a living, breathing subject and has a lot to teach us (or even just for us to enjoy!). It took an awful lot of cross-referencing (heroes turn up in lots of different stories without any respect for authors trying to write a chronologically sound book…), and much research into everything from textile production to religious festivals, but I am very happy with what has come out of it all.

Are you trying to get published?
Most definitely, but it is a most daunting process! Publishers very rarely accept manuscripts direct from authors now, so I am currently trying to get a literary agent, who will pitch my book to editors and publishers, and so forth! At a very illuminating talk I went to recently, hosted by The Writers Workshop, I learnt that an average agency receives 2,000 submission a year, of which they will represent 2. My mathematically inclined friends assure me this means that, in order to get an agent, you need to be in the top 0.1% of the manuscripts they receive, which is, obviously, quite a challenge.

Each submission also entails an 8-12 week wait (minimum, according to my own experience) before you hear back from an agency, which, though it’s completely understandable given the volume of material they receive, is also an agonising amount of time when your lifelong dream is at stake. This is where friends have been vital for keeping me sane, so thank you all!

So, what’s next?
While submitting The Obsidian Poplar to agents I think might like it, I’ll naturally be cracking on with my fourth novel! I feel rather adrift now The Obsidian Crown is done, and am keen to get on with something new. Currently I have 30 other novel ideas (by which I mean half a plot structure, a rough outline of a fictional society, or a heroine/hero planned out). Of those, 14 are at a stage where I feel I have enough detail to begin writing: 7 Classics/myth-based ones, 4 fantasy, and 3 dystopias.

I’m still teetering between 3 of those, but am determined to make up my mind today, so I shall close now and put my mind to some serious thinking. I hope you have enjoyed this insight into my literary life, and that one day I will have some joyous publishing news to share!

Naomi x

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