Thursday, 16 May 2013

A writing update

 
"So how's the book going?" friends ask when I emerge from my study, and I'm never sure how much they really want to know. They probably could do without the re-enactment of the knotty plot crisis in section two, which involved pacing up and down the kitchen while stabbing a biro into my own head. An account of 'flu survival while being unable to work for two weeks will probably suffice. They can be spared details of the cold sweats and near delirium after the phone call from my editor in New York who only asked some basic, logical questions.
 
But one of the attractions of writers' blogs, whether reading or writing them, is that there is a core of honesty. Otherwise, why would you bother doing either, right? I find it interesting to know how the process works for other writers, how fast they work, what interventions and constraints there are in producing a new novel. Sometimes, there's an element of reassurance. There's a useful sense of how long it takes from first idea to finished book.
 
So, for those who are interested in such matters, here's how it's going. I had an end of March deadline to deliver the first draft of the book I've been writing since September, incorporating a novella I wrote earlier in the year - delivery to my literary agents in the first instance; delivery to publishers was fixed for the end of June. I am extremely lucky to have two literary agents these days, one in New York and one in London. It's quite the dream team.
 
I sent the manuscript in mid-March and enjoyed my freedom, not expecting to hear anything until a few weeks after Easter. Over lunch in London in mid-April with both my agents Stephanie and Araminta (who are great friends and colleagues) I was given the great news that they thought the first draft was good enough to go straight to the publishers on both sides of the Atlantic. Hurray, champagne all round - we were ahead of schedule by two and a half months!
 
Perhaps it was partly relief after all the intense work that brought me down with the 'flu, perhaps it was the busy social time the following week. At any rate, I was knocked out for a fortnight and came round to find that editorial work was already starting. When the call came from my editor at HarperCollins in New York, my brain was so foggy I couldn't even remember the names of my own characters. A few days of panic ensued, during which I had to take a long hard look at the nuts of bolts of my plot - marvelling at my editor's laser focus on the crucial issues. (It's astonishing how the asking of a very simple question can open up weaknesses.)
 
I'm feeling much better now, in all senses. The editorial process has begun, while waiting for more notes from the UK publishers, Orion. I'll keep you posted.  

9 comments:

Gill Edwards said...

really looking forward to it Deborah and pleased you are feeling much better now. Flu can be horrid.

Gill x

Deb said...

After suffering the flu, getting poked in the arm once a year is a must for me. Glad you're better!

Congratulations on pounding out that draft. Cannot wait to see where and what your characters are up to this time, and to breathe in the beautiful settings you create in words.

Best of luck, Deb!

Bonnie R said...

Fantastic news! I can't wait to hear more about it. :)

litlove said...

I'm just catching up here and so sorry to hear you've been poorly with a really nasty 'flu - ugh! But I'm quite sure it came about after you took your foot off the creative pedal. It's always a low point for me and for just about everybody else I know who writes. It may just look like sitting in a chair, but it takes a great deal out of a person, this writing business! Delighted, but not surprised, to hear the good news from the agents. I raise a celebratory vitamin C tablet to you!

Marcheline said...

I'm usually reticent to ask business/writing questions of you, but since you posted about it maybe you won't mind. How did you find your first editor/publisher? Did you go seeking for them, or did you get discovered when one of them saw something you wrote in a magazine, or did you have a lucky connection fall into place?

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Thanks for your good wishes, everyone.

In answer to Marcheline's question, the key to finding a first publisher/editor was finding a literary agent first. There I was lucky because at the time I was a London journalist and found myself meeting publishing folk in the course of my work. Though I actually knew my first literary agent from university - he had kept in touch with me and used our connection to try to place newspaper stories about his authors long before I was one myself.

We parted company a few years later because he wasn't actually a fiction specialist, though he did place my first novel and two subsequent ones with the same publisher.

My current arrangement came about when I - all guns blazing - decided to go for one of the top agents in London, who was then head of the august William Morris Agency. It was a burst of bravado that paid off. She's American and moved back to New York a few years ago, and works in partnership (for me) with a London agent.

It used to be possible to approach publishers direct - probably still is, in theory - and get a book deal, but I'd say it was rare without great contacts. Agents are more important than ever now.

Hope that's helpful. And thanks for the boost for The Lantern - much appreciated.

Marcheline said...

Thanks for the insight!

Vanessa said...

I hope you're now fully over your flu. I last had it about 5 years ago and felt ghastly. It took several weeks to get right. I've not had the jab for years because I reacted badly to it last time, so I take my chance.

Good to hear that work is going on apace with the book - and look forward very much to its publication.

MuMuGB said...

I am very pleased that it is all going so well and can't wait to read the book!

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