NWA aftermath

So, update time. Nothing but Writing News in this post. I’ll do a more general entry later this week.

Last time we were here I’d just won a Northern Writers Award. Which was (is, still) pretty exciting, after it sunk in. In the classic way of all things writing, there was a whirl of a few weeks with tonnes of activity – followed by weeks of quiet, just me, in a room, swearing at a screen.

First up was a pitching workshop, which was invaluable and taught a group of us how to network, essentially. Which is a skill no one actually teaches, I don’t think, except for maybe finishing schools. There’s an art to strolling up to strangers in a crowded room and being able to smoothly introduce yourself and why you’re there and be able to pitch/promote your book / project without umming and erring and feeling silly.

We learnt techniques that I’ll be taking into interviews for the rest of my life. I think we all also spent the week after the workshop honing the pitches of our books endlessly, introducing ourselves to imaginary agents in the shower and telling our own reflections the bones of the stories we’ve been writing.

A week later we, and several other people – winners of various writing competitions – were in London as part of the New Writing North Summer Salon. We had a talk with reps from the Society of Authors (this organisation is invaluable) and then presentations from the various teams at One World, talking us through the commercial publishing process. Again, hugely fascinating to me, as someone who has only worked in B2B and magazine publishing. Though I have to say, having spent most of my career with at least one foot in production, I could’ve spotted the production manager a mile off from the look of mild stress and ‘oh god, I have tonnes to do, how long will this take’.

And then it was time for the super glamourous salon, held in an art gallery. I stuck largely to elderflower cordial because I didn’t want to get too giggly drunk and also one of my eyelids droops when I’ve been drinking. It was a very warm evening, and turned out to be a lot of fun, as a bunch of nervous writers mingled with various publishing folks. There was a moment, I think, where you looked around and realised that we had all realised we had a right to be there – which obviously we all knew but didn’t feel. But you could see people had realised that we weren’t going to be laughed at for, I guess, pretending to be writers. Agents who weren’t interested were up front; those who were asked questions. I picked up enough interest to go away happy, with a couple of people added to the ‘dream agent’ list in my head (and on my computer).

Which leaves me where I am now. I did all that pitching, but still had to actually finish the novel. Literally no point in sending anyone the first chapters of an incomplete manuscript (no exceptions). So I did. I took the opportunity of that trip to London and used some of my award money to take days to remind myself of certain areas and do some extra research – all of which was worthwhile. It gave me a kick to launch into the last part of the story. I had two days in a hotel to just write.

A few weeks after that I finished the first draft. God, that’s a different kind of high, isn’t it? Typing The End felt great. Knowing I actually had something complete to work with was amazing. A weight lifted.

Took a breather and a break, and then edited the crap out of it. And now it’s out with a few trusted (and a couple of new) beta readers.

The feedback I’ve had so far has been enthusiastic and very buoying. Like, I think it might be good, or getting there. I think everyone passes their writing on to readers knowing which bits they, personally, are worried about, and wondering if those things are actual issues. So I’ve had relief of some things that I was worried about receiving a lot of love, but other things, which I knew weren’t quite right, being confirmed as needing to change (dammit). I’m still waiting on some readers, but I’m gearing up for the next round of rewrites, and then – well. Lift off, I guess. Out to agents. Which will be a relief, because if someone wants it, great. If not, then boooo, but at least I can get on with the next thing whole-headedly.

I have already started the next thing.

I am looking for more freelance work, so if you know of any, or have any you might want to throw my way, please get in touch. Skills: copywriting (I can do serious product stuff, articles and the like. To a better standard than the word vomit you’re ploughing through at the moment). Pretty decent editing, too. I also give good feedback on other people’s stories and novels – free to friends, but if I don’t know you then contact me (I’m on Twitter, DMs open), haggle a price, and I promise well-considered, dead honest and helpful criticism designed to aid, not crush.

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