catch up – #WhatImWriting

September is here, the kids have gone back to school and – woo hoo! – #WhatImWriting is back!

After a summer without any of these sorts of writing posts I think a good catch-up post is in order… the problem is, my head is all over the place at the moment. Not in a bad way, but the summer was really full-on with all three boys at home, then the older two went back to school in the middle of last week and before I’d really had time to breathe I was off to York for a (fabulous) weekend at the Festival of Writing. I’m freshly returned from that and my head feels like it’s full to bursting with everything I’ve heard and learnt and with all the conversations I had with so many lovely people. I feel like I haven’t had proper time to think since July!

book spiral

So. This post is likely to be less of a perfectly-honed, shiny gem of a post and more of a roughly-hewn, chunk-out-of-a-limestone-cliff, sort of a thing. But maybe if I write it it will get me closer to working out where I am with my writing and what is next.

Right.

Um.

Ok, I’ll start with my limericks… in fact, wait a sec…. I’ll do this in an organised manner:

1) Limericks

I’ve been writing limericks for my blog for a couple of years, and have been wondering for a while now about publishing some in a book of some sort. I did have some published by Iron Press last year but I’m itching to do something a bit more substantial. Over the last few months a plan has started to take shape and I’ve been working on creating a limerick anthology for kids which I intend to have illustrated and then self-publish.

This summer I’ve been working towards this goal and have snatched every chance I can to write and edit limericks. I’m pleased to say I’ve nearly completed the collection. My plan is (or was) to request some beta readers this autumn and then start seriously looking for an illustrator and hopefully edit and hone and create a book that I can publish next year.

But then I went to the Festival of Writing which, although wonderful and inspiring, was also a bit of a reality check. Because I found myself in a room (multiple rooms in fact) surrounded by clever, talented people who share the same dream I do. Well, not exactly the same dream – I don’t think they’re all avid limerick-writers – but we were all there hoping to get published at some point and not only that, to ensure sales of those future books. I suddenly felt really aware of how stiff the competition was.

This very fact was also made very clear to us by the agents and publishers there. As the very funny (and sweary) David Maybury from Scholastic books said in a seminar (forgive the paraphrasing):

“All you lovely writers sitting there: you’re NOT going to get published. Oh f**k, I had that written down here and then ‘DO NOT SAY THIS’ written above it and now I’ve said it. It’s not true. Honestly. BUT it is really, really hard to get published.”

And he then went on to tell us about how, even if you did get published you might not sell many books and how it was all a gamble and people can get dropped by their publishers for not selling enough and… well… the reality of the marketplace did hit home.

But I then had a very positive one to one meeting with Jennifer Parker from Matador books (a huge boon of the festival is that you get one-on-ones with agents and publishers). Matador are a self-publishing company who I’ve heard good things about. They offer marketing and distribution along side other services and have various freelance illustrators they work with so lots to offer someone like me. They don’t automatically agree to you self-publishing with them so I was pleased to hear they’d be happy to work with me. Jennifer also had an illustrator she thought would fit with my limericks and encouraged me to submit my full set of limericks to them for a quote. If I choose to run with my self-publishing plan, this option clearly has potential.

But… I don’t know. It’s going to be expensive. Hiring an illustrator costs a lot. And the whole ‘crowded marketplace’ thing is really living with me. Do I want to do it this way? Do I want to do it at all? And most of all, do I have it in me to properly promote and market myself? Is it worth the risk and the pressure? I’m suddenly feeling completely unsure.

2) Picture books

I’ve been working on all three of my manuscripts over the summer. Millie Tweed (my first book) is now at a point where I plan on submitting her (her? definitely time to let go of that manuscript – she’s become real!), and Pete and the Aliens (my third book) is very nearly there too. Mr Magic (book no. two) however, has taken a turn for the worse and now needs to be ignored for a few weeks/months before being re-built.

Before the Writing Festival I was planning on submitting to publishers and agents but now I’m thinking I’ll try agents as a first port of call. Having heard more about how the publishing industry works, I understand far more now about how incredibly useful an agent could be. The right agent can help you shape your writing career, edit and hone your work and point you in the right direction for future endeavours. Of course they can’t guarantee publication but they make it a lot more likely and a smoother process too. So my aim is to send Millie and maybe Pete out to them soon and see where we go from there. Having spoken to other writers I expect this to be a lengthy process but I have to start somewhere.

3) Novel no. 1

Remember that middle-grade manuscript I was writing? No? Well I hardly do either but I’d love to get back to it! I have 7000 words written and masses of notes. It’s calling to me.

4) Novel no. 2

I wrote 55,000 words of a psychological thriller last year. I’d love to finish it although having been to the festival I’m now even more aware of how crap what I’ve written is!

5) This blog

I love blogging but it takes up a lot of valuable writing time. My toddler has just dropped his nap so that time is now even more limited. Obviously I’m not going to stop blogging completely but I feel like I need to re-think things.
So that’s me now. Not remotely clear headed and, as I warned, this was a bit of a roughly-hewn post! I will attempt to write something clearer for next week. Hopefully a proper post about the Writing Festival – I learnt a lot and would love to share it.

I’m looking forward to reading about how your summers have gone!

Writing Bubble

20 thoughts on “catch up – #WhatImWriting

  1. Mummy Tries

    Oooh I love a good list, and there’s lots of positive stuff in here! I think blogging often has to take a backseat once the book stuff picks up. Matador sound great, they came up a few times when in was self-publishing. I think any help you can get with marketing and distribution has to be a good thing. Also have you considered Britain’s Next Bestseller? xxx ps. HOW fast did that summer go?!

    Reply
  2. Iona@redpeffer

    Yes, the competitive market place is a tough one-no getting away from that really. I like the sound of Matador and have also heard good things but I’m not in a position to pay anyone anything for self publication so it’s the cheap and cheerful options for me! I can’t believe its September, my son is now at school so I’m a mum of two school children and I’ve no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going (despite today’s post on the blog-it’s all bluster.) xx

    Reply
  3. Zoe

    Brilliant list! Getting published is incredibly hard, but it does happen. It happens all the time! My best mate got published after years of trying and she’s now selling best sellers, she’s my inspiration. Perseverance is the key and I’m certain it’ll happen for you the way you’re going. x

    Reply
  4. Rebecca Ann Smith

    Great post Maddy, good to see your list of projects (glad it’s not just me who has multiple things on the go at any one time). It is increasingly difficult to get traditionally published, but don’t forget the independents, which are popping up all the time. And bear in mind that even with a traditional publishing contract you’d have to do a lot of the work promoting and marketing your book yourself.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Becky. I know, there’s so much writers have to do these days – we can’t just write and edit we have to put ourselves out there and market ourselves! Scary but it’s got to be done. And I’ve definitely got my eyes on the independents too. xx

      Reply
  5. Marija Smits

    Basically, ‘ditto’ what Becky says! Don’t forget the indie presses!

    And I totally hear you about all the projects. I have about the same amount on the go at the moment too, but I’ve recently narrowed it down to the ‘big’ fantasy novel and a few short stories (and poems too – but they generally happen along in the background…). All the best with it, and as I do know some good illustrators just ask away if you want some names. :-)

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Thanks Marija, I might do just that! And yes, it’s hard to narrow things down sometimes – multiple projects are demanding my attention. Sounds like you’ve made some wise decisions. xx

      Reply
  6. Rachael

    Wow, that’s a big list! Back to school calls for a shift in focus for all of us, doesn’t it? I’m assuming books before blogs! Looking forward to hearing how you get on with agents and your post about the writing festival – whenever you get to it. :)

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Books should come before blogs but they’re much bigger project so often the reverse is true. I really do need to prioritise (she says, replying to blog comments when she could be writing). xx

      Reply
  7. Emily Organ

    Wow what a lot to think about! All I can add is that it is INCREDIBLY daunting and there’s a vast amount of competition out there. It’s so easy to get paralysed into doing nothing. Yes there are lots of people wanting to do the same, but many will give up because it’s hard work, others will get disheartened and there will be a fighting few still hanging in there (such as yourself!). I truly believe you can carve out your niche, break the task down into bite sized chunks and come up with a plan. I’m always happy to help if you need it, it’s great you have so many possibilities to look at. Personally I’d chat to someone else who has used the self publishing company if that’s the route you choose.

    Reply
  8. susankmann

    Wow that is a lot. It is hard, but if anything can get there it is you. There are so many options out there for you and I hope you find the right one. I am always here if you want to chat, I don’t have much experience, but always happy to listen. x

    Reply
  9. Nicola Young

    It’s not always a good thing to talk to the experts because you can be left with a feeling of what’s the point, but you know that you want to do this and that’s what will keep you going.

    Reply
    1. Maddy Post author

      Yes, there’s definitely a downside to talking to the experts! I think I got information overload and need more time to consider it all. Thanks Nicola. x

      Reply

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