Sunday, 7 March 2010

More Than One - Karen Ball

Charney 2009: Some of the people who contributed to my latest WIP.

How many people does it take to write a novel? More than one, I can tell you that much. I've been working on my current project for about 18 months now. Phew - that sounds like a long time, doesn't it? But this was definitely me raising the bar for myself, charting new territory, having a go at something I'd never done before. I wanted a new challenge and, my goodness, I found it. So I'm not going to worry too much that it's taking this amount of time or this many drafts. I'm learning. And I'm definitely not learning alone.

So much is said about the solitary nature of writing, but I thought I'd take a moment to credit some of the mystery contributors to my latest WIP:
The bloggers
When I first began my YA novel I had some general rules in mind. I knew an approximate word count, what to leave out, how to excite. I had an idea. But without some of the advice that came to me via the blogging community, I'm not sure I'd have managed my first draft at all. I'd like to give particular thanks to Nicola Morgan, whose blog -
Help! I Need A Publisher - should be required reading for all aspiring authors.
My agent
I feel really lucky to have signed with an agent, Jenny Savill of
Andrew Nurnberg, who did two things that were important to me. First, she took me on. Second, she fed back. And fed back, and fed back. Her editorial guidance and patience have been invaluable as I felt my way forwards, stumbling sometimes. I now understand why so many authors talk in reverential tones about their agents.
A writing group
When first invited to join one, I shuddered. Read out extracts of my work in progress? Not on your nelly! But I was reassured that wasn't how this writers' group worked and so I nervously signed up. How glad I am. Limited to a group of four, we meet once a month. Not only has the feedback on extracts proved invaluable, but I have become heavily dependent on the emotional support and understanding that comes from peers doing the same thing. I hope I give back as much as I receive.
The Scattered Authors Society
Once upon a time I existed in a world that didn't include the
SAS. Er, how? Since signing up, I have attended the Charney retreat where I spent time polishing my first draft prior to submitting to an agent. I did a bit of napping there, too. I have made several good friends through the SAS and felt buoyed up by a writing community that shares so generously and often in a very practical manner. Where would we be without each other?
My long-suffering other half
Cups of tea. Cups of tea. Cups of tea. Oh, and the occasional order to get back to my desk and get writing! We all need a whip-cracker in our lives.

I have no idea where this manuscript will end up. If I think about it too much I get scared, as I know that the bottom drawer is a very real possibility. When I started writing I tried not to care, reminded myself how slim the chances were of publication. At some point during the process I realised that care had crept up on me - that I cared deeply. 'Blast,' I muttered. 'I'm going to be really upset now if nothing happens.' But that's the way it has to be, really, isn't it? We have to care. And the people around us have to care.

Publishing is often painted as a hard-nosed, ridiculous industry, with corporate accountants leading us all through the gates of hell as book chains crumble around us. That's not the whole picture - not by a long way. I know editors who are inspiring, authors who are generous, agents who don't scare me and publishers who are human. Crazy! Oh, and I know people who are kind.

How many people does it take to write a novel? More than one. Wherever the journey ends, I'm glad I set out on it. I wouldn't have half as many friends otherwise.

Who are the other people who contribute to your writing?

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1 comment:

Nicola Morgan said...

Oh, gosh, thank you so much for the honourable mention!! And well done finishing your WIP and coming so very far. I went to Charney in 2008 and had a lovely time, so I can imagine how that time helped you too. And I'm so glad you have found a fabulous agent who worked to get your MS as perfect as possible.

And most of all, GOOD LUCK with the next stages. And please keep me posted. You know that I always celebrate any blog-reader's first contract? Well, let me know when you get some fabulous news and you can become a "blog-baby" and get some nice extra promotion! Fingers crossed.