Tuesday, 11 May 2010

How to be ready to be read
[Here's the link to my *top ten Amazon best-seller* book (grab a copy for just £2.99!):

Handing in a test paper — to be scrutinised by an examiner — that is unfinished.
Never again, the experience of bitter humiliating distress, like a bucket of putrid water to the face.
“Time’s up. Put your pens down.”

There’s no one wrenching our manuscripts from our hands or pointing manically at their watch. We have the luxury of time. But we need to be finished before submitting our work to an agent or a publisher or a literary consultant or even a friend. How do we know if the book is finished, though…ready to be read?

I’ve been drudging through dunes of books and articles and websites and blogs, longing to reach the sea, the space, the smile — longing to feel finished. If you’re tough on yourself, it’s tough to gauge how near you are to the ‘end’, the sea. We know, once there, we will be tossed by the billows, but we would do well to arrive with a decent batch of equipment: a boat, an anchor, a sail…a life jacket…a whistle…a flare. Right, enough of that sea malarkey — we need to ensure our work is as good as it can be, which means arduously going over and editing what we’ve written. Then, someone may read it. If they read the whole thing, and they criticise every aspect of it, we are not going to say,

Well, yes, I mean, I knew that really. I meant to change that bit…add something else in there…get rid of that section. Yes and of course I wasn’t at all sure about the title, and yeah I’ve really gone off the name of the main character and I was going to make him quite a bit nicer, to be honest. I don’t like him much either I suppose. And well, I’m not stupid; I knew there were tons of piddly little mistakes, but the editor’s supposed to sort them out. I mean I’m not going to clean my house before the cleaner comes, am I? Duh?!(Come to think of it, I know people who do exactly that.)

So we should alter, omit, insert, wherever it seems appropriate to us. Others won’t agree with our alterations, omissions and insertions, but we have to make those decisions. And it doesn’t matter if we’re not sure, as long as we have a good reason for them. We should not be too sure though, as we’ll be over-defensive when we’re told they’re all wrong! If it’s suggested our decisions have been rubbish, we are going to say,

Ah, okay. Thanks for that. That’s a good point. Yeah, that sounds better. No, that doesn’t sound right. I agree, ‘Rona’ instead of ‘Rhoda’; that would work well. Rona Booke, not Rhoda Booke. And, sure, I did like my title for the book on Rhoda’s…sorry Rona’s trawl of public toilets, ‘To Pee or Not to Pee’, but I like yours too — ‘Britain’s Bogs – The Best and Worst of Public Toilets’.

I mentioned books, articles, websites and blogs, so here follows a recommendation for each:

Book - Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, published by A&C Black (pretty much the bible of would-be authors)

Article – actually a series of six monthly articles in ‘Writing Magazine’, by Sophie King on the process of writing a novel, covering plotting, characterisation etc, starting in Jan 2010 edition (www.writingmagazine.co.uk and www.sophieking.info)

Websitewww.fictionfactor.com (online magazine for fiction writers)

Blog – excellent blog by Nicola Morgan, writer of 90 published books, teeming with useful advice, warnings and links, www.helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com

(My husband says this blog looks mental with all the colours and fonts. Maybe I’ll do summit different next time.)

[Here's the link to my *top ten Amazon best-seller* book (grab a copy for just £2.99!):


  1. Go go Julia! So here I am now - waiting to read what you're making ready to be read!!

  2. Yay! Well done. I'm sitting comfortably so now you can begin....

  3. Can't wait! Grosses bises Mireille

  4. Very interesting indeed. Saw your play 'Touched' in Edinburgh at The Fringe 2006 - top notch! Are we once again to be 'touched, tickled and transformed' by the human condition in your first novel?? I believe so. Let's see it out there. Good Luck Julia.

  5. Dawn Heffernan24 May 2010 at 02:25

    will you post some of your novel ? or isn't that how it works, really keen to read more you have got my interest.

  6. Sophie - ta much for feedback from play! I believe my book does indeed have a similar flavour to 'Touched'.
    Dawn - yes I plan to post some extracts soon, unless I lose my nerve... Glad you're interested!