Oh hello little blog. You are still here. Staring at me blankly. Tapping your foot. Throwing your bloggy arms up to heaven and saying ‘where were you?’ Well, frankly, it’s not you. It’s me. I’ve been very busy.
I mean really busy. So busy at times I thought I might cry. You know that boo-hoo when you’re in the middle of your exams and you wake up exhausted and feel even more exhausted when you realise it’s only morning and you have to go through the whole day ahead of you yet. And do double the work you did yesterday.
Well that. That’s how the form has been. And all because I entered my little pocket novel into a competition and had to meet a deadline.
Deadlines are great. Nothing gets my bum on the seat and the eyes on the screen quicker than a race on the clock. It has to be a proper deadline with consequences. Like a closing date. Or a fine. Or seeing my dreams drown in the drain in front of me. I’m good at challenging myself. And boy, was this a challenge.
I’d come across the competition on a UK website called Prize Magic which lists writing competitions. It’s like a website straight out of the 90s, all linear and clunky text, but wow, is the information gold there. The competition I found is run by a publisher called Choc Lit who publish quality women’s fiction and they have a Search for a Star contest at the moment. An X-Factor for books. I’m in!
So off I popped the entry form and fee and a few days later the publishers requested the manuscript.
Eh, what now?
The whole script? And nothing but the script?
I asked for a few days to proof, which they graciously granted and told me I had in fact another week or so before the competition closed. So that was that week of my life written off then. I spent every single spare minute working on the book. I had to add words to meet the requested word count. I reworked scenes. I cut bits out. I added bits in. I had to go back and do a rewrite of many chapters because I changed some of the story line. I realised I had used different names in some parts of the book. And spellings. And all along, I had been sending out a synopsis which was actually different from what happens in the book.
I worked through the bank holiday and the few days holidays I had from work. I bribed the child with Peppa Pig and biscuits. Luckily the husband had gone on a holiday himself. Because there would have been no speaka the English between us. He would have been firmly ignored and more than neglected.
No one told me how much work is involved when it comes to editing a book. I thought it’d be a case of getting the red pen out, doing a bit of reading, a few scribbles here and there and a slight bit of formatting. I’m a bit of formatting freak. I like things to be even. And no double spaces. And if there’s a stray comma… JESUS. I hate that.
So I’m telling you now. Clear the diary and give yourself weeks. Editing your book takes ages. And this is before a copy editor has even gotten near it.
On Halloween night, while the bangers were going off in the fields outside, while the children were hallucinating from sugar highs in their beds and while all my friends were dressed up, out and melting off their face paint with the alcohol sweats, I was at home on my bed.
My right hand was typing, solo. My left hand was holding our laptop charger in the air. I say ‘our’ because ‘my’ charger packed up weeks ago. Myself and himself have been sharing. And this has led to a bit of a disaster. Somehow, his charger has gotten broken too.
I could get a bit of a charge if I held the wire a certain way – straight up and over my head. If I flinched, the green light went off. And so I copied and pasted each chapter, formatted it and merged it into one giant document, all with one hand. When I got the battery up by an extra 3%, I could let my other hand down and give it a rest. Besides, the wire was burning a hole in my finger.
And after a few hours of this, it was done. The document was compiled. 33 chapters. 303 pages. And the word count ended in 333. Surely a sign? Of luck? I pressed send. And then I realised. I just a wrote a book. Even if it is never published, if it languishes in email inboxes and at the bottom of slush piles forever, I have achieved a dream I’ve had ever since I was a little girl.
I wrote a book.
And I’m so happy I could cry. An emotional novelist. I like it.