The Novelry Blog
Where the writers are.
It is a fine thing, growing older, as a writer. One has experience to draw upon, of people and all their animal behaviour, but also where to draw the line. Where to end the sentence. Enough said. Maybe we speak to each other in shorthand as we get older. There is the unspoken ellipsis that follows a word or a phrase, which draws on a hinterland of colourful experience. The Marquee Tent.... And so many moments come to mind for both the user of the word and the recipient. One develops a reticence to say more. Or maybe much.
Writers develop over time. No bad thing maybe that you weren't published at nineteen. I was struck this week by the changes in the work of the author Norman Mailer (1923-2007). Over time, he wrote leaner and cleaner. (I see a similar thing in Orwell's work, the same with Graham Greene. Happy the young writer who cracks it early.)
In Normal Mailer's novel, Barbary Shore (1951) one is struck by the coddy language. It's so over-written...
As I entered into the fourth draft of my current novel, set in Brooklyn where I lived happily for a few years at the turn of the century, I turned back to console myself that the redrafting process was ever the same, even in the glory days and checked my process for my first novel.
I decided to look at first draft vs. final draft to see 'what gives', and to examine some other authors' first and last drafts too.
It was 19 years ago this month, July, that I set about writing my 'proper' first novel. I had two in the drawer and I meant business. I was heavily pregnant (due November) and had two boys under 5 at home in Brooklyn. I had a premise which started out as pretty hokey in February 2001 but by July I'd been turning it around in my mind for a few months.
This was what I set down in July when I began:
The working title for what was to become 'Becoming Strangers' was 'The Last Resort'. I must have felt at some point...
Emylia Hall, a bestselling author of four novels and a Richard and Judy Book Club favourite is joining The Novelry as a tutor. She's a wonderful teacher, a mother, a fellow of The Royal Literary Fund, and she's currently at work on a murder mystery. Read more about Emylia here.
From the Desk of Emylia Hall.
When I was 27 I left my job in a London advertising agency and went to work in the French Alps as a chalet chef. At the time I called it a career break, but it turned out to be the start of something much more. I’d wanted to shake off some responsibility and go snowboarding, but I also had the ambition to try to write a book. I had a few abandoned paragraphs on a floppy disk (this was 2005) but I’d got no further with it. Perhaps if I’d found the right inspiration or intervention, I might very well have applied myself to writing in London but, as it was, the move gave me the freedom and confidence to make a proper start. I was simultaneously...
The bestselling author of The Girl in the Red Coat, Kate Hamer explores the story starter of 'fairy tales' which is where the magic of our Classic course begins, the course designed to help writers find the story they're meant to write, or possibly afraid to write...
From The Desk of Kate Hamer
Perhaps it’s these strange lockdown times.
As ever I aim to get to my desk by 9.30 am – the time I used to start work in my job. Sometimes, I admit I’m late, the irony being I’m probably a whole lot harder on myself about that than any boss I’ve ever had would’ve been. So maybe the time of starting and finishing is sometimes a little *cough* flexible, but somehow there is never a question mark over the fact there IS a start and finish time, but it’s only recently in this new reality we find ourselves in has it occurred to me to question, why? Why on earth do I – we – have this compelling urge to take to our notepads and computers...
Finding an Agent.
Many of you may be putting the final tweaks on the third or fourth draft of your novel (or later!) and considering the right time to query an agent. There are a few things to bear in mind when doing so, and in the Big Edit course at The Novelry we demystify the submission package: the query letter, the synopsis, and your opening chapters.
Most agents find writers through their slush pile. It’s a terrible name given to something so vital to the publishing business – the ‘pile’ (nowadays likely an email inbox) of unsolicited manuscripts sent in by hopeful writers. There is no shame in your novel sitting in slush; there is a long, pervasive misbelief that publishing works on ‘who you know’. It’s simply not true.
In 2015, I sent my unsolicited novel to eight agents I had never met. Each of them replied to me. Six offered to represent me. I didn’t know anyone! The only thing I knew was my own novel – and you’ll...
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