I wrote a children’s book, sent my manuscript to a few agents, and kept my fingers crossed. The rejections came quick and fast, but I was lucky enough to get some feedback, along with the bog standard rejections. I rewrote it and sent it out again. I had a similar response. Self-publishing seemed like the ideal solution. I have written previous posts on my self-publishing journey, so I won’t go into detail here, but I certainly learnt a lot! I got as far as ordering my second proof from Createspace, and knew that after a few more tweaks (correcting a newly discovered spelling mistake on the back cover, and reformatting the contents page) I could order my third proof and hopefully that would be it; I could press the big red button on Createspace and bam my book would be in circulation. But something held me back.
I realised that I wanted more than to self-publish. I wanted to be a good writer. I thought about doing a degree in creative writing, but practically and economically, it wasn’t an option. But I knew that I needed expert help, so I decided to hire the services of a literary consultant. After a bit of googling, I narrowed my choice down to Cornerstones and Shelley Instone. These were two of the names attached to my rejection emails. I found it really difficult to decide between the two, but went on gut instinct, and booked in with Shelley Instone.
I received my editorial report a couple of weeks ago, and if I’m being honest, initially I was disheartened. Why was I doing this? I’ll never be a good writer. Why don’t I learn to sew instead?
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of self-doubt; sometimes you need it, to motivate you. After the horrible feelings had passed, I read the report again, and I started to follow the advice I had been given.
My editorial report contained a list of books which Shelley thought I should read. These are mainly children’s books e.g. books by Sophie Mckenzie and Robert Muchamore. However, Shelley also suggested that I read Steering the Craft, by Ursula Le Guin, as she reckons it is the best creative writing book on the market. I will let you know how this goes, in a future post.
A day after reading my editorial report, I suddenly felt the urge to start rewriting and I managed to get out 5000 words very quickly. My twelve year old was nosing around, over half term, and found and read the new beginning. His exact words were, “It’s awesome! Way better than the last one! When are you going to finish it?” This was encouraging, as he was rating it much higher than previously, and I was also intrigued by the fact that he didn’t recognise it as the “same” book. It was at this point that I realised that my “rewrite” may in fact turn out to be another book. This can only be a good thing – right?
I thought it would be helpful for people to know what kind of things were in my editorial report, and I would love to know what you think about certain issues, to help me along, so here’s a summary:
1) My editorial report suggests some of the writing is “twee”. It’s true to say that the books I read when I was younger, were more “twee” than books of today, and maybe, subconsciously, this influenced my writing. Also, the report suggests that my characters are too deferential, and the main character is too dull. Ouch! I know that kids of today are very different from my day, but I didn’t realise it wasn’t coming thorough in my writing. My children certainly answer back more than I did when I was a child, and to a certain extent, I think this is a common feature in all children; but the children themselves don’t think they are being disrespectful. Kids portrayed in books and TV these days, do seem to come across as having more attitude! What do you think? Is this a good thing?
2) Shelley suggested that I remove the adults from my book, as they appear to act as a safety net for my characters, and that I need to focus more on the child characters. This is a fair point, but I’m wondering whether it’s the way I included the adults? Many children’s books have adults in them.
3) I use technology to move my story forward, but the report suggests this lacks credibility and it makes things too easy for my characters, as they never face real adversity. Again, I think I need to find the right balance. What do you think?
4) Apparently, my plot is very predictable and poorly constructed. Well – I obviously need to work on that one!
5) Avoid physical descriptions – my last post was about this very issue and the report suggests I was wrong! Shelley says that the characters’ personalities have to connect with the reader, first. However, this contradicts with some of the books that she has recommended, which dive into character descriptions immediately. Very confusing! Later on, the report also suggests that the physical descriptions of my characters are mundane. Hmmm…
6) Avoid clichés – this is an interesting one because I didn’t think that I had that many in my book, and the first couple of books I have read from my editorial report reading list use more clichés than I do!
Examples of clichés in my work (as from the report):
…a sudden black hole formed…
and everything about the weather! Which makes me think that it’s difficult to write about the weather without it being a cliché! Any suggestions?
7) Pace and tension is described as lacking in a lot of the chapters. I knew this was absent from the middle of the book, so I obviously need to work on this.
8) Grammar – there was no mention other than one obvious comma that needed inserting. It made me realise that I concentrated too much on this, rather than the plot construction.
The main thing I agree with in my editorial report is that it was a brave first attempt, but I am at the beginning of my creative writing journey. I have learnt so much over the last couple of years, but I am glad that I sought professional advice to point me in the right direction. I can now focus on improving my writing. The only question that remains is … should I self-publish the first book, or wait till I have a better one?
Here’s a link to a website which explains about literary consultants: http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/how-to-choose-a-literary-consultant/