Claire King

Author

Archive for March, 2011

Double Standards Recycling Angst

Posted on: March 30th, 2011 by Claire - 20 Comments

I am having a clear out. I am recycling many things.

This is a good thing. Good because I am lightening the accumulation of stuff which loafs around my house getting dusty and looking reproachfully at me as I fail to dust it in favour of doing some writing. Good because recycling is not the same as tossing things into landfills. So far so good.

My problem is with the books – I have Oh So Many books that, sadly, have come to the end of their days. I have given as many to the local library as they would accept, and am now left with several large boxes of dusty paperbacks, some of these are more than 25 years old. I will never read them again. I will never recommend them to visitors. I have no room to put them on book shelves. And yet I feel very twitchy at the idea of recycling them along with cereal packets, junk mail, envelopes and magazines.

And there’s the thing – why do I feel OK recycling piles of monthly magazines (costs £3 – £4 each) and yet vacillate over each novel (cost £5 – £8)?

Why does disposing of a book feel so personal?

Have Book, Will Travel

Posted on: March 29th, 2011 by Claire - 12 Comments

I was thrilled recently to hear that my first foreign rights deal for The Night Rainbow has been made, for Dutch rights, by auction! The rights have gone to Jacqueline Smit at AW Bruna/Orlando whose wonderful enthusiasm for my novel matches that of my agent and my UK editor. How exciting is that? (Really exciting!)

I hadn’t really been thinking much about foreign rights up until now, and now I do I’m aware how little I know about this aspect of the publishing world. Twitter is also ablaze with people talking about various book fairs…so I decided it’s time to find out more.

I’ve asked Clare Wallace, fellow alumna of the 2010 Bristol Short Story Prize, and now a rights manager at Darley Anderson literary agency, to answer some of my questions:

Congratulations on landing a job at Darley Anderson! Can you tell us what your job title is and what it involves?

Thank you! And massive congratulations on getting an agent, getting a UK deal and selling translation rights! Wow! It’s incredible news! My job title is Rights Manager which means I negotiate deals for translation rights all over the world for all of the Agency’s authors.

For anyone reading who is looking to work in publishing, what skills and characteristics would you say are important to be a rights manager?

I’m still new to my role and I’m learning all the time but I would say you need to be very organised, methodical and good at multitasking – which also means you need to be able to handle pressure. You need to like building lasting relationships with people but also enjoy negotiations and making deals. You need to be driven and incredibly passionate about your authors and their work – you want to build every author in every territory and create internationally bestselling books!

Are there big differences between selling a book to home publishers and selling foreign rights?

Not really. The process is the same; you select the editors that you think would want to publish a particular author and then you submit the author’s manuscript for consideration.

My editor told me recently that my manuscript had been read by “lots of literary scouts…who were now writing favourable reports to their clients.” I have to admit I didn’t know these people existed! Do you have contact with literary scouts? Do they contact you, or vice versa, and at what stage of the game?

I am in constant contact with literary scouts. Having literary scouts writing favourable reports for your novel is the best position to be in because literary scouts act as a filter and a matchmaker for the publishers that they work for – it really has an impact if a literary scout recommends your work to their clients. At the Darley Anderson Agency scouts get in contact with us if they hear about a manuscript they think their clients might be interested in, and when we send a manuscript out on submission all over the world it goes to scouts too.

You’re very busy at the moment getting ready for the London Book Fair and for Bologna. What kind of preparations do you need to make? What will you be doing during the actual fairs?

At a book fair the Darley Anderson rights team have back-to-back appointments with publishers. The rights team pitch their rights list to publishers and talk about their debut authors, pitch existing authors’ backlists and describe their big titles. We prepare for every appointment by looking at what has previously been bought and by having an idea of which titles might fit each publisher’s list. It’s a lovely opportunity to actually meet all the people you work with face to face because most of the deal making and negotiating I do is via email. And it’s the perfect place to make new contacts, learn more about the different markets and talk to editors about what they are currently looking for.

Does your busy lifestyle leave you any time to write? What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment, because I’m fairly new to the role and because Bologna is closely followed by London Book Fair there isn’t much time to do anything except work and read. But I still love writing and don’t ever want to give that up. There’s an idea for something lurking around and I hope I’ll have a bit more time to work on it over the summer . . .

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Before I go, I just wanted to say that at the Darley Anderson Agency nearly all of our authors are found in the submission pile – we are always on the lookout for new talent and the next bestseller – so if anyone is thinking about submitting have a look at our website and see if you think we would be a good fit – and then just follow the submission guidelines.

Thank you very much for having me along! And please keep me posted about The Night Rainbow because I can’t wait to read it.

Many thanks for coming to my blog, Clare and for taking the time to answer these questions when you’re obviously so busy!

You can follow Clare on Twitter @clarewallais

Pub/Lit Roundup (2)

Posted on: March 19th, 2011 by Claire - 7 Comments

Here are my top 20 finds of the last month:

Literary Agents and Publishing

Are you on submission? Then exercise discretion on your blog – Literaticat

The 99 cent Kindle novel Perceived value and consumer choices by Nathan Bransford

Bloomsbury predict 2011 e-book sales will be ‘off the scale’ – London Book Fair article

The agency model for selling ebooks – unfair and illegal? Guardian article

A breakdown of marketing activities for a debut self-pub book launch by Joanna Penn

Self-publishing is hard work – Interview with Derek Haines

An interview with literary scout Louise Allen-Jones by Gemma Noon

The publishing pieMargaret Atwood talk, and here being interviewed afterwards – The author as a dead moose

How to write a query letter by Bubble Cow

*

Craft/Writing

Checklist of 17 questions for your novel by Emma Darwin

The Training-Wheels Novel (some novels are just a warm up) by Nichole Bernier

You totally want to be a writer – Somewhat profane pep talk by Chuck Wendig

100 things about writing a novel – by Alexander Chee

We cannot create a fiction from a fiction – emotional structure in writing by Peter Dunne

Seven questions you should ask a writer by Richard Dansky

Inspiration vs. Determination by K.M. Weiland

*

Writing Competitions

How to win a short story competition – Sarah Dobbs and Sarah Hilary

The BBC National Short Story Award

*

Cool Stuff

How ink is made by Peter Welfare

*

Literature

National Book Critics award – Female author wins, Male loser gets the publicity. – MOBYLIVES article

Layers not Lines

Posted on: March 15th, 2011 by Claire - 20 Comments

I’ve been trying to explain how I write – without formalising a plot (I think this makes me what is called a Pantser) – to writers who are more used to devising their plot before they start (Plotters). So here goes.

Bedtime Stories are a good example:

If you sat down with your child – or somebody else’s child – tonight and they asked you to make up a bedtime story, how would you do it? At our house when we do this, there is no plotting, you just make it up as you’re telling it.

For example, “Once upon a time there was…” What? Quickly! A dragon who was afraid to fly? A cat with no friends? A little girl who couldn’t get to sleep? A boy made of jelly?

Once you have come up with that original character-based premise, the rest of your story can quickly take shape on the hoof – the action, the setbacks, the antagonists and the ally and of course the Happily Ever After.

Starting with a premise:

When I’m writing, I work in the same way. I start with a premise. So The Night Rainbow premise was essentially ” Once upon a time there was a little girl who had no-one to take care of her.” And then I started creating the world around her. Where does she live? What would she do when she wakes up in the morning? What does she want? What danger could she be in? How would she spend her days? Why is her mother not looking after her? And so on.

The answers to these questions did not come to me in a logical manner. They bloomed, one by one, and each time they did, they came with their own questions. I wrote it all down.

Writing in Layers:

Of course a novel is much more complex than a bedtime story, but the process of starting at page one and ending at the end is still counter intuitive to me. So when I started writing these things down, I didn’t worry about starting at the beginning, I just captured it all and developed it as fully as I could at that time. It fit everywhere and nowhere in the logical construct of a novel. For example I wrote the bones of the ending quite early on. Once I knew where the girl lived I drew a map, and it became more elaborate as her adventures progressed. I had to go back into the manuscript regularly to weave in the geography.

Throughout the whole process new ideas would come to me that strengthened earlier or later sections of the book and each of those had a knock-on effect on the rest of the novel.

The ‘first draft’ was finished when I seemed to have answered all of my questions – within the narrative or within the notes alongside it. And then I asked myself…

So what would be the best way to tell this story?

The implications of this question are huge – moving whole chunks of the book from one place to another, deleting scenes, adding new scenes, making the character development consistent, ensuring foreshadowing in the right places and so on and so on.

Thank goodness for word processing and thank goodness for Scrivener which helped me stay organised.

This process took a long time and resulted in the second draft, by which time I would say the plot was clear to anyone now reading the manuscript.

Another art metaphor – writing in layers compared to painting in layers:

Another way of explaining this is by comparing the emerging story to a picture.

Rather than the narrative emerging as though from a printer – one line of pixels at a time – for me it works more like an oil painting, one layer created at a time:

In oil painting most artists paint in layers.

The artist often starts by sketching out the composition onto the canvas.

They might then proceed by painting in different colour layers working from darkest to lightest.

Entire layers can be removed if the artist isn’t happy with them.

The borders of the colors are blended together when the “mosaic” is completed.

Details are applied at the end.

 

And finally

This is just how I work and everyone works differently. So here are some interesting links:

A discussion here about Plotters versus Pantsers

The snowflake method by Randy Ingermanson

Pens at Dawn

Posted on: March 8th, 2011 by Claire - 16 Comments

...a highly civilized institution among barbarous people

“Have at you scurvy knave, with thy grandiose vocabulary!”

“You cad! You scoundrel! I shall put to death at once all those foul words with which you tarnish my literary delights.”

“Literary delights? I scoff at your arrogance, you mendacious varlet! Thy feet are stuck in the swamps of the past.”

“You are a turncoat and a bounder! The only true way is the way of paper, the way of the trade publisher! You cheapen the great literary tradition!”

“You cheapen yourself, Sir, with your ignorance.”

“My ink will be the death of you!”

“Oh, we shall see about that!”

Enough already! Enough of the in-fighting! Are we not all writers, united by this desire to write down stories that other people want to read?

I’m not opposed to reasoned debate, of course, but what is all this ‘Mine is better than yours’ that the literary community seem to have become embroiled in? I call out two big BORING bitch-fests:

1. Self-publishing/Indie Publishing versus Trade publishing.

Yes. These days there are different ways to go about getting your work out to your audience. Will one make you more money than the other? Who knows?Time will tell. In the meantime why not just take whichever route tickles your fancy and follow the example of Amanda Hocking – as someone who has recently been held up as the darling of indie authors because she has achieved phenomenal success, Amanda could easily have jumped on the ‘My dad’s army is bigger than your dad’s army’ bandwagon. Instead, in her post here, Amanda steps neatly out of the ‘which is better’ debate. Full credit to her.

2. Literary Fiction versus Genre Fiction

Do we really need to choose one or the other? Can we not have our Dickens with a side order of  Whipple? This topic was recently brought to light again, albeit inadvertently, by BBC2 programming for World Book Night. The programming seemed to be intentionally balanced – a programme about commercial genre fiction followed by one on the best new talent in literary fiction. So far so good. But it couldn’t be that simple.

Cue Sue Perkins interviewing Lee Child. Lee Child being very balanced and nice about everyone, until, inexplicably, he uttered words along the lines of ‘we genre writers could write literary fiction, but literary authors could not write genre fiction’ (my paraphrasing).*

Now, I’m mostly a Lit-Fic kinda gal, but I have read Lee Child and think he’s a cracking writer. But why? Why would he say that?

I have a suspicion that this is about clans. Here is an example of my childhood paradigm (long since broken, hence why I feel comfortable with using it as an example):

English people are better – they are good and clean, whilst French people smell of garlic, and poo into holes in the ground.

But within England – The North is good and hardworking, those living south of Nottingham are soft southern Jessies.

Within the North, of course, Yorkshire is good, Lancashire is bad.

But when we say Yorkshire is good, we mean the good, hardworking people of Sheffield, not the poncy posh lot in North Yorkshire: Bronte Country = rubbish, Full Monty Country = ace.

But within Sheffield, you know, there are the posh bits, and the decent bit. Oh and the scummy bits. Those of us in the middle, we’re the salt of the earth, us.

But not that estate over the road, that’s full of losers.

On our street,  actually, a lot of them are stuck up or ignorant. That’s why family’s important.

Except my brother, he’s crap.

And it’s the same with writing.  But can’t we rise above all that and as writers, turn our attention away from each other and towards, say, those people who think it’s a good idea to shut down our libraries?

I’m just saying.

* He also suggested that literary fiction tends to use big words where small ones would do. This caused my husband to write this blog post and associated big-word-ometer.

10 Things Children Don’t Say to Writers

Posted on: March 4th, 2011 by Claire - 39 Comments

“This is us, watching you write. We can only see the back of your head.”

I was just reading Alison Wells’ post about self-confidence/self-doubt where she makes the point that her children accepted the fact she’s a writer without question. I believe this is because (at least with small children) they have not yet forgotten that Mummy is a super hero.

If I told my daughters that I’ve decided to be a spaceman, they’d probably say, “Good idea, that sounds exciting!

The kind of things my children do say about my writing are:

It’s good you are writing books. Books are important because they tell us about things that happened when we weren’t there.

and

Will you write a story for me? With a zebra in it?

On the other hand, the kind of things my children don’t say include:

1. Have you written anything I might have read?

2. Have you got an agent yet?

3. Just short stories? So you’re not actually an AUTHOR or anything.

4. It’s all going digital anyway.

5. Have you had anything published? So you write for, like, a hobby?

6. Literary Fiction? What exactly does that mean?

7. Can you get me a free copy of your book?

8. Have you made, like, millions?

9. I don’t read much.

10. I’m going to write a book too, when I’m not so busy. (If children want to write a book they just go and get on with it).

These are the kind of things that only grown-ups would say. Because grown-ups have forgotten that we can be whatever we want to be. Because grown-ups may have become just a teensy bit cynical. Now, this is just my hypothesis, so I look forward to your comments!

The Other Side of the Fence

Posted on: March 2nd, 2011 by Claire - 11 Comments

I find myself sitting on the other side of the fence. Rather than writing and submitting my own fiction, today I’m reading short story submissions for The View From Here literary magazine, where I am now Fiction Editor.

This is a recent development, and making the shift of perspective has not been easy. I now have an inbox full of submissions and more coming in each day. I need to read each story carefully, and then choose around three per month to be published in the magazine.

The first week I read slowly. Wanting to be certain of my decisions, I agonised over each piece and often went back to re-read them, to see if this time I’d ‘get’ them more than on the first reading. Meanwhile the backlog of submissions continued mounting up. Needing a confidence booster I went back and re-read this blog post from Tania Hershman, who single-handedly read and judged 849 stories in two months. Tania’s concluding advice to writers is “Write what you want to write, and don’t be disheartened (if your story doesn’t make it) – send it out again”

Just keep swimming.

There’s the thing. Having a story rejected from a literary journal or a competition is not like getting a bad mark at school. Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your work isn’t brilliant. As someone making the decisions on which pieces to publish, I had to remind myself of this, because we receive, quite simply, many more great stories than we have space for.  I also went back to read this blog post by Nik Perring where he makes the very same point – even really excellent stories get rejected.

So how do I choose? The truth is that in the pieces that I’ve selected for publication, there’s something about the voice that grabs me from the first paragraph. Something vibrant, something new. These are the pieces that, if I’d read them in a book, I’d be calling my friends to say ‘hey, you must buy this.’ And I’m starting to realise that I simply know this when I see it. So the reading process is getting faster. I still don’t like sending out a rejection, but for many I have confidence that if they are sent back out into the world they will surely find an editor for whom the story resonates.

On the subject of rejection, I’m using a standard rejection. I’m sorry, really I am, because I would love to write personalised notes of thanks and perhaps explanations to each writer. But unfortunately there aren’t enough minutes in the day. This is something I am doing out of a passion for good writing. It’s not paying the bills, contributing to the family or advancing my own writing. So whilst I take the time to read each story properly, I’m opting to save time on the responses.

If you have found this page because you received a rejection from me and wondered why, I hope this helps. And you are always welcome to contact me for more information.

PS: Here is another interesting piece on editing a literary magazine.

PPS: If you would like to submit your fabulous short fiction (up to 5000 words) for consideration, the flavour of the publication is “Bohemian Eclectic”… read more about that and the submission guidelines here.

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