Claire King

Author

Posts Tagged ‘The Night Rainbow’

The Novel Edits (Part 1)

Posted on: September 23rd, 2011 by Claire - 30 Comments

It’s starting at last. The Night Rainbow is on the move, on its way to becoming a book. And the first step is…edits.

I met my editor, Helen last week to talk through her suggestions for changes to The Night Rainbow before it goes for copy editing and translation.

I’ve never been edited before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, here is my manuscript, returned to me over lunch and marked up with edits:

edits

The yellow post it notes mark pages where Helen has suggested changes. There aren’t as many as I had expected.

Or should that be ‘feared’? After all this is my baby, my beautiful first novel.

Or should that be ‘hoped’? Because that way, the more edits come from someone other than myself, the more accountability I can pass over to others if people don’t like what they read.

Well, enough of that. You’re all going to love this book, despite the panic in my heart that tries to convince me otherwise.

Helen had told me there wouldn’t be many edits, but as a newbie to all this I didn’t really have an idea of scale. I think I was expecting to be asked to rewrite whole chunks of narrative, delete or move scenes, fill in missing details in a few thousand extra words…and apparently that does happen. It can be the case, but it wasn’t for me. So what were my edits like?

Helen has now read the book three times, and the main thing that she is focusing on is voice. My book has a five year-old narrator. The credibility of the novel rests on her voice being spot on. She doesn’t have to sound like child narrators in other books (and she won’t), but she does have to be believable, allowing the reader to be immersed in her story. To this end, Helen has gone through meticulously and pulled me up on a few words that she feels don’t sit well with the voice of my narrator. And guess what, she’s right.

I have spent the last few days going through these changes, using my eldest daughter as a sounding board – she is now conveniently just turned 6, so is very helpful for vocabulary cross-checks – how would you describe the smell of pastry? What sound does the rain make?

What has been very interesting for me as I do this is that Helen’s suggestions are sparking off ideas in my own mind about how to improve the narrative. The suggestion of one change of word has a cascade effect on the way whole paragraphs are written. The process seems very organic.

I now find myself criticising the entire manuscript yet again (and believe me I did that many times before submitting it to my agent). These words are going to be printed on beautiful paper, bound and covered and marked with my name. I want it to be perfect.

Can it be perfect? I doubt it could ever be, and readers probably are more forgiving than an editor, but we are making it as perfect as we can.

Next step, the copyedits!

 

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

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

Holding My Happy

Posted on: February 10th, 2011 by Claire - 2 Comments

This is me holding something that made me very happy. I know the writing is mirror imaged, but when I flipped the photo my head looked all wrong.

Tick Followed Tock

Posted on: February 3rd, 2011 by Claire - 28 Comments

I’ve had a few conversations this month with Indie Authors who are baffled by my willingness to sign up for a 2013 (yes, a full two years away) launch of my debut novel.

The main question is “Why Wait?” –  Not why I decided to stop approaching other publishers (who may have offered a 2012 launch) when I got the offer from Bloomsbury, but why, in this day and age, I could wait so long. If I had chosen the Indie Author route, I could have my work out there, being read by others and making money (hopefully) six months from now.

That is a really good question, but first, this:

For me, making the decision to wait is a mix of heart and mind. The heart part is easier to explain because the rational part of the decision still offers more questions than answers. Here are some of the questions that concern me, as an author, and which have guided my decision:

  • The number of books being published is increasing rapidly, but what is happening to the number of books being purchased or read? Is it keeping pace?
  • If not, does supply vastly outstripping demand mean a strong downward pressure on prices and if so is this across all books, or does it depend on how they are published?
  • In this context, what is the best way to get a literary novel to market, to ensure the widest readership and the most royalties? Is this different to genre fiction?
  • What are my aspirations as a writer?
  • Can I do this alone? Do I have enough money, do I have enough experience?

I’d also really like to point you to this excellent article here, about literary fiction, advances and e-books.

Is there a right answer or is it horses for courses? I’d love to hear your points of view on this.

Jumping for Joy

Posted on: January 18th, 2011 by Claire - 52 Comments

It’s really true! My novel, The Night Rainbow, will be published by Bloomsbury, Spring 2013!

This post is a moving feast as I try to answer some of the questions you’re all asking.

In the meantime, thank you to my agent, Annette Green and to Helen Garnons-Williams, my new editor at Bloomsbury, for believing in The Night Rainbow.

*

How long has this taken you?

I started thinking about writing The Night Rainbow sometime in 2009. I actually started writing it at the end of that summer. By spring 2010 I had a full first draft, about 75,000 words. And then I started this blog, so you can follow some of my deliberations:

So, in terms of timings: Writing the book – about a year; Finding an agent – about two months; Agreeing to an offer of representation – about two more months; From there to publication – about two more years!

*

2013? But that’s AGES away!

It does seem like that doesn’t it? But my understanding is that the average time is around 18 months, so it’s just a little longer. One of the things that frustrates a lot of authors in their search to be published is finding publishers who love their book, but whose list is already full. And there is only so much time and money in the budget. Debut novels are a particular case – the marketing effort is also launching an author’s career. In my case, Bloomsbury, even though they loved my novel, had already filled their 2012 quota for debut novelists and so they proposed the following year. Of course I discussed the other options with my agent, but after having met Helen, Erica and Alexandra at Bloomsbury I was pretty convinced I could wait a few more months if it meant having these people launch my first novel and hopefully a great future.

*

What did you talk about when you met your editor-to-be?

We talked about me – what brought me to France, the fact I had a blog (seen as a good thing), my writing to date and plans for the future. We talked about The Night Rainbow – what people at Bloomsbury loved about it, the different reactions from different readers, one particular editorial suggestion, how it compared to other novels, were there any elements of truth in it, what marketing for it might look like etc. We talked about the fact that the 2012 list was definitively closed, and the quandary that this posed…

And then I had to go and sleep on it. And Helen would go back to the Tuesday meeting to discuss it all further.  Would I get the best Christmas present ever?

*

What happens next?

I’m not entirely sure! Contracts are being drawn up and will be signed, and then there will be work to be done. A good glimpse into the future can be had at Vanessa Gebbie’s blog here where she is charting the same journey!

And thank you for being interested in all this!

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