Well, 2019 is almost at a close and I resume my seat at the keyboard after an extended haitus for a bit of self-reflection and a summing up.
Eager readers will have noted that I have posted only once since October after assiduously writing just about every week in the earlier part of the year. The subject of my last post goes some way to explaining my radio silence – it’s been hard to focus on the comparatively trivial topic of my writing endeavours in the face of much bigger questions about life and death.
That’s not to say I haven’t continued to make a few small moves in the direction of getting my manuscript published. I have. But somehow the momentum has slipped away and I’ve drifted into becalmed waters in recent weeks.
One step I did take was to attend another great workshop with Writing NSW, this time on the topic of finessing my synopsis. For those not in the know, this little 300-500 word blurb is just about the most important – and harrowing – document any writer can produce. Condensing the glory of 90,000 words into such a compact format is agonising. But a great synopsis is the gateway to agents, publishers, grants, awards and prizes, so I figured it was worth investing in refining mine.
Laurel Cohen, the facilitator, was kind enough to say that my initial draft was already good, and by the end of the workshop she was urging me to try my luck and get the newly buffed and polished version out there.
A few weeks ago my finger quivered over the keyboard before I pushed the send button conveying my synopsis to the first of my chosen agents. This was a seminal moment – it was exposure time – and I quailed at my temerity.
The problem is that agents and publishers are a ruthless lot. This particular agency is open for submissions all the time, which is great – many will only accept unsolicited manuscripts when Venus is retrograde on the third Thursday in July, between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. – or when dozens of other such prohibitive conditions apply. However, my chosen agent doesn’t acknowledge receipt of the submission. If they like it and want to know more they will contact me. A nil response means they are not interested. I have eagerly perused my inbox each morning, but so far no news. I have to wait for three months until I know which way the cookie will crumble!
And because agents and publishers don’t like it if your manuscript has already been shared with others, I have to send out my feelers one at a time. It’s going to be a long ride methinks. My next targeted agent isn’t open for submissions until February, and the couple of publishing prizes for which I’m going to throw my hat into the ring don’t open until March/April. Cue the drumming of fingers on the table …
But – and here’s a key point – this haitus has allowed time for reflection. Before I jetted off to France I read many admonitions from writing gurus that one shouldn’t fall in love with one’s first manuscript. Often, they said, the first book is only a prelude to the more scintillating and successful second or third book which ends up being the one to leap forth in published form to take the world by storm.
Like many such authorial admonitions, I ignored this one. When I dropped the final full stop in Carcassonne I knew with every fibre of my being that my baby was absolutely perfect in every way. Bestseller glory was within my grasp! It was a given that I’d be sitting next to Kate Mosse having a good old chin wag at a writers’ festival within a few months. I could see my book stacked in great gleaming piles at airport book stores …
Delusion? Wishful thinking? Possible future? Who knows. But a couple of weeks ago an astounding thought flashed into my mind. What if Under New Management is not the book? What if it was only a practice book?
Pre-France Catherine would have been horrified at the mere suggestion. I wasn’t going on this venture to practice! I was going for gold! I was out to achieve the real deal!
December Catherine is a little older and perhaps a little wiser. I still think Under New Management is good. But I have a creeping feeling that I can do better. Ideas for book number two are bubbling away in my brain and I’m thinking of all sorts of ways I can apply what I’ve learnt this year to build a new book of more substance and sophistication.
There’s one tiny flaw in this thinking, however. Long service leave comes only once every ten years and I simply cannot wait that long to have another crack at this. I’m going to have to summon the discipline to write while working, a bogey that stalled my literary aspirations for thirty years.
Please be assured, I’m not giving up on Under New Management. I’m going to nibble away at the submission process until I am thoroughly convinced there is no hope. But I’m going to put more of my energy into honing my craft and focus on the creation of book number two – notionally called The Ladies of Club M…
As for this blog? When I began posting in January my intention was to tell the story of my writing adventure until the end of this calendar year, or until I achieved a publishing contract. The publishing contract looks like it may still be some time away, and somehow I don’t think weekly posts about waiting are going to make particularly scintillating reading.
So this is adieu for now, my friends. Should new developments emerge I’ll return to the blogosphere firing on all cylinders. ‘Till then, I wish you a very happy new year and encourage you all to pursue your imaginings in 2020, no matter what form they take. As this year has taught me, there’s magic, wonder and fulfillment in the pursuit of one’s dreams.