Tuesday, 29 July 2008


I started THE DEVIL'S KISS back in October 2004. By November 2005 it was (IMHO) finished and went off to various agents to be rejected. So far so normal.
Since then I've worked and reworked it. Plots changed, characters changed, aged, died, were born, combined, split, personalities metamorphosised and so on. In November 2006 a new draft was written (then called GOD'S KILLER) and I had one of those first 3 chapter reviews up in Norfolk.
It was ripped to shreds.
So...rewrite AGAIN.
New version was much stronger in many ways, but still not there. The Cornerstones WOWFactor came and I was short listed, then the Undiscovered Voices competition arrived and my agent appeared.
New rewrite! From scratch!
Now we're into the nitty-gritty. Editors are involved. Lindsey and Ari have cast their eagle-eyes and I'm back on the rewrite.
What I'm trying to say is really, it's a LONG LONG slog, and I'm still working on my first book. And my book's pretty short. I would also reckon I'm pretty fortunate in that the agent and book deal came pretty quickly-ish (looking back it seems like things were always moving forward, so that was encouraging).
Where are you in the process? Have you given yourself any deadlines, goals, timetables? What do you do to keep going and have there been any moments when you thought 'Sod this, I'll become a fighter pilot instead'.
I read somewhere (so take it with a pinch of salt) that less than 1% of submissions get taken on by agents and (this is also a big assumption) assuming they all got sold, only 5% of authors actually make a living just through writing.


Tracy said...

Hi Sarwat
I tell you what I do to keep going - I read your blog.
I'm currently in rewrite mode for my novel, it's going through a huge restructure and I can see that it's improved no end but, it can be hard not to feel like I'm the only one who has to keep working at it. Rewriting, editing, restructuring, ...going mad!!
I'm trying to do it all on my own with little feedback and I long for the day when a professional is that interested they offer advice, but one thing you've helped with is by showing that even when the deal is done, the book chosen, rewriting is still par for the course. It's kind of reassuring.
So, thanks for the info and the update, if it's any consolation, you make me feel a bit better.
Now where was I - oh yeah, rewriting!!!

SarwatC said...

Aren't you doing chapter swaps or part of a writing group? there are pros and cons with the writers' groups, but some trustworthy friend would help the writing process.
But ultimately it's down to your gut instinct. I rewrote Chapter 1 and did two verions, one 'safe' the other very disturbing. No-one liked the safe version, but people either loved the other one, or thought it was sick. I held off the second version for a while before realising there was no point sticking with the safe version, it wasn't true to the story and was timid writing. Better to go with the extreme response. You get peoples opinion, but you're the last caller.

Tracy said...

Hi again

I was on Youwriteon and had feedback from SCWBI for the opening chapters. I've also had some feedback from someone close to you and she let me in on her reader's comments which has helped focus my style. She wants to read the whole thing, hence the rewrite.
I did get a writing friend to read the first 100 pages and she made a few comments.

It's the professionals comments I long for now but I suppose what I'm really saying is, I want to be at the next stage. Agented and rewriting, or even better, agented and not rewriting because everyone loves it as is. I know, I know - I can dream can't I!!!

I couldn't agree more with the safe, timid version comment, that's what I feel I'd done with my original. I held back, wasn't very brave or bold and now, I am convinced I've improved the novel no end. If nothing else, I can see that and I'm my own biggest critic.
Whoever said this writing game was easy is a big, fat fibber!!!

I hope your writing is going well.
Tracy :)

SarwatC said...

If anyone tells me writing is easy I want to punch their face in.
Sounds like you doing all the right things, most importantly persevering.
Timid and passive writing is a bit of a retreat for me. Whenever I get anxious I slip back into it. We want stories with guts - raw, red and bloody!

Tracy said...

Perserverance is most definitely the name of the game, or is that, sheer bloody-mindedness!!

I hope all is going well in Billi's world, or not, in terms of dramatic plot twists. You sound a tad frustrated.

Keep up the good work and as I said in my first post, you've helped this struggling writer, so thanks for that.

Now, I must get back to my sagging middle and tone it into honed perfection. Nothing worse than a sagging middle in a book!!

Gareth said...

Hi Sarwat

You need to know that you are living my dream - damn you but heaps of congratulations as well - you give us all hope!

I'm currently doing the whole re-write thing, trying to slash my own dark teen supernatural/demon/action novel down from 600 pages to 450 or so on the advice of a (paid for) editor's report. She said lots of good things about it but also sent me a hatchet!

I've followed the self-publishing route to test market and get a bit of feedback and following - 300 copies sold so far. After the re-write I'll send it off to real publishers and agents.

Advice please - How highly would you recommend Cornerstones? I've been looking at The Literary Consultancy's mentoring scheme that lasts for a year with multiple submissions and feedback etc?

Really glad to read you were a AD+D fan - fantasy geeks of the world unite!!!


PS - www.jasonwillow.com if you're interested in your would-be competition!

Anonymous said...

Not easy? What? Aren't you eating bon bons and watching early Christian Bale films all day? Isn't that what writers do?
OK, so I am sailing on your rewriting boat now. Well, on a smaller, pinker one. But I received my edits and I think when I am done not one bit of this novel will resemble my initial draft.
Definitely. Not. Easy.

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

Sadly, I've read those stats as well. Most writers hold down a day job. So, going back to your observation about becoming a fighter pilot, last week I was seriously wondering whether it wasn't too late to become a prima ballerina! :-)

What I'm curious to know is how you personally feel now that you are working on rewrites with professionals - as opposed to your reader or critique group? Does it make the process more "real", give it more "credibility" and integrity? That's not to knock readers' or critique groups but there has to be, one would think, a significant difference in the kind of feedback and guidance.

And with reference to your comment to Tracy, yes, you are the last caller but to what extent do you find your last call is influenced by what others are saying?

Jon M said...

Lots of moments when I've thought 'sod this!'
Where am I up to? My current work is being scrutinized by Cornerstones as I write having received the 'Ms Davies treatment!' :).
What am I doing while I wait? Writing another one!!!
I suppose the frustrating thing is that opinions about a story are just that...opinions. There isn't a set of instructions or a standard list of ingredients. It's just if your story is well-written and THEN happens to pass under the noses of the right people who like it enough to champion it.

Crit groups are good, Cornerstones are invaluable, I can't comment on other lit consultants cos I've not used them.
But we'd write anyway? yeah?

SarwatC said...

I've picked up one thread of this already as my new post, so will dwell on another aspect here.
Cornerstones are excellent, but nevertheless there is a VAST difference between what I delivered to Helen and what's actually gone out.
I haven't had any experience with other consultancies so can't really compare but their advise probably saved me 2-3 years of wasted effort. Helen and Kathryn have an excellent balance between encouragement and hard-nosed business sense.
Vanilla, I think it depends where you are with the writing. Where are you with the critique group? Is everyone the same level-ish? How do you qauntify forward progress? I'm very deadline orientated. I set myself dates to get x thousand words done and plow on towards it. I show NO ONE anything until the second draft. I barely even talk about it. I do critique friends mss, and they mine, but it's long after it's been written and to be fair, they don't spot things at the level I get from Sarah or Lins or Ari (it would be very odd if they did). Likewise my attention waxes and wanes, and I'm very slow with critiques. Basically that's time I feel I should be writing.
WRT to the level of comments, the editor's take prority, for obvious reasons. Previously it was Sarah's, she's my agent and has years of editorial experience (best case scenario). The editor must be satisfied for the book to be accepted. Simple as that. BUT they don't have the answers (damn shame, but you're the writer, they're the editor).

SarwatC said...

Oh, forgot one other thing.
Stop writing dark teen supernatural! Sorry to be churlish, but I don't want any competition, thank you.

Gareth said...

Thanks for your thoughts on Cornerstones Sarwat (and jon m). I've e-mailed them for some information so let's see how it goes!

Re. competition for you - two things:

If I do get picked up by a real agent/publisher at some point, Devil's Kiss will be out long before Jason Willow (proper edition) and you will have doubtless gained a great following (inc. me!)

Secondly, it's not a one-winner situation - the more good books that are out there in this genre, the bigger the audience (Go JKR) - when they finish yours, they'll want another to read while they're waiting for Devil's Kiss 2!

Together we can rule the world!


SarwatC said...

Ah, but your forgetting 'the Genghis Khan School of Writing'.

What are the three greatest things in a writer's life?

To have your critics flee before you, to crush booklists beneath your feet and hear the lamentation of literary agents in the wind.

These are the greatest things in a writer's life.

Yes, Conan the Barbarian was a major influenec in my life. I LOVED those old Frazetta covers and the film was the first 15 certificate I ever sneaked into (as a heavily bearded 12 year old).

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