Guest post: My Writing Day by Sam Carrington

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts, where I take a peak into the writing life of published authors. Today, I welcome the lovely Sam Carrington, who talks us through a typical writing day. Over to you, Sam.

I feel privileged to be able to write full time – it’s something I could only have imagined a few years ago.

But, I should really add in a disclaimer here. Full time writer? That implies I spend around eight hours a day, at least five days a week writing, doesn’t it?

Er … *coughs to clear throat*

The reality is, I do not actually spend all those hours, every day, writing.

When I left my full-time employment, I suddenly found I had all this time. And when you think you have all that time, something weird happens. So many other things need doing. Cleaning the house, walking the dog, watching box sets on Netflix, Twitter, Facebook … you get the picture.

The hours spent fingers-to-keyboard tend to be more like two hours a day, not eight! But the other things can be as important. I do trawl Twitter and Facebook a lot. That’s because it’s where I can connect to readers and other authors – it’s networking. Therefore, it’s work.

I might spend time outside walking the dogs, I might watch TV – but I’ll be thinking about my novel, my plot and characters. They are forever in my head waiting to become words on the screen. Again, that means it’s work.

I don’t stress anymore that I’m ‘wasting time’ if I’m not writing. All the other things that I used to think of as distractions, are the things that allow my creative process to do its thing.

For the last few days, though, I’ve altered my routine slightly. Whereas the first thing I’d do every morning at 7 a.m. would be to check Twitter and Facebook, respond to comments, messages, and check in with what’s been going on (which could take a few hours), instead, I’ve been opening my manuscript first. Once I’ve hit my word count goal – which is 1000 words, then I open social media. It’s worked pretty well so far.

Of course, where I write also impacts on my productivity. I don’t have ‘my space’ yet, hopefully that is coming later this year. Currently I am sitting at the dining room table with my laptop and notebooks to write book three.

Sam Carrington Where I Write

Sam Carrington’s writing place – what a wonderful view!

I love having the view of rolling fields and Dartmoor beyond, it’s peaceful and inspirational. Looking out of the window gives me thinking time. Despite this, I do need a designated area that’s just mine. The fact that I’m so visible and in the middle of the lounge/diner, means I am forever getting disturbed and side-tracked by the kids or husband. The noise of the TV is annoying – and these things definitely prevent me writing as much as I could.

Only time will tell if the new room (without my fab view ☹) does have a positive impact on how productive I am!

For now, I’m off to write a thousand words…

Good luck, Sam! Thank you so much for giving us a snapshot of your day! Sam’s book Saving Sophie is available here, and her second novel Bad Sister will be out 30 November 2017 and is available for pre-order here.

 

How I Got My Literary Agent (Part two)

If you haven’t read my last post about my experiences of submitting manuscripts to literary agents, click here to read the back story.

If you have (and thank you!) then you might recall I’d written another manuscript (The Boy at the Window) based on a family who never left the house. This was from the point of view of an eight-year-old boy. The style was totally different to my previous work. I entered it into a few novel competitions, and I was longlisted for three of them! After writing three manuscripts, subbing one to death (if you’ve read it – you’ll see the irony), this was an amazing turnaround. This was something I could put in my covering letter! At last, I had something useful to say to agents when I submitted it!

The agent stats for this MS (The Boy at the Window) are:

  • Total submissions:                 16
  • Form Rejections:                     2
  • Personalised rejections:     3
  • Full MS Requests:                  7
  • No reply:                                      4

The full manuscript requests for this book, unfortunately, didn’t lead to representation; most said it needed work, but good luck in finding another agent.

To everyone who has ever entered competitions and not been placed, it says nothing about your talent as a writer. And don’t ever think that because an agent doesn’t respond within hours, days, weeks, months, after an initial submission that they’re not interested. One of my full requests was after three months. It’s a good sign that the agent is prioritising her clients, but also that she has a lot of submissions.

But, after all of these rejections, I had a new category:

Would see other work: 3

By the time one of these lovely agents replied asking for a full request, I had almost finished another manuscript that I’d been working on (they say when subbing one – begin another). I was within weeks of putting the final touches to 99 Red Balloons (after re-writing/editing it about twenty times, printing it off and editing, sending it to beta readers, then editing again, and printing the MS for a second time for rogue typos – it’s a long slog!).

Although this agent enjoyed The Boy at the Window, there was a lot of work to be done. She said to send over my next manuscript when it was finished. I replied that I had another that would soon be ready.

Of course, as a subbing writer, you’ve already done your research about the agents you are sending it to, but I checked her profile again. This was my dream agent. It was why I subbed to her in the first place.

In case she didn’t like it – a thought still ingrained from years of submissions to agents – I subbed to a few others too.

I received several nice personalised rejections, but seven full manuscript requests that led to FOUR offers of representation! It was such a surreal time.

One of these was from Caroline Hardman, my dream agent. Caroline had come back to me quickly after reading half of my book and said she’d love to represent me. I felt awful having to turn down the other agents who were great, but I knew Caroline was The One. Her and Joanna’s agency is so highly respected, plus Caroline’s originally from Manchester (I know that sounds strange, but it’s LOCAL to me!). Caroline ‘got’ my characters and the book.

So in June last year, I signed on the dotted line …

My debut novel 99 RED BALLOONS will be published 24th August 2017 (Avon HarperCollins) and is available for pre-order here.

How I Got My Literary Agent (Part one)

Apologies in advance for this long post. If you’re a writer seeking an agent, then you’ll understand that it’s a long ‘journey’ (sorry – that’s so X Factor). I’ve put this in two parts, so as not to lose your interest. And, actually, in some ways, it is a bit like X Factor.

In June 2016, I was lucky enough to be signed with a literary agency. I say lucky, but it took years of writing and rewriting several manuscripts to get that ‘lucky’ (one of my favourite quotes is: ‘The harder I work, the luckier I am’). If you’re reading this and have just started out writing, or have been writing for years getting nowhere, my message to you is DON’T GIVE UP!

I’d written short stories off and on since the late 1990s, and had enrolled on online writing course (which I still need to finish…). But life got in the way, as it always tends to do, until 2012 when I began writing A Novel. I’d had an idea for years, and managed to write about 65,000 words. I never thought I’d be able to write that many in the first place, so that was a huge personal achievement.

Meanwhile, part of an assignment for the writing course was to look up literary agencies. I had only a vague idea what these were. Previously, I had assumed a writer would simply send their manuscript to a publisher and wait The Long Wait for the postman to return it. But thankfully, it was easier (and cheaper) than that – no postage involved: it was sent to literary agents via email.

It was now 2014 and I made a list of a few agents who I thought might like my novel, sending them the first three chapters, or however many pages they wanted (some of them vary greatly), along with a cover letter. I’d researched online what to write in said cover letter – and was anxious about the tiniest things (kind regards or yours sincerelyMs, Miss, or Mrs?)

So I sent off my submission package and waited. And waited. And … yes, you guessed it … waited.

Zilch.

Tumbleweed. Lots of it.

They must be really busy, these agents, I thought. I’ll just send out some more batches.

A few batches later there was an email from one of Them. This is what it said:

 Thank you very much for your enquiry regarding your work.  We take on new clients very sparingly and in order to do so we have to feel that something is very special indeed.  Having considered your enquiry we’re afraid we are not confident we could find you a publisher so we regret that we’re unable to take the matter further.  We wish you the best of luck elsewhere.

It was my first rejection and it really hurt. I’d spent nearly two years writing this manuscript and they thought it wasn’t ‘special’. I soon learned that this agency wasn’t the only one to think that. The rejections just kept rolling in:

We’ve now had a chance to consider your work and I’m afraid we don’t feel that we are the right agency to represent it.

Thank you for sharing it with us though and we wish you the best of luck in finding representation elsewhere.

I learned from my writing group that these were ‘form rejections’. Agents are busy people. As well as ‘agenting’, they receive hundreds of manuscripts a WEEK. They don’t have time to tell us why they don’t connect with our work.

I kept re-writing The Book – changing the first few chapters, the ending, the middle – someone, somewhere just might like it.

But no, no they didn’t. The stats for this book are as follows:

  • Total submissions sent out: 27
  • Form rejections:                      16
  • Personal rejections (where the agent will give a few words why it wasn’t for them): 1
  • No reply:                                    10

I’d also entered it into several competitions – there was nothing going on there either. I had to face up to the fact that this book wasn’t going to be The One. But I loved writing. While looking after my children and working, it was something just for me.

In 2014 and 2015 I’d written two manuscripts as part of NaNoWriMo – where for thirty days in November, writers across the world unite in attempting to write 50,000 words in thirty days. I won’t lie – it was a hard slog. I came home from work one day with a migraine yet still typed three thousand words because the next day was the last and I couldn’t let myself down.

So I knew I could write more words. These two manuscripts, however, were shocking. Well, they might be okay, but I’m not going to read them for a long time as I’ve a feeling they’re really bad.

Between writing these, however, I’d written another book. I’d read an article about a family in New York who’d been kept from the outside world by their father. This wasn’t the one to hook an agent, but it was the one that had a unique-enough hook to get my foot in the door…

More in part two.

My debut novel 99 RED BALLOONS will be published 24th August 2017 (Avon HarperCollins) and is available for pre-order here.

 

As One Would

My good friend Lydia and I went to see the amazing Margaret Atwood last week.

margaret-atwood-3

Margaret Atwood reading from Hag Seed. (Apologies for the terrible quality of this photo. It was taken on my phone and we were up in the stalls!)

She talked about her recent novel Hag Seed, which is based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Lydia and I celebrated (writers celebrate EVERYTHING!) with these:

margaret-atwood-2

So, although I did make some notes, they are largely jibberish and a shorthand of a different time and place. But I did come away with some quotes:

Margaret’s favourite book is A Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

‘It is impossible to write a novel that isn’t a social commentary.’

‘Novels allow a reader to imagine they’re someone else. They foster empathy.’

margaret-atwood-1

 

 

99 Red Balloons in Preston!

Okay – so maybe more than ninety-nine…..

This has been created as part of the Lancashire Encounter Festival by environmental artist Steve Messam in Preston city centre. Made up of 4000 red balloons, this installation forms The Red Rose of Lancashire. Amazing!

preston-city-centre

The Red Rose of Lancashire, Surgeon’s Court, Preston city centre.

 

PS – Welcome to my new blog! And my first ever post – thank you for reading x