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Friday, 23 October 2009

I'm reading: Heaven Can Wait

Finished Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor. The blurb read very interesting (just the type of novel I enjoy). I can't get enough of chicklit lately, and together with my sci-fi-cum-paranormal interests I thought I was really going to enjoy this one. And I did, honest. It was a quick and easy read with some genuine teary moments.

I suppose I was disappointed that the paranormal part of it was dismissed and treated lightly (escalators into heaven), but the romance was there and the chit-litty feel. Some of the comedy scenes seemed to be there just for laughs and didn't feel part of the story, but the actual story was interesting and the comedy made me giggle (loved the bit when she poured wine over gran's head!).

Read it for yourselves, and see what you think. Was I unfair in my review?

Here's the blurb:

'What would I do without you, Lucy Brown?' he said, and kissed me softly. I held his face in my hands and kissed him back. I felt that life just couldn't get any more perfect. And I was right, it wouldn't. By the end of the next day, I'd be dead.

Lucy is about to marry the man of her dreams - kind, handsome, funny Dan - when she breaks her neck the night before their wedding. Unable to accept a lifetime's separation from her soulmate, Lucy decides to become a ghost rather than go to heaven and be parted from Dan.

But it turns out things aren't quite as easy as that. When Lucy discovers that Limbo is a grotty student-style house in North London she's less than thrilled. Especially after meeting her new flatmates: grumpy, cider-swilling EMO-kid Claire; and Brian, a train-spotter with a Thomas the Tank Engine duvet and a big BO problem. But Lucy has a more major problem on her hands - if she wants to become a ghost and be with Dan she has to complete an almost impossible task. How the hell does a girl like Lucy find a girlfriend for the dorkiest man in England? IT geek Archie's only passions are multi-player computer games and his Grandma.

But Lucy only has twenty-one days to find him love. And when she discovers that her so-called friend Anna is determined to make a move on the heart-broken, vulnerable Dan, the pressure is really on...

Query/cover letter

Here's my cover letter for A Proper Charlie. I'm told it must be a page long, no longer, must reveal a little about me, mention the book (not too much, that's what a synopsis is for!) and tell of past triumphants if any - mine's a few short stories in women's magazines and Eden my first novel.

Mr Lovely Agent
1 Will Represent You Road

Dear Mr Lovely Agent

I enclose the synopsis and sample three chapters of my 80,000 word chicklit novel, A PROPER CHARLIE as requested in your new submission guidelines.

A PROPER CHARLIE is a contemporary romantic comedy aimed at the modern woman. Charlie is an office clerk. She’s a modern, social butterfly, and Ben is a serious, social dodger. Both are attracted to one another and both think the other is too good for them. They also have secrets.

I believe this novel will be enjoyed by twenty and thirtysomethings in particular. I see it as a novel for the Bridget Jones/Love Actually market.

I have worked very hard to make this novel as ready as possible for publication but I am also very used to welcoming editorial guidance. I am ambitious to become a successful author and am prepared to work as hard as necessary to achieve that.

I have EDEN published with YouWriteOn.com (POD), and run my own successful writing group for aspiring writers.

I know how busy you must be with existing clients but you will understand that I want to approach other agents fairly soon; therefore, I will submit A Proper Charlie to other agents or publishers in three weeks.

I very much hope that you will like what you read and that you will want to see the rest of A PROPER CHARLIE.

Yours Faithfully,

Louise Wise.

So whadda think? I've researched the "perfect cover letter" and have taken advice from many writers including Nicola Morgan and her BRILLIANT blog (try the link, why don't you?).

There is lots of advice out there, and I've come to the conclusion that there isn't one particular right way! A few wrong ways maybe, but definitely no right ways. It's a matter of telling the agent/publisher what you're offering in a business like manner.

How hard can that be?


Sunday, 11 October 2009

My Diary: My Submission Hell!

May 2009
I’ve finished my chicklit novel
A Proper Charlie. To me it’s perfect and ready to submit, but I’m getting conflicting reviews on YWO.
I’ve found an editor,Johnny Hudspith, who will look at my ms for me. We've agreed a price and I’m sending him a couple of chapters a month via email.

June 2009
I've four chapters back to work on, and Johnny's edits are easy to read, and I'm glad to say not that many! He's picked out silly typos and continuity so far. 

August 2009
The first few chapters of Charlie are polished enough and so submitted to Eugenie Furniss from William Morris Agency in London, which represents romance and general fiction. This agency prefers submissions by post. Going by agents’ standard rate of replying I figured Johnny and me will have plenty of time to get the rest into shape if I get a thumbs up.

I never multi submit. I always give a month exclusivity, so shall carry on with my edits while I’m waiting.

September 2009
Received more edits from Johnny. He's found a lot wrong with the chapters further in. My sentences are too long, and I use too many "ly" ending words.
Sent the first three chapters to Luigi Bonomi agency this month. This is the one. I can feel it!

October 2009
Charlie's finally all finished and edited. Johnny mainly checked for continuities, spelling and grammar. He genuinely found it funny too, which is what I was aiming at.

I spotted Kate Schafer Testerman, Founder and Agent of kt literary. The submission guidelines said I could enquire by email, which I did. They also specialised in romance and women's fiction, which A Proper Charlie is.

I wrote my query letter, polished my synopsis and clicked send. Sounds easy doesn't it? But honestly I sweated blood over the synopsis!

Kt Agency rejected Charlie by return email. Standard rejection, no gloss.

Charlie also came back from William Morris agency today, but even though it was a refusal it was positive - if a decline can be positive!

It was a longish letter letting me know Charlie had been open for debate within the agency - so in that case (to my understanding anyway) it'd NOT been open and read by the junior and turned down by that one person, but passed on as a possibility. A rejection but a nice rejection.

Even though I got two rejections in one month, the latter has left me on a high. Easily pleased?

Sent Charlie to 3 Seas Literary Agency via email.

November 2009
I'm submitting Charlie to Caroline Davidson Literary Agency (CDLA). This has an interesting policy where you send the first 50 pages and the last ten of your ms. They ask for as much detail about the book in the query letter as possible, and want a CV and a synopsis (yeh!!! I LOVE writing synopsis - not!). They also aim to reply within 10 days so that's good. Fingers and everything possible will be crossed.

S'funny, even though I've a box full of rejections (from other novels) I always feel optimistic when I'm pushing the brown envelope into the letterbox.

Had a rejection from LBA (Luigi Bonomi agency) today. A disappointing standard rejection letter. To be honest though, I think I was more disappointed in receiving a poor review from YWO after getting some excellent ones. The reviewer pointed out some errors, which I've now put right but then went on to comment negatively about Charlie being a mixed genre. It's definitely not! Not heard of sub plots? Still the review was constructive and the reviews can't all be brilliant!

December 2009
Had a rejection from 3 Seas Literary Agency, somehow though (and I know I shouldn't) I don't take email submissions as the real deal.

I had a brilliant review on YWO this time. Isn't it strange how people can read the same story yet have opposing views?

I've written to CDLA to follow up on my submission. Just a few lines asking if they'd made up their minds on representing me or not (or had they lost my proposal? Hey, it happens!).

If I haven't heard from them within two weeks of posting the letter, I'll start sending out again. Wish me luck!

January 2010
Not heard from CDLA at all. Not sure if that's good or not, but can't wait around forever. Sent a submission by email to Makdan Publishing

I received my Writers' News magazine the other day and on page two I saw Aurora Metro was seeking submissions - very unusual that any agency "seeks". Had a goosey at their website and it looked very professional and "proper" and so I thought I'd give them a go.

Aurora Metro is an independent publishing company originally set up by a group of women wanting to publish work from their writers' workshop, and it's flourished from there. They publish ten titles a year, and seem to be very much a hands-on agency with sounds absolutely ideal for me.

Can't believe we're half way through January already. Anyway, not heard a peep out of CDLA. So disappointed as their website boasted they'd reply within 10 days. They haven't even acknowledged my second letter asking politely if they wanted more time to consider the ms.

This is what riles me. It's hard enough receiving rejection after rejection, but to have no reply at all?

But this is what we aspiring writers have to put up with; in the end the hard skin grows over our soft malleable one and we become cynical - even to the point where when our work is accepted we don't believe it and think it's a windup!

Had a reply from Makdan Publishing. It was by email, but a very lengthy one. I was turned down because they were "concentrating on other genres". Then they went on to offer advice: While it would be difficult for me to offer specific advice on your manuscript as I have only read a small portion; from what I read, I would recommend working on the flow. While it seems to try and take on a “noir” feel, it gets too choppy in many areas.
Now, critical advice from a publisher is rare indeed, and something a true writer should cherish and learn from. I haven't re-read Charlie since trying to get it published in October, having wanted to concentrate on my next novel, but I will now.

I shall print it all off, and look through it again to be certain that it's OK.

February 2010
I printed off Charlie and reading through it I can see where they thought it "choppy". I've re-edited and hopefully put it right.

Should you laugh along at your own work? Is that ethical? I still think Charlie is as funny as it's intended, but it's set in the "real world" unlike other chick-lit where the characters are usually rich and famous. I’m not going to send it out again just yet. I want to read through it and try to look through it as though I’m an agent out to sell it.

I've sent a reminder to Aurora Metro, because I haven't heard from them. A polite email asking if they need more time to consider my proposal.

I think Charlie’s ready to go again. I’ve made a few changes. Tightened the flow, and I could see what Makdan meant when they said, “choppy”.

March 2010
Sent Charlie off to Marjacq Scripts, and was careful to follow their guidelines.

A quick rejection from Marjacq Scripts. Did they even bother to read it I wonder? The cover letter wasn't removed from the envelope and the rest looked untouched. But at least they replied!

Was going to do this anyway even before the rejection, but I've decided to send Charlie to Cornerstones for a review. I've been thinking about it for some time, and I've heard only good about them. They also double up as agents, and only take you on if you’ve potential.
OK, so I packed it off with the synopsis to an assigned reader. Now to sit back and bit my nails… no, I cracked on with my next novel.

May 2010
Charlie came back with a six-paged report. Basically, my chapter endings aren’t strong enough (lots on openings being strong, never endings!), apparently mine doesn't keep the reader wanting to turn the page. I’ve a strong storyline, it’s funny, characters are strong and likable and my dialogue is excellent so said the reader. Part of the book was a little too slapstick and Charlie needed to be less ditzy. Also, I’d mentioned the Spice Girls (in the opening main character Charlie was going to a fancy dress party and she and her friends were going as the Spice Girls) and was told this dated the story.

But she also said: “I think you are a gifted writer and would like to keep an eye on anything else that you write. However, as I'm not 100% convinced that I would be the best salesman for A PROPER CHARLIE I will have to regrettably pass. But you could submit yourself. I think it's strong enough to catch an agent's eye who might fall in love with it. Thank you for waiting for my response and please do keep in touch.”

June, July, August 2010
I’ve pulled Charlie to pieces, and am ready to submit again. I’ve given myself a deadline. If I haven’t found an agent by November 2010 I’m going to POD Charlie with YWO.

I want to get on with my new novel, and I can’t with Charlie still lingering about. Time to draw a line, but not defeat. Charlie doesn’t deserve to be banished to the cupboard-of-rejected-manuscripts. She deserves a cover and an ISBN number.

September 2010
Charlie’s gone to Patrick Walsh, at Conville and Walsh. He agents comedy romance, and so I hope he’ll like Charlie.

October 2010
I’ve gone to America. Not literally, but Charlie has been sent to Wendy Sherman Associates, Inc. in New York via email.

But I’ve a feeling that I’ll be PODding in November.

November 2010
Not heard a peep from September and October's submissions. What is it with agents and their inability to reply to an email or letter? They've no excuse when return postage is enclosed, and they can't be any more busy than any other organisation!

Anyway, Charlie is with the typesetters so POD here I come!

December 2010
YWO have sent me the finished book of A Proper Charlie, although it's not "published" as such. I'm reading it as a reader, and trying to find any mistakes or typos.

January 2011
YWO have sent me the finished article of A Proper Charlie for approval. So, I take a red pen and sit down and read. I found a huge chuck unsatisfactory and rewrote it. I found a typo and corrected it. I also rejigged the ending.

Happy with my edits, I sent them the PDF.

During all this process, I've become a media whore and blogging all and sundry about my new novel. I'm also organising a press launch and book signings.

February 2011
Once I made up my mind that I was going to POD again, I thought it'd be a quick process, but this has taken longer than I thought. You can quite understand why authors don't like to write about anything too current, because by the time their book is in a shop it'll probably be out of date!