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Querying, rewriting and ADHD

Hi everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything other than my fundraising poems, which, though I’d appreciate you all having a read of them and sharing, aren’t the sole purpose of this blog. I like sharing my writing journey and the struggles I have, in the hope that others currently struggling with writing (or anything, really) don’t feel so alone.

And wow, have I been struggling.

Last year, I did quite a few edits of older projects, drafted a new book — something I try to do every year — and starting querying literary agents for the…seventh time, I think?

Meaning that come New Year, I was quite worn out. Add to that a broken laptop, and work became rather hard, to put it mildly. (I’m currently still using my partner’s laptop, which I’ve grown used to and he’s more than happy to let me use for as long as I want, so I got over that hurdle pretty quickly). My focus, however, has been particularly bad.

I wanted to rewrite a project that, from feedback I got from agents, was about 15,000 words too short for the genre. As I never know how to relax and get bored between projects, I actually tried to start the rewrite just before Christmas, but then my laptop failed and it got put on hold until I could grab the files from the hard drive. (I’m usually good at backing up my stuff, but as I’d only started the rewrite about three days beforehand, I hadn’t gotten round to it. Naturally, the one time I delayed, ‘disaster’ struck.) When I did manage to get back to it again, despite engaging with the story and characters, it took hours to go over four double spaced pages. I tried repeatedly to go faster, to try and be more productive with my time, but it simply wasn’t working. By the time I reached the half-way point in the book, working on it felt comparable to digging a trench with a teaspoon, and I’m incredibly impatient with certain things.

Now, here I’m going to jump in with the ADHD part, as it’s likely relevant. I’ve been on the waiting list for assessment since mid 2019. I knew it’d be a long wait, just like for my ASD one, and when the pandemic happened, I resigned myself to an extra long wait. Several times I considered getting it done privately, but it does cost a lot, and as I get imposter syndrome, one week I’d be convinced I needed a diagnosis, the next I’d be unsure — I’ve heard this is common regarding ADHD in adults, particularly as it can present quite differently depending not just on age, but gender too. That aside, I was then super surprised when I got a phone call last month saying in-person assessments where I live were no longer supported due to costs, so the people in charge had decided to go with online assessments and mine wouldn’t be too far off. After another phone call and some screening questionnaires to make absolutely sure I’m eligible, I was finally given an assessment date. It’s early next month, and I am nervous as hell. But I already sent them extra notes, so hopefully it’ll go smoothly, whether the conclusion is ADHD or something else.

Anyway, back to writing talk. I’ve always struggled with focusing on and maintaining projects, but I’m stubborn and refuse to quit. So I ended up giving myself a tight deadline and marathoning the work until it was done. It worked, but as always when I do that, I ended up exhausted as it’s really not good for me. That’s the main reason I haven’t posted much lately. All my energy has gone to rewriting, recovering, or writing poetry. (I am happy with the way the rewrite tuned out though!)

As for querying, this round is going better than past attempts in that I’ve actually had a couple of full and partial manuscript requests, but not as many as I’d hoped. Which is disheartening and has led to many hours of ‘what if I never get an agent?’ thoughts. Of course, there are many options, one of which I’ve already pursued for my previous books — finding indie publishers. But the rejections piling up still hurt.

On a side note, though, my publisher recently informed me that two of my contracted poetry books are moving to the editing stage, so that’s something to look forward to (and also be anxious about. You may be thinking I’m anxious about a lot of things, and you’d be right. That’s just my brain.)

So, to bring this ramble to a close: if, like me, you’re a creative struggling with current projects, I see you and I understand. My family keep saying productivity shouldn’t be linked to self-worth, and while I get the idea of that sentiment, I haven’t yet found a way to make it stick. Even writing this post, which I could have left until I felt better and had more energy, is part of that. I didn’t feel like I’d done enough today, so words had to be written. But maybe someday, I’ll have a healthier approach to self-worth.

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My work caught up to me (as always).

It’s been a while since I posted something other than one of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry poems, so I thought I’d rectify that with a ramble about what’s been happening lately.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been busy with various writing projects this year – drafting, revising, going through major edits, most of which came back to back. In early November, I finally managed to finish the ‘final’ revision for the book I wrote last year in order to get it ready for querying (which I’m currently doing).

Shortly after completion, the weight of all the energy I’d used up doing everything hit me hard: my sleep, which has never be good, got worse, and I couldn’t handle much physically or mentally. I probably should have seen it coming, because it’s happened before, but even if I had, I’m not sure what I could have done about it. I’m terrible at taking breaks and resting. I’m not even sure if I know how to rest – no matter how hard I try, my brain won’t stop chiming in with all the projects I’ve got lined up, and if I don’t have any, it ‘helpfully’ comes up with some.

The thing is, the longer I put off resting, the worse my energy levels will be affected when I do get to it. So I had to force myself to slow down, because my body was telling me I had to. So I spent a while playing games, which I rarely do otherwise despite how much I enjoy them, went out for more walks, cared for and added (substantially!) to my houseplant collection, and only worked on my fundraising project.

This did work for a while, but then I got a few emails about being part of a story festival, which meant I had another project to prepare for. And it seems that, if I have any sort of deadline, no matter if it’s ages away, my brain will not let me settle until whatever it is is done.

I ended up doing it all as fast as I could so I no longer had to think about it, and I felt so much better afterwards that I even managed to do some small festive crafty things (I like the idea of making things, but generally I’m too impatient and get bored halfway through, which then means I end up resenting it while being too stubborn to give up. Conundrums, conundrums.)

But then I got the itch to rework an older book, and though in some ways, I probably would benefit from taking a few more weeks to recover, when I started taking a look at the story and began tweaking, I felt like I was achieving something again. It’s an odd headspace to be in – I’m tired as I’m still not sleeping well, and I can’t really handle more than one activity a day (I disregard general cleaning, as that’s part of my morning routine, and I get so badly thrown off if I don’t do it that it’s just not worth skipping it. Also, I have birds, and their care comes well before mine). Yet if I don’t have some sort of work on the go, apparently I feel unfulfilled.

I do wonder if other creatives, especially those who are neurodivergent, have the same problem?

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Querying — why I’m now nervous about it

I’m no stranger to querying literary agents — I’ve been in the ‘query trenches’ on and off for nearly six years now, I think.

It started with naive, three line query letters that told agents hardly anything about the book, sent to one agent at a time. And I’d wait, and wait, and wait before sending off again because I hadn’t paid close enough attention to the agency’s submission guidelines — which not only stated it was fine to query multiple agents at one time (at other agencies) but also that if I didn’t hear back within the stated time, I should consider it a pass. Sometimes I did get responses, polite rejections that it never occured to me were simple form responses.

I wasn’t too upset, because I had other books to work on. And the more I worked and improved my craft, the more my desire to one day see them in print grew from dream to goal. Quite suddenly, it seemed, I realised no agent would take me seriously unless I was serious. Partnering with a literary agent is a business partnership much like any other. Sure, they love books and want authors to succeed, but they’re not there to babysit. So I researched the querying process as much as I could. Through books, Youtube channels, agency websites, talks by agents at literary festivals and many other resources. And I’m still doing it.

Now, I’ve queried at least seven different manuscripts over the years, and my query packages (letter, synopsis, writing sample [usually the book’s first 3 chapters]) have gotten better over the years, as have the responses. I’ve had a few full manuscript requests on some, and most recently, I got a revise and resubmit. And though they eventually resulted in passes, I feel that I’ve upped my game enough that getting an agent is definitely achievable. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other querying authors who have put in just as much work as I have, with every bit as much drive. So the competition is very real.

Which is why, having polished one of my most recent projects and prepared my query letter and synopsis ready for submitting, I’m more nervous about it than before. I have huge faith in this book — not only do I love the characters and story, but it’s my first ownvoices (I know I mentioned some of my characters in previous books are autistic, but this is the first that outright states it and is set in the real world). I’ve also been very strict with myself not to send it out too early, which has been one of my biggest mistakes with previous books. Usually, I’m too eager to get them out there without taking the proper time over them, so they’re rejected on things easily fixable.

I’m not convinced there’s really a point to this ramble, other than to express my jitters. But I’ll end by saying going the traditional route in publishing takes a lot of time and drive. Each rejection hurts, some more than others, and have kick-started bouts of depression. But I’ve seen other authors achieve the things I want to, so I’m not giving up. And I think that’s the key to breaking into this industry: the people who do keep pushing, no matter what.

books

Nekromancer’s Cage releases in 10 days!

In an alchemy rich industrial city, mix one apprentice apothecary with a group of bandit musicians, a talking cat and a whiff or two of necromancy, and what do you have? Nekromancer’s Cage!

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Hi everyone, I just thought I’d pop up a reminder that my latest upper middle grade/teen book, Nekromancer’s Cage, comes out this month on the 24th!

It’s filled with lots of intrigue, magic and whimsy, and I’m very proud of all the work that’s gone into it.

If it sounds like a book you or a younger family member would like to dig into, you can PRE-ORDER IT HERE.

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A note on rejection

Every writer gets rejected at some point. Whether it’s by peers or beta readers, agents or publishers, it’s always going to happen no matter how good your writing is or how many times you’ve meticulously edited your manuscript.

When I was teaching a workshop at a school the other day, one of the students asked me if I’ve ever been rejected. When I said yes, and that I’ve been rejected around a hundred times for each different project I’ve worked on, she and the rest of the class were pretty shocked. And as it wasn’t something I’ve really thought about that cumulatively, I was surprised too.

I then told the class what I always say about rejection: it doesn’t matter how many “no”s you get, as all it takes to change things is a single “yes”.

Which is true for all of my published works. But I think it’s important to note that sometimes those “no”s are worth listening to, not to make you give up on a project, but to take another look at it to see if it needs to be revised. Now, if you’ve already spent a long time trying to perfect your manuscript, this is hard advice to follow. I’m no exception, it takes a lot of willpower for me to revisit something that I’ve already poured so much time and energy into. I hate it, and I put it off as long as I can. Especially when all the rejections I’ve received have been form rejections or complete silence, as I don’t know where the problem is.

However, the one thing about those kind of rejections is that for me, I think they hurt less. Whereas a rejection with feedback included is like a punch to the stomach that doesn’t disappear for days. I had one such rejection last week, and I’m still not fully over it. The feedback was quite specific, and left me wondering whether to implement it or not, a question to which I still don’t have an answer.

Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your point of view) the manuscript was actually one I sent out when I knew it wasn’t really ready, but wanted to see if the idea might catch some attention, so I’m actually in the process of revising it anyway. One thing that rejection made me realise is that the manuscript is more plot driven than character driven, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that I might have to do some more research to make sure that when I do send it out properly, I’m sending it to people who enjoy that style of storytelling — if I choose to keep that side of the book as it is. That’s not to say I’ll be neglecting my characters, either. Far from it, in fact.

Anyway, there’s no real moral to this post (other than don’t send your manuscript out early like I just did!). I think I just wanted to share some of my rejection experience, so that anyone else in the query trenches knows they’re not alone.

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Writerly Updates!

Hi everyone,

As well as my usual poetry post today, I thought I’d let you know about a few things that have been going on.

Firstly, as you may have read before, my speculative young adult book, The Origin Stone, is set to be released next year at the end of April, so that’s exciting. I do have digital ARCs, so if you’re a blogger or reviewer and would like a copy, please do get in touch.

Secondly, I’ve just signed a contract with Black Opal Books for a stand-alone epic fantasy! I don’t have any more details yet, but should do in the new year.

Thirdly, I am now offering proofreading services for manuscripts, blog articles and website content, as well as *friendly* query letter and synopsis critiques. Prices will depend on the project, and I’m more than happy to fully discuss things before giving a quote.

So there you are!

Kate out.

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Exciting news! (And some background before I get there)

When I was about seven, I came up with a simple story idea about strange creatures living in the woods. My dad took this little snippet and made it into something much more – the beginnings of a book.

Unfortunately, due to his mental health, he struggled with finding the motivation to keep going with it, and was always undecided about how old the main character should be. You see, his idea was to have the main characters based on our family, but as the years passed, my brother and I got older, so the main characters had to age too. Finally, his work on it came to a stand still, despite the fact that we all loved the chapters he’d written so far.

Skip forwards ten or so years, to when I started thinking about properly writing my first book. (I always wanted to write, I just hadn’t really had time with school and college, and I kind of had my dream stomped on a bit by an older relative who said there was no point in writing as there was no money in it.) Dad approached me and asked if I wanted to try writing his story, but in my own style. I didn’t really have my own story yet, so I thought about it, and once I’d finished college, decided that I’d do it.

My progress was slow, as I was in to many different things at the time and writing was only one of them, but after a year I had a completed first draft. And boy, was it bad. I was pleased to have finally finished, but I knew it was a very poor adaptation.

It took me a long time to realise why: it was still too much his story. I hadn’t made it my own yet, and using his characters was hard for me, because where he’d based them on us, I was too close to them.

So, being my usual stubborn self, I overhauled the whole thing. I changed the characters completely, making them very individual and unlike my own family (okay, one or two traits might have stuck, but there will always be a bit of those you know in any character), and I dived deep into their history to find out what made them tick. I also added characters, and removed others, until finally I had a cast that I could work with. A cast that I liked.

And it was hard. Hard to disregard so much of what I’d enjoyed of my dad’s story, but just wouldn’t work for me. Hard to knit the plot back together and make it strong, solid, enjoyable.

There were times when I was so stuck on a scene or frustrated with it in general that I wanted to throw the whole thing away and just give up. But I didn’t. I made it work, and at the end I had my story. Inspired by my dad’s, definitely, but truly, distinctly mine.

Over the years of visiting and revisiting, I’d worked on other books, including my Half-Wizard Thordric series, but once I’d found my writing voice and adjusted the manuscript once more, I decided to find a publisher.

So, the news I’ve been building too, and am so, so proud to say, is that now I have. The Origin Stone, as the book is now titled, is set to be published by the lovely Nuff Said Publishing in March 2019.

Out of all the books I’ve written, The Origin Stone is definitely the one that’s made me work hardest. It’s so wonderful to announce that it finally has a home!

Kat out.

Poetry

A shelf of names

Is it an odd thing

to want to put my name on a shelf?

Pin it up amongst the other names

of other dreamers, ones who have been told many times,

probably even more times than me,

that their dreams aren’t worth following?

 

Is it an odd thing

to want to pour my mind out?

Use my blood as ink, staining the words

onto white sheets binding the dreams always to the world,

polishing until they are no longer

dreams, but real, solid books?

 

Perhaps it is.

And perhaps I’ll do it anyway.

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It’s publication day! Accidental Archaeologist: Half-Wizard Thordric Book Two is finally out!

Accidental-Archaeologist-Promo-Hardback-Ereader

As the title of this post would suggest, book 2 in my Half-Wizard Thordric series is now available to buy. Currently, it’s only on Kindle, but in a week or so the paperback will also be available. It’s rather exciting! If you love fantasy, plenty of humour, quests and YA reads, then this may be for you.

However, here’s the blurb just in case you’re not convinced yet:

Three years have passed since Thordric joined the Wizard Council. Together, with High Wizard Vey, they have reformed the council completely.

But while half-wizards can now train their magic freely and join the ranks of the mages, Thordric realizes that there are many who are completely unaware of this. Traveling to the faraway town of Valley Edge, he meets the young archaeologist Hamlet, who is traveling to a dig site where a new discovery has been made.

But not all is as it first appears, and once again Thordric has to put his magic to the test…in order to stop one of the greatest catastrophes their world has ever seen.

Poetry

Little monster

We all have that monster eating us up inside. Yes, you know the one. I’ve named mine Calm. It seems to like it. Whenever someone asks when my book will be published, or ‘how’s that story going you’ve been working on for yonks?’, and I hear Calm start to stir – that’s when I say, ‘Calm, down! Don’t give them the satisfaction of making you bitter.’ Then it grumbles and goes back to sleep, and I can get back to work, unafraid that the little monster of self-doubt will sneak out.