"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce


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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

WRITER'S DREAM; A Novel Idea

It would appear that the world and its mother is writing a novel - and I include myself in that statement; I am actually writing two novels, one for adults and one for youngsters.  I believe that it is a basic human need to share stories and that storytelling is what separates us from the animal kingdom.  I don't believe that writing a novel, or indeed any kind of book, is the fast track to wealth. I know from experience as a full time published writer that it is not.

Why are so many people writing books?  Because it has become so much easier than it used to be! Bill Gates has taken much of the tedious toil out of a writer's life! When I started out as a teenage wannabe, writing and submitting  I had to type out each submission on a manual type writer; no spell check, no auto correct, no typing once and printing out multiple copies, no email.  Each submission had to be painstakingly retyped.  These days most people have a computer so its easy to type the work in once, save and re-use multiple times.  With the invention of email there is no need to even print out and post copies for submission - no hopeful walks to the post box required and new writers no longer have to spend a fortune in ribbons, paper, envelopes and postage as I once had to. Its just so easy these days and this effectively means that those people who would have been too lazy to do it the old fashioned way are now able to give it a go, and good luck to them.

Then of course there are the media success stories of authors who make millions in movies rights, merchandising, foreign language editions, red carpet appearances etc.  These authors are the exception, rather than the rule.  Take a look on Soc's website to see statistics of how much money authors actually earn! Many don't clear the tax threshold. The fact is most publishing contracts for new authors pull in an advance of less than £1,500 which would be paid out in three, maybe four payments across eighteen months to two years. Reality check; your car is probably worth more than a publishing deal and could you really live on less than a grand a year? This is the reason agents say "Don't give up the day job"! And if you have an agent, they will take at least 20% of your advance before you even see a penny.

This trend for authorial dreams shows no sign of waning and the industry is well aware of it.  Agents and publishers know how easy it is for new writers to find them on the internet and they have set up boundaries; namely the submissions@publisher email address which a reader or junior will go through every few months.  Unless you have written something stellar it is unlikely that a commissioning editor will read it. Use the Writer's&Artists Yearbook instead to glean editors names and try the old fashioned postal approach - prove that you are willing to put a stamp on your dreams.  Another publishing trick is to sign rejections with an illegible squiggle so they don't have to deal with any comeback. Crafty, but clever!  I was chatting to a wannabe writer some time ago who had a finished novel but refused to print it out and relied on a link to a blog site to try and sell it to agents and publishers. Editors will not read an entire project on screen!  New writers; if you are not prepared to invest in your own work why would you expect a publisher to invest in it by way of an advance and contract?

Writing a novel requires a completely different approach to writing non-fiction.  Editors want to see three consecutive chapters, a synopsis and possibly a character profile list too.  Again, this is a good way for said publishers to protect their valuable time as an author can only supply the above to a high standard when they have completed the novel.  Have you ever been asked for a synopsis and thought to yourself "How can I write that when even I don't know how my book ends yet? I'm only on chapter five! It's so unfair!"  The bottom line is you must finish writing the novel before you approach a publisher or agent.  It is a very busy and competitive industry - editors and agents have no time for emails which muse "I've had a great idea for a novel; do you want to be my publisher?"  It is a pipe-dream of the idle to assume that ideas sell & make money - action makes money - write the whole novel and you actually have something to show and to sell.  


I tend to work on my novels when all the deadlines are met and after I have put time into my music and the new album - in other words, when I have finished with the day job.  I have written over 30,000 words on one novel and about 12,000 on the other so neither project is completely off the ground yet.  I am not even thinking about publishing or approaching editors with them at such an early stage. It is the very last thing on my mind.  Writing a novel is tough enough; to maintain momentum and stamina for the project can be hard work at times; why would I put myself under the added pressure of dealing with publishers at such an early stage of the books?  Especially when a rejection could completely derail my enthusiasm for the story I am telling?  I would much rather enjoy the actual process of writing and of being absorbed in the two different worlds of my imaginings.

Once again, I realize that this post is going to be a bit disappointing to some of you; but I did promise you that I would tell it like it really is in the publishing industry.  There is no reason why you should not  start to write your novel; but your very best chance of publication lies in finishing it! Good Luck :-)

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