Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sabbatical (no, not from writing - from the other stuff that gets in the way of it!)

Those who can't do teach, right? A dubious saying at best, but still one that made me wonder what that would make me come September.

Yep, I'm a teacher. If you'll be so good as to look to the right of the screen, you'll see the small, pink reason that I've been working part-time for the last couple of years. Long story short (insert cut-scenes of me tearing around making terrible packed lunches for various children, wincing at the speed I'm forcing my car to in order to get to work on time, organising endless childcare, shoving way too much washing into an already groaning and overloaded washing machine, NEVER eating breakfast, ALWAYS being tired, and so on and so forth), I'm not renewing my contract with the school I work at when it runs out in August.

Yes, that's right - I'm going to try my hand a being a starving artist type. And that's actually how I'm going to describe my occupation. Other people in my situation might choose stay-at-home mom. I'm listing that as my second job, since it's one I'm pretty practised at. I approach a nappy change like Jenson Button's pit stop crew and I'm pretty sure I can beat their time.

Am I sorry that my career is going on a little hiatus? Nope. I couldn't be more thrilled to be staying at home for the Autumn term. Is it because I get to spend all day with said small, pink person (and take part in NANO this year)? Yes, it is. Is it because I can take my boys to school every day and pick them up every day like my mom always did for me (and write or edit my WiP every day)? Yes, it is. Is it because I plan on taking my girl to Tumble Tots classes and Rhythm Time music classes, and baking, painting and gardening with her (and researching agents and editing and re-writing my query a zillion time)? Why yes. Yes, it is : )

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A useful list of UK agents that accept YA novels

This week I thought I'd share the list of agents that I queried with my first YA novel, Fait Accompli. If you've read my first blog post, you'll know that I had three requests for partials - one from a UK agent, and two from US agents. During the time I was waiting for a response, I started my second novel, and had a major rethink about Fait Accompli.

The major rethink involved realising this: I'm a teacher, and sometimes, to help teach children to write stories of their own, we help them to re-tell other people's stories. So Owl Babies becomes Fox Babies. You get the picture. Anyway, it was time to admit that I'd completed an (only slightly) more sophisticated version of this practice myself. Fait Accompli officially became my training bra novel.

I received three very polite, and very expected rejections, one of which had me grinning all day. The agent in question (from the UK) wrote exactly what I'd already concluded about FA. Here's the message I got:

Dear Ruth,

I must apologise for not having written to you sooner and leaving you without a decision.

Thank you very much for sending me a sample of your work which I have now been able to read and consider. While I enjoyed it, I am afraid that I will not be asking to see any more. Although I thought it well-written and liked the narrative voice, I’m afraid I do not feel the plot stands out sufficiently. The YA market is currently saturated with the paranormal romance genre, and I feel that publishers are now looking for more original plots.

But thanks again for letting me see your work and good luck with finding representation. I attach a list of agents you may wish to try, and would be interested to see anything else you write in the future.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Why am I grinning? Because I believe in the plot of my new novel. And because this agent invited me to send her another query when it's ready : )

Of course, she's now at the top of my agents-I'll-be-contacting-as-soon-as-the-WiP-is-finished list. So I thought I'd share the list with you.

These are the UK agents I chose, not in any particular order. They all accept YA novels, they all have websites, and they all accept query via e-mail.

Eve White
Eunice McMullen
Christopher Little
Caroline Sheldon
Annette Green
MBA (Sophie Gorell Barnes)
Wade and Doherty
Isabel White
Lucy Luck
Diane Banks
Antony Harwood (Jo Williamson)
Andrew Mann (Tina Betts)
Mariam Keen – Whispering Buffalo
Kirsty McLachlan at DGA
Claire Wilson at RCW
 Lauren Pearson at Regal Literary
 Futerman Rose
Anne-Marie Doulton at The Ampersand Agency
Ariella Feiner at United Agents
Laura Cecil

So there you have it. Hope this is helpful as a starting point for some research when you're ready to query :)


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

No ifs, ands or buts about it

Do you really care if I start sentences with words like 'and'? Because I'm going to (see what I did there?)

I wrote Fait Accompli however it occurred to me to do it. Before I joined Scrib and learned about the hitherto unknown passive sentence, or the evil that is (hushed whisper) an adverb. Before I fully understood that the full stop goes inside the speech mark when you're writing dialogue. Yes, I know I have an English degree. No, apparently I never picked that up. Yes, I know how stupid that makes me look.

Then I joined Scrib and a whole new understanding of the depth and breadth of my lack of understanding revealed itself to me. I spent twice as long editing FA as I did writing it. 70k words became 58k as I cut redundancy, re-worded passive sentences and waged war on adverbs.

So when I started work on Write Your Name, I was a little better educated. I knew that each speaker's dialogue needed to be 'attached' to their actions. I knew about tags and beats. Paragraphing is still somewhat haphazard, and commas may never be my friend, but, moving swiftly on, I felt like I could attempt to produce something half decent. However, somewhere during the process, I also started to analyse everything I read. Not in the way that I did when I was at University. Not from a lit crit angle. From a I'm-picking-apart-every-sentence-you-write-to-see-how-you-do-it kind of angle.

And I expected to see little to no evidence of 'weak' verbs. None of those adverbs I'd been warned would be the ruination of my lovely writing, and could be deleted if I just chose a stronger verb. No run-on sentences, no passive writing.

I expected not to see full stops after speech marks. Ok, I got that last one. Nobody does that. Seriously, not even six year olds.

BUT (yes, I started a sentence with it, and there's nothing you can do about it - it's my blog!) the books I scrutinised all used the word (shield your eyes if you must) was. I was reading Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong when I first started really looking at what published authors used or didn't use, and let me tell you, Mr Faulks didn't seem adverse. I'm currently reading the second in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Linger) because I'm on a massive YA kick since last year. She doesn't seem overly bothered either.

Now I know that I'm not in the same league as those authors. I know that in my pre-published state (isn't that a nice way of putting it : ) ) I shouldn't pick and choose which writing 'rules' I flaut. But is it really so terrible if, in telling my new story the way I want to tell it, I use the word was? Can I really not start a sentence with but, or and? When you write, should you worry about rules? (dear God, I just slipped into second person. Am I going to writer hell?) How do you decide?