Ever wondered how a book comes into fruition from the initial idea through to submitted manuscript? Today’s blog is the time line for my fourth publication, ‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ to be published 11th July 2019 by Headline Publishing Group. I’ve been totally honest regards dates, the creative process and the effort involved. I share such details, primarily to help aspiring authors who might glean information to support their own projects and secondly, for my readers who frequently ask ‘behind-the-scenes’ questions about my books.
Saturday, 18th August 2018 – Saturday, 1st September 2018
My husband and I were invited to join our close family friends on their annual summer holiday, which this year was a cottage in Brixham. They’d never been to Brixham before and neither had we, so weeks earlier we’d accepted their kind offer. For me, it was to be a relaxing holiday consisting of leisurely reading and spending quality time enjoying their company. That might sound strange, but there are times when I spend hour upon hour on my own in a room with only my thoughts and imagination for company. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my creative process and my work but I frequently recognise that I don’t clock up much interaction with other human beings. I’m not a people person by nature, which sounds somewhat insular to others. Instead, my mind is filled with ideas and projects which bring me pleasure and happiness so, I have a tendency to lean towards solitary pursuits.
Anyway, the cottage was quaint, the family fun to be with and the weather utterly beautiful so, for three days, I sketched, read and enjoyed the harbour views. Unbeknownst to me, my brain was doing what it does best in collecting information, absorbing the scenery and whirring silently in the background collating ideas. On the fourth day, Tuesday, 21st August 2018, was a family birthday so, we took a trip into the local town of Totnes to celebrate. The six of us piled into one MPV car and headed out on the short journey from Brixham to Totnes, which is a short journey of approximately twenty minutes. That’s when my muse decided to inform me she’d been secretly working. I hadn’t pen or paper so, grabbed my mobile to write a few details which came to mind (see photograph). From these few lines my mind began to spin and create story lines, back ground and histories for each woman. By the time, we arrived back at the cottage after our outing, I had three fully formed women chattering in my head. I berated myself. I was on holiday, I wasn’t supposed to be working but chilling. I’d captured the initial idea which was the important thing, but it would need to wait until I arrived home. How wrong I was!
On Thursday, 23rd August, we were enjoying a drink in the Sprat and Mackerel pub on the harbour front when I opened an email from my agent David Headley asking if I’d created a synopsis for a new idea? I hadn’t expected this email until after my holiday. I’d had a meeting earlier in the month with a senior commissioning editor and he was simply checking-in regards a potential idea. No, but… well, dear reader, you can guess the rest.
That night, while the others cooked dinner, I sat outside on the patio devising plotlines for my three ladies. Seriously, in a matter of two hours I had everything I needed to write a synopsis. With a little help from my friends, who provided feasible forenames and surnames as I blurted out specific details about each character. As sunset arrived, I began writing the synopsis. By twilight, it was complete. On Friday, 24th August, I emailed the synopsis to both the commissioning editor and my agent. As you can imagine I was as pleased as punch with my efforts given the quick turnaround from initial notes to synopsis – that, had never happened before. I usually take a couple of weeks to plan an idea and create a synopsis but hey, sometimes the ideas just flow!
Our holiday continued jogging along happily until our sad departure on Saturday, 1st September – when we packed up our belongings, piled suitcases into cars and made the long journey back to the Midlands. Who’d have thought on my journey home I’d have a new idea in the pipeline – not me!
Anyway, as an author you learn that life goes on. You can’t afford to sit around waiting for a response, you simply need to crack on with writing something, anything in fact - otherwise you are wasting valuable time.
As many of my readers know, I am also work full-time as a teacher and so, I returned to school after the six week’s holidays. I didn’t hear anything about my synopsis until 17th September when my agent called to say, I’d been offered a two-book deal with Headline Publishing Group and the first book was to be the Brixham story. The editor had taken it to their commissioning meetings and discussed in full and the only query was the title, they wished to change it. Again, it’s something authors must get used to, you can’t be ‘precious’ regards your book title, character names and even, plot events because the publishers need to make changes where they need to make changes. So, their chosen title was ‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ – which I think is lovely given the location and events in the story. My agent informed me that my submission deadline was… 4th January 2019. I was thrilled to bits.
I put the phone down, and then reality hits home. The date was 17th September and my deadline was January, mmmm! I then asked Siri how many days remained until 4th January 2019? His monotone reply was 109 days!
Panic! I had 109 days to write an entire book… 108 days if I chose not to work Christmas day… 107 days if I take New Year’s Day off. Eeeeeek! Previously, my novel ‘The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm’ had been written in 147 days. Double eeeeek!
I went straight upstairs to my writing room and created my manuscript document, my working spreadsheet on which I record chapter notes and inserted my title ‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’. A good start, I had a title and an agreed synopsis!
At this point I have two choices:
I chose the latter! I have always lived my life with the notion that I must celebrate success because we never know if these moments will come our way again. So, I spent the evening out, celebrating and enjoying the events of the day knowing that tomorrow the hard work would begin. And, it did.
From 18th September it was full on, nose to the grind stone juggling the day-job and the dream job. It wasn’t easy and I’m not going to pretend it was a breeze, because it wasn’t. I know plenty of people who juggle two careers and it blows my mind how many hours we work to meet our goals. We each only have so much energy in a twenty-four-hour window and sadly, many sacrifices have to be made but I can’t complain. It is my choice. My theory is - if you want what you want then, you must do what you need to do. So, the weekday routine of day-job from eight o’clock until six o’clock followed by writing during my evenings restarted in earnest. Thankfully, I teach for four days a week so, have Fridays and weekends at my disposal to dedicate to writing, which I do religiously. I couldn’t afford to waste my Friday sessions, which have become my most productive day of the week.
Initially, I plotted events for each character using post-it notes, then wrote each post-it note in full. Whilst writing, my imagination always adds extra details, twists and turns so, I did stray a little from the original synopsis but it worked.
Now, we all know the best laid plans of mice and men never run as we’d like and yes, I encountered many obstacles. But, I just needed to crack on with the job in hand. There were days when the words flowed beautifully and my fingers danced across the keyboard. Those days were a pleasure. Sadly, there were days when I was metaphorically digging for coal. Hard, tough and dirty work. Those days aren’t nice but with experience you realise you learn more about yourself on those specific days than on the beautiful days. So, you plod on and hey presto, the next day is a beauty.
I repeated this pattern for 108 days - I didn’t work on Christmas day but, I did work on the evening of New Year’s Day.
I submitted my manuscript just before midnight on 4th January 2019. As an author, you can’t afford to miss your deadlines and I pride myself on having never missed one.
5th January - I took the day off. I didn’t write a thing, I spent hours reading, sketching and day dreaming in an attempt to unwind. Seriously, this brain of mine never switches off so, I try to accommodate in with other creative pursuits.
6th January – I got up early as my brain had thrown up an idea and I was bursting to make notes. I worked all day plotting out the lives of three new ladies.
7th January – I returned to the day-job.
Friday, 11th January, I received the news I’d been waiting for confirming that my editor is ‘delighted’ with the submitted manuscript. I can officially breathe… and, celebrate!
‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ available from Amazon and Waterstones