Whistling Dixie

There is no easy way around it.

Revising a novel that is.

Writing is the easy part (for me anyway)

I have written 2 novels now and have to say, I love turning up for the page.  I have yet to experience writer’s block (lucky me).  The biggest hurdle I experience is fitting writing in around my part time job  and my young family life. So when I do show up  and start writing – it is a real buzz – I love it.

When my  first draft is completed, it is truly a  ‘Draft Zero’

Draft Zero – the rough draft – warts and all.

The writing has been more or less vomited onto the page.  It is not a pretty picture to a reader.

first draft

The experts advise to sit on a novel for a bit – leave it ‘in a drawer’ and then to return to it some weeks later.  So you go back to it with a fresh view.

But I have found that the weeks go by, months even,  and I avoid returning to it.  There is that dread.  My characters are nagging me – tapping me on the shoulder – “hey! what about us, that scene – you know it doesn’t work – fix it”  or the character that is a bit fuzzy looking – standing in some fog, cos you haven’t written their back story to give them a good foundation – some depth.

Why do I put it off?

Because  revising is soooo hard.

keep calm

I recently gave my Draft Zero to my writing group for their first impression.  The are my Beta Babes.  My Writing Sirens.  My Realists. They are an honest bunch – I got to hear the plot strengths and weaknesses.  Plot holes essentially.  Don’t get me wrong – it was great.  Very productive.  It just means I had to go back in and sort it out.

Needless to say, there is a lot of work that needs doing.  And THAT is when I had to  convince myself to go back to the keyboard and start the shredding/slashing/re-creating.

Which then is the beginning of Draft one.

My last book, K-Girls took about 17 drafts before it was ‘done’.  Yup,  One Seven.

So I have a bit to go yet on this book 2, before it is truly finished.

There could be many a sleepless night – but hey, I have 3 kids – Sleepless nights don’t scare me.

Anyway – why am I going into all this now you might ask?

Well – I have been putting it off.  And as any decent procrastinator will tell you, it is not my fault that I have not got round to revising my novel.  Naturally, I blame the husband, the kids, the housework, work – my blog………

And here I am – writing this – when on my next PC window sits my novel – Whistling Dixie for my attention.  And so I will take a break from my blog for a bit.  As I get my teeth into revising my own book.

I am sweating thinking about it.  But hey – all for the greater good.  And no one else can do it but me.  This I have to do on my own.

So I am going to knuckle down.

I may be some time

procrastination

Almost ‘and back again’ – last day in New York

Day 6 – last of the ‘Little Adventure’ – Thursday, March 19th 2015

One last burst of exploring the city – left to my own devices and full of confidence, I returned to Grand Central station, and this time headed North.

So what was on my agenda?

Thursday was about research and…. a bit of a ‘business meeting’……..

Throughout my posts about my New York visit, I have commented very little about my writing/novel.  This day was being driven with both in mind.  Whether it is an idea for plot or character for the next book or if it is a whole new book for another time, I felt New York would give me inspiration.  But, again, I wasn’t choosing the usual tourist path.

images (1)

I LOVE history now- not the big stories per say, but more the stories behind the big stories.  I also find, that  from a writer’s view, when I hear a date,  I find my mind relating it back to Kylemore.   What was going on there at the same time?

So for example, when construction was underway at Kylemore Castle in 1867:  the International Exhibition was opened in Paris – Jesse James was busy robbing a bank in Missouri – Karl Marx had just published ‘Das Kapital’ – The widow Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Albert Hall – the Medicine Lodge Treaty was signed between US/Native American Indians – the Fenian’s were organising a Rising in Ireland…….  Needless to say the list could go on.

Did you know that 1867  was also the year Charles Dickens gave his first public reading in New York at Steinway Hall?

Anyway, for research there was a few places I wanted to visit,  to ‘put my eye’ on the locations that I had read about and filed away.

New York is a pulsing  city today – what was it like during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s?

Here is what I did NOT get to see.

I had missed an opportunity to get to the Tenement Museum – note:  you can only visit here while escorted by a tour guide and that has to be pre-booked.  AND I also messed up on  getting to the Merchant House (it is open Thursday – Sundays)  AND with the week that was in it, Ellis Island was totally booked out! 😦 All/any of these,  would have been a fantastic opportunity to see how people lived (and died)  during the late 1800’s etc in New York.   I was very disappointed not to have been able to visit them.

I have promised myself to get to them on my  NEXT trip to New York!

We do have comparable tourist experiences  here in Ireland:  Living The Lockout, for the tenement side of things in Dublin, and our own Cobh Heritage Experience for the Famine Ships, Titanic and Lusitania stories, and of course we have our own fine examples of the Big Houses, Kylemore and Muckross House being two of them.

But would they be a similar experience?

I think not. ( I will endeavour to get to the Irish ones before the year is out)

I did get to seek out some places on my list for New York.  One was the Dakota building (built between 1880 and 1884) – I had recently finished a great time travel book (recommended by Stephen King) – Time and Again by Jack Finney,   where the Dakota was used in the book as the base for time travel – the building reportedly got its name from being built so far on the Upper West Side, that it might as well have been in Dakota.

 

The Dakota in winter c. 1890 - (image as appears chp 17 of Time and Again)

The Dakota in winter c. 1890 – (image as appears chp 17 of Time and Again)

 

Of course the building now sits nice and snug, blending in very comfortably with its’ towering neighbours….. I had great fun finding it, and then wondered what stories IT could tell.

Dakota Now,  2015

Dakota Now, 2015

 

On a side note, did you know that prior to establishing the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, that her torch bearing arm was first exhibited at Madison Square Park?  The story, as I understand it, is that the state couldn’t afford to build a base and erect the statue and so the arm was on display instead, tourists paying to climb up into the torch, while fund raising continued.

lending a hand of Liberty

lending a hand of Liberty

 

Lunch time soon snuck up on me and I had to attend my ‘Business Meeting’

For lunch I meet with a ‘Certain Someone’.  Now this person shall remain nameless as I do not want to identify them in this blog, until such time that they advise otherwise.  And as casual as it may have been arranged, it was actually a PR exercise for me to push the idea of my book and for ‘He who shall not be named’ to put a face and character to my name. In case you get too excited, they are not an agent/publisher or an author even, but they are in the industry and lets just say they were doing me the favour by giving me some of their very precious time.

On the surface it was all very relaxed and easy going, but I have to admit I was nervous and very conscious of not coming across as too cocky, or too wishy-washy either.  I had about 30 minutes to talk up my book and me, without appearing pushy and needy.

As a result the first 20 minutes we talked about everything BUT the books and my writing – and the last few I had my ‘window’ to try and capture the very essence of what I was all about and where I wanted to bring my book series ‘K-Girls’.  It was my first real ‘pitch’ without trying to make it sound too obvious that that is exactly what it was!

I think it went very well – not to any degree of signing any book deals but I certainly got some interesting feed back, picked up a professional tip or two.  I think they went away reasonably impressed, not just with my book series idea,  but with me too!  If they go away thinking this girl has some good ideas that go beyond the traditional, and they drop my name in their professional circles, then I would be very happy with that.

We shall have to wait and see what outcome, if any, comes out of that.

Meeting over, I sauntered for a bit near by and I have to say I was in my total element when I found this little Gem – not a building – but a book of buildings!

images

 

Fab imagery of New York back in its early days, with comparison shots from modern day – (hats off to author Marcia Reiss and photographer Evan Joseph)  I had great fun finding some of the buildings within and making my own comparisons.

As a result,  I walked miles around the city and felt I even did my own bit of  ‘time travel’  …….the weather was glorious and I got to walk across Central Park (where the pond was still frozen) and ‘popped’ in (how naive was I) to the Met Museum.   I would need a whole new trip to New York to get to see everything there.

Oh how weary was I by the end of it all – how wonderfully wonderfully weary.

At the end of the afternoon,  I made it ‘home’ to Mamaroneck with blistered feet and a very happy soul.

The next day was ‘Going Home’ day and so I spent it with my hosts, dear friends – and I will always appreciate those last few cuddles on the couch, from my beautiful and pixie-like god daughter ‘Berry-Boo‘.

It was a quick and sad good bye. (save having to go back to collect a forgotten purse!!!! – thank you AGAIN Rozzy)

I arrived home to Ireland in one piece – and I have to admit I was very happy to see the familiar patchwork green fields from Aer Lingus just before we set down in Dublin.

My trip was  – oh there is no denying it – AMAZING – as cliched as it sounds.

I would like to think that my one was one with a difference – I hope my  last few posts have caught some of that.

Looking back on the last year, it goes to show that you have to Put It Out There – whatever IT is that you want in life –

it might just come true –

After all

I got to New York didn’t I?

Little Erin stroll

Putting it out there

I am a great believer in asking for something.

What is the worst you can hear after all?

No?

If we don’t ask, we don’t get.

Some might believe that our paths are set and what is due will come in turn.  Rubbish I say! – okay, not total rubbish – I do believe that our paths are somewhat laid down but just for the pure fun of it, GOD (whatever type yours is) throws in a bit of choice to see what we can come up with ourselves.

if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

I have encouraged my kids to be confident in asking for something.  There is a skill to this I think – there is a lot to be said for good manners, good humour, and sure, doesn’t everyone love a charming chancer?

It all boils down to asking for something ‘cos you, well, want it.   So you have to put it out there.

please sir

 

As a boarder in Kylemore, I took chances at asking for permission  – A lot of the time, I was told no, but it was a real bonus when I was told yes!  I  got home early from boarding school  once – I didn’t expect that result myself!

As an adult I was often on the receiving end.  Having worked in the hotel industry, while us managers had to manage complaining guests and going with ‘the customer is king’ attitude – I always acquiesced so much more easily to the polite guest with the issue, than the demanding loud condescending rude one.

And who doesn’t love the try-er – ‘Is there any chance we could get an upgrade?’

Did you hear about the student at a Richard Branson convention somewhere out of state?  – he was receiving texts from the audience as part of the Q & A at the end of the session before he had to dash to his next commitment that was the inauguration of the new President Obama in Washington.  Some bright spark texted him asking was  there any chance they could get a spin with him to the swearing in  – and would you believe it, Richard was impressed enough with their taking a chance and their charming cheekiness, that he said yes!  The texter and their friend were whisked away there and then along with Richard in his helicopter and not only got to see the inauguration but got prime view with Branson’s entourage! (or so the story goes)

I just love that.

But what has this got to do with anything?

 

take a chance

While the self published route has been very satisfying, now that I have written my second book in the series, I have realised with confidence that there is more to my book series than, well,  books.  I firmly believe that the idea as a whole has so much more potential and that realisation involves not being able to do it on my own.  I can, and do, write, but I need experts in all the other areas to do what they do best and so need to be part of team.

To achieve this,  I need to go back to the traditional approach that is to getting “Published” – and I think that means getting an agent.  So I am back to the asking again.

purrrlease

Permission seeking.  ‘Can I be part of your gang?’ sort of thing.

Little_Rascals

Now I have to up sell – ‘cos this time I am in a queue of askers.

Rejection is a little more commonplace when it comes to putting it out there – and I have had my fair share of those.

I am beginning to wonder do I need to revisit my  approach?

Writing my blog and completing my various pages on ‘About me’ and ‘So who is Ruth?’ has made me realise that what I actually share with people when telling them about my book series is not what I have been actually sending out to the various agents/publishing houses.

Perhaps I need to take another look at that?

I recently sent out some new query’s to agents in New York – the thinking that the American market might like the idea of an Irish boarding school story and so after carefully studying and selecting the agents that I thought would be the right fit, I dusted off my submission page and query letter and sent that off.

I have received one rejection so far (1 week after submitting – good going considering some can take up to 6 weeks and beyond)

 “Thank you so much for writing me about your project. I carefully consider each query I receive, and I’m sorry to say that I’m not quite the right fit for yours. I do appreciate that you wrote to me and wish you the very best luck finding the ideal agent for your work.”

 Nicely put,  but it is still a big fat NO!

It is a bit like going for that new job – but that role you really really want.

The fate believers will tell you that it will all come right in the end – and that you have to keep kissing a lot of ugly frogs before you find the right one – eggs to be broken to make an omelette – many doors to be knocked on before the right one opens………

It is reassuring to know that JK Rowling, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie among others, received many rejections before finding their right fit.  I wonder how often they changed their approach?

And so I am now wondering should I not be knocking on doors but instead, say,

throwing pebbles at a window?

Maybe that would get a ‘special’ someone’s attention?

 

We Want You