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I knew I was an author when…

Feed my ego! My name on the spine of a bookazinePhil: …I realised that my name was on the spine of the bookazine.

I don’t know whether this is interesting or not, but getting properly published doesn’t quite feel like I thought it would. The thing is, I first pitched this project 18 months ago. Since the initial acceptance, I’ve been living with it every day. Even when I’ve been working somewhere in a “proper” job, the bookazine has been floating around the back of my mind.

When we reached the date on my calendar marked “Delivered from the printer”, I was excited. Think 5 year old waiting to open his Christmas pressie and you get the idea. A pessimist to my core, I simply couldn’t believe that this would actually come off until I held a copy in my hand. When I did, I tried to casually flick through the pages as though it was the most natural thing in the world and I wasn’t really bothered.

Which was easy as I just didn’t get the thrill I’d expected.

It’s not that I was disappointed, far from it, it was just a bit “Ho hum. It looks like the proofs I’ve been reading”. Not nearly as special as I had thought.

I guess that the nearest analogy for most people would be a wedding. Although I’ve not been at the centre of one, I’ve been closely involved a couple of times and it seems there is a heck of a lot of work and fuss and stress. Then the day arrives. More work, fuss and stress and then…

It’s all over and pretty much forgotten.

Writing, it appears, is work. Proper, normal work. Pretty boring in places – re-reading the same chapter repeatedly to try to untangle a bit of text requires a serious effort to maintain concentration – nothing like the air-fairy creative process most people envisage. In this case a couple of times that concentration slipped and mistakes made it through to the page.

John Scalzi summed it up in an interesting way last month by saying that he was grinding out the last few thousand words of his novel. He’d reached the point where he knew what was going to happen, it just needed turning into words on a screen.

I think this is the stage The Book is at. We know the plot. We’ve written the first draft. We’ve messed around with it. Now we have to do the bit no-one knows about when they think about writing and beat the thing into a sharper, better defined shape. That’s not nearly as much fun as writing the first version of the story, but it’s a hurdle that we have to get over. If we don’t, we’ll be left with all the other wannabee writers who also couldn’t take the next step.

Anyway, you will be pleased that I eventually did get a bit of a thrill from publication and it was when I saw my name on the spine. I didn’t spot this until 2 days after I’d bought a copy (Yes, I blagged some free ones but buying your book from a proper shop is exciting), it wasn’t expected, this is really just a fat magazine after all and a spin-off from another magazine so I assumed that it would be the mothermag name on there. It is, but so is mine.

It’s only a minor triumph but it give me hope that we can manage the much greater success of being paid to write something that only ever existed in our heads. Once that one is heading to the printers, I will be like a 5 year old waiting for Christmas expecting a really big Lego model to be under the tree.

Candice on CasualtyAnd now, I promise, I’ll shut up about it.

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Investing in my writing

Phil: Being quite happy with quality of the feedback we’ve received from Writers-forum for our last short story, We’re planning to submit another entry. It’s ready, edited, polished and perfect, or so we think.

Checking the entry details, to take part costs £6. This is cut by half for subscribers to the magazine – so, I wonder if it’s worth subscribing. After all, this is £36 or the money saved on twelve entries. Can you see my Scottish and Polish blood lines coming through ?

Anyway, a trip to WH Smith sees me the proud owner of a copy of said magazine. It’s got a nice shiny cover and decent quality paper (I do work with other magazines, trust me, this is important). Settling down with a mug of tea and a little cake, I start to read. You know what ? It’s really not bad at all. I know you can’t really judge a magazine by a single issue (unless my byline is in there, in which case it’s as good as you get) but I pretty quickly find a couple of pieces that set me thinking which seems like a good thing.

I also have the chance to read the winning short stories for September. These don’t seem anything like as good as ours, in fact I can’t get through the winner at all. The judges might think it “sucks them in” but I only agree with one of those words. It is useful to read other people’s work even if I don’t like it, the skill is working out exactly what I don’t like and trying to learn from their mistakes, or at least understand why I might be wrong (surely not).

Anyway, the website is down so I make a quick phone call and hand over my credit card details for a years worth of magazines. If I am serious about writing, and I am, then I need more input. Ignoring the money for a moment (I’ll get that back with 10 miutes worth of sales once The Book gets published) I need to make time  to read this stuff. You can’t learn by osmosis, the mag must be read from cover to cover every month, in many ways the investment is more in time than money. It’s certainly quicker than a college course in creative writing and cheaper too. Who knows what I might learn, or what opportunities will appear to be grasped ?

Writers-Forum website

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Filed under Phil, Writing