I rewarded myself with some free time away from a computer on Friday when I went to the Exeter Food and Wine Festival. It provided some opportunities to watch people in a different environment from cafes and bars. In the large marquee’s the emphasis was all about the food. The behavior of individuals as they approached the various stalls varied; some were diffident and declined to look at whoever was manning the stall, others talked confidently about what they liked and why they were interested in a particular product. Among the crowds were the professionals looking for new products for their shops or restaurants, They listened carefully to the stall holders and also to customers who came up to buy. But the most fun was watching the professional chefs show off their skills in the cookery demonstrations. The top chefs are showmen, wielding knives as a stage prop and talking incessantly. They seemed to find it easy to build a rapport with their audience despite spending most of their time behind the scenes in their own restaurants. The one we watched Peter Gorton was a great raconteur and as he worked told tales about doing private dinners and on one occasion he had set the kitchen alight. The hostess was disappointed he hadn’t done more damage as she was trying to persuade her husband to buy a new one.
On the train home I watched a young man writing a letter -yes a real letter on real paper. When I sat opposite him, he was reading a letter written on pale cream paper with a decorated border. I assumed it was written by a young woman on notepaper given to her as a Christmas present. My imagination decided the contents were a plea to resume their relationship, a plea that from the firmness of the man’s jaw and the lack of any sparkle in his eyes I assume he was about to reject. He took from his brief case a folder containing notepaper and began to write. He was left handed and I noticed how his left hand curved round the top of the notepaper as he wrote, quite quickly from left to right. He held the pen between his thumb and forefinger with the hand above the pen. The position gave the appearance of hiding the contents of the letter as I remember children trying to protect their schoolwork from prying eyes. I recall that the word sinister comes from left handedness, and it did indeed seem a strange and secretive way of writing.
So my day out provided characters for my writing. Do other writers give themselves time just to observe?
Oh the popcorn. Well my favorite stall at the Festival was the Portlebury Popcorn Company.
I have now agreed a proof copy of my novel Crucial Evidence to go to the printers and for the ebook formats. It took four copies to hopefully eliminate all the irritating typo’s, minor grammatical mistakes etc, before I was satisfied. My husband read the proof as well just to make sure – I was sure I was missing mistakes because I had read it so often.
He raised with me the question of hyphens as there were times when he thought I should have a hyphen between words for example cross examination. I checked the original copy edit and found that Lucy, the copy editor had taken them out.
I am currently reading ‘For Who the Bell Tolls’ by David Marsh, who edits The Guardian’s style guide. I consulted the book and discovered that the hyphen is going out of fashion. One reason is that the computer breaks up hyphenated words at the end of sentences. So, he says, if they are not needed to ensure the clarity of a sentence don’t use them. Incidentally the book is a good read as well as really helpful about rules of grammar they’re not as many you think – is the message.
The next stage with the book is completing the cover design and the blurb for the back. The front cover looks like this
I really like it – I hope everyone else does as well.
Publication should happen at the beginning of February 2012.
Best Wishes to all for the Festive Season and a Happy New Year.
I have been so busy with moving home and then sorting out the new house that I have failed to write anything at all. Virginia Wolf said that a writer needs a little money and a room of ones own. I have finally achieved the later, fortunately a career at the Bar provided me with some money. My computer is now in a small upstairs room with a great view. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not – I fear I may spend too much time gazing out of the window rather than writing.
Progress on the publication of my novel Crucial Evidence is very slow. I received the printer’s proof at the end of July just as the process of moving really got underway, so checking it for errors is having to take second place to all the other things one needs to do after moving house, like finding a new doctor and a new vet for our Springer Spaniel. Incidentally he doesn’t like my new office as he isn’t allowed upstairs and he hates being left alone, so he sits on the second step of the stairs, his head resting on the third watching and waiting for me to reappear.
The other difficulty with checking the proof is that I am not entirely sure what I am looking for. What are the mistakes that creep in when the Word document is formatted for printing. Apart from finding some blank pages and some misalignment of the lines of dialogue I can find very little wrong with the proof. I have found some editing mistakes and I have noted those as now they will be corrected by the publisher. I am working through it again and preparing the proof changes for the printer. My hoped for publication date in October has I think vanished and it looks like it will be some time in the New Year, but it’s better to get it right than hurry this process.
I recently heard from the major publisher who have been considering my novel Crucial Evidence that they are not going to publish it because they don’t think it will be a bestseller! Just a reasonable seller would be good enough for me. So it looks like its self publishing.
In furtherance of that route I had already send the book for a full edit and I have also received the editor’s comments on it. Her view is that in places the book lacks pace, and she suggests that I remove quite large sections which give my main character, a barrister called Cassie Hardman, a context. One aspect is her background, which I feel is quite important as she comes from a ‘working class’ family (hate these
descriptions but in the UK they still apply), state schools, red-brick university, whilst the Bar tends to be ‘upper middle class,’ private school and Oxbridge. She feels an outsider in her chosen profession and that is reflected in some of her decisions and attitudes. The other is a sub-plot about her Chambers’ politics, which again shows her reactions away from the courtroom, but still with her colleagues. Without those changes she thinks it is unlikely I will find an agent.
The publishing business uses agents as gatekeepers to monitor the manuscripts they receive and ensure only the best get through to the publishers for their consideration. When it comes to genre fiction, the formats are so fixed that anyone writing something that doesn’t fit precisely within the stereotype is not considered.
Another way of putting it is that for commercial fiction the author must write what the publisher wants, or rather what an agent thinks the publisher wants, and not what the writer wants to write.
So to amend that well known saying Self-publish and be damned.