WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE?

THE SEQUEL TO FIFTEEN POSTCARDS IS COMING.

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In late May I signed my second publishing contract with Accent Press, a publisher in the United Kingdom. The contract was for the sequel to Fifteen Postcards, titled The Last Letter. And now the work begins...

Now my manuscript is in the very capable hands of my editor, David Powell, and he'll massage it into something far better than what I sent him.

When I say he'll massage it, he'll make a few thousand notations down the sides of the pages, correcting grammatical errors, and querying a myriad of issues he'll no doubt discover in the 131,000 words I wrote.

Then we'll spend several weeks sending the document backwards and forwards across the Tasman Sea, via email, until we are both happy, and then the final product gets sent to the UK for my publisher to typeset, and massage into book form.

In the meantime, I'll also be sent a draft of the cover for approval, or comment. That may go back and forwards a couple of times. I suggested some concepts this time, and now I wait to see if those meet with favour on the other side of the world.

It's a scary thing putting your creative efforts into the hands of others, who then have the power, and the signed contract, to do with as they please! But this is the way of authors who have chosen not to self publish. There are pros and cons with both sides of the coin. I've chosen this side.

It's not a free ride, either way. Even authors with one of the big five publishers have to do their fair share of the marketing. Blog posts, guest posts, book signings, media articles, radio interviews, library visits, book club attendances, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, yes, even Google+. Don't forget LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. I've drawn the line at Snapchat - there is only so much time in the day, and my family would like me to speak to them at times. 

There's all this, and...you still need to write the next one!

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First Draft Is Off To The Editor

Today I emailed off the first draft of my second book, The Last Letter, to my editor.

Happy Author Face!

Happy Author Face!

When I say I emailed off my first draft of The Last Letter, I actually mean I emailed a version of my manuscript where parts of it are version eight, other parts are version six. Some chapters, mainly the later ones, are versions three or four. Some sentences, nay, whole paragraphs, have gone through so many edits, they bear no resemblance to the very first draft I wrote.

So when I say I've emailed off my first draft of The Last Letter to my editor, what I really mean is that I emailed off the first version of my manuscript that someone other than myself will read. A scary thought. Exciting, and terrifying too.

About twenty minutes after I hit the send button, I started thinking about all the things I could have done to improve that first draft. What about the Raja? Will how I've left things at the Old Curiosity Shop make the readers happy? Thoughts tumbled over and over in my mind, querying my attention to detail, my historical accuracy. Did I have enough tantalising tidbits about antiques? Have I done justice to India? To New Zealand? To my characters and their hopes and dreams?

But, in the immortal words of Queen Elsa (from the Disney juggernaut Frozen), I have to let it go. It's out there now. My editor will tell me, in his gentle manner, whether what I've written is good enough, or whether I need to brood over it for a period of time before I send it back to him. And somewhere along the line we'll go through the manuscript page by page, line by line, where the annotated word document flies through the internet at various speeds, correcting comma's, tenses, removing Americanisms (which tend to creep in), and various other issues.

And so I wait. And in the time it will take my editor to read my 131,000 word manuscript I'll attend to my social media platforms, which I have left forgotten in the corner while I tried to fill plot holes and create characters who pushed their way off the page.

Thanks for your patience everyone. This will now very much be a case of watch this space!

The Last Letter
By Kirsten McKenzie

Author Q&A - What Is Your Best Advice For Budding Authors?

On August 15 2015, Jim Vines hosted a Question and Answer session on his blog. Here are my answers:

Q: Kirsten...what made you become a writer?
A: When my youngest daughter was about to start school, my family were constantly asking me what I was going to do with my "spare time." I declared that I was going to write a book, as I'd always wanted to leave a piece of me behind when I'm gone. So I sat down and wrote one. 

Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: Get up, kids off to school, coffee, procrastination, coffee, procrastination, frantic writing, pick the children up from school, family/household stuff, dinner, kids to bed, wine, casual and calm writing, astonishment that its bedtime already, bed. Really I should only write at night, and give up trying to write during the daytime!

Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?

A: Ah, no. I've never outlined in my life. I've jotted down notes about things I need to resolve, but I've never outlined. My writing is influenced by what happens in my day. What I've seen, or experienced. 

Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?

A: Two by me alone. Followed by however many revisions the editor needs.

Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?

A: Start from the very beginning. One word at a time. Resolve any issues you come across straight away. Don't leave them till later as they will only bother you. 

Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?

A: Save in different places - hard drive, drop box, USB. Save, save, save. Always finish mid sentence - as it gives you something to come back to the next day. Do not create inflexible word count goals. If you only made 500 words, do not punish yourself for not making 1,000 words. Every word on the page is one word more than you had the day before. 

Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?

A: Yes I do. I can go days without writing anything - although I still find time and inspiration for social media engagement. I deal with it by walking away from the computer, and reading something else. I read a lot. Since joining Goodreads, my reading list has grown out of control. I love seeing what other authors recommend. 

Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?

A: I don't think I consciously decided to write historical fiction, but its certainly turned out that way. And I love it. My day job is an antique dealer, so there is a tangibility about the things I'm writing about. I can feel them, or something like them. Every day at work I find inspiration from the things surrounding me.

Q: Do you utilize beta readers?

A: I did for a brief time - I used two, one was more forthcoming than the other. But now I prefer going it alone. I could use them, but I'd need to find the right one. I've been a beta reader for a fellow author, and I enjoyed the role. It is something I would consider doing again. 

Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?

A: I very much enjoyed the scene set in India, where my characters embark upon a tiger hunt (I certainly don't support hunting, but this is set circa 1860). I had a cast of servants, officers, older ladies, simpering young girls, Indian royalty, and rifles. And I had a ball moving them all around like chess pieces. 

Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?

A: My main character in Fifteen Postcards, Sarah Lester, has semi-autobiographical hints to her. The others I've tried very hard to give faults to, even the good guys. No one is perfect, and it would be a very dull read if you just gave the readers cardboard good vs evil characters to read about. 

Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?

A: Engage, engage, engage, but do not spam. You want to make friends with your potential readers, but you don't want to be the equivalent of junk mail shoved under their front doors. And even if your book is months away from being finished, start your self-promotion now. People want to know who you are before you start trying to sell them your book.

Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?

A: Ignore the outliers. For middle tier reviews - take note of their feedback - and learn from them. And bask in the good and great reviews. 

Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: No one is telling me what to write, or how to write it. 

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: Feeling like everyone is getting more support or help from some magic well that you haven't found yourself. 

Q: What is your current writing project?

A: The sequel to Fifteen Postcards. I never intended to write a novel with a cliff hanger, but it happened. So now I have to resolve it!

Q: What are three of your favorite novels?

A: Gone With The WindA Suitable Boy, and The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would talk to them about?

A: Ernest Hemingway. What would I talk to him about? Paris. His life. His decisions. We'd drink a lot together I'm sure. I spent some time in Cuba, and really felt his vibe there. I think I am in historical love. 

Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?

A: Just do it. And share your journey with others, everywhere. I'm on Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn. I am constantly posting pictures of my current word count, things I've researched, pictures that have inspired me, amusing images - but different things on different platforms. You'll find the general populace is very supportive of people following their dream. And engage, engage, engage. 

Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

A: "It is what it is." That's mine. I don't know if someone else said it before me, but its how I live my life.

The link to Jim Vines blog is here : http://jimvinespresents.blogspot.co.nz/