I’m pretty sure I ended my last post with the promise of posting another very soon — and then in true Lucy style, didn’t post again for two years. I never mean to do this. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a socially anxious girl and blog posts often feel like the online equivalent of running naked through town screaming “look at me, look at me!!“, so in times of stress, busyness, and pandemics, it’s generally easier to avoid them entirely.
But I’m back! And I have news!
While many people spent 2020 baking bread, training puppies, and getting into houseplants, I wrote. In the last two years, I wrote something ridiculous like 350,000+ words towards my new book, in the form of first to fifth drafts, a sixth draft with the help of my agent, and a huge dollop of polish. And now, in 2021, I have a finished book that’s ready for the next step:
Let’s rewind for a moment! When I signed with LBA in 2019, there was quite a lot of work to do on my previous book, The Girl You Left Behind, which is the story that was shortlisted in a Daily Mail novel competition in 2017. The team and I decided it would be best to put that book on hold for a bit and instead go ahead with a new concept which my agent, the wonderful Hannah Schofield, was really grabbed by when I pitched it to her and thought would make a better debut. And now that the book is written, I definitely agree!
But I won’t lie: I was devastated at the time. Not only because it meant sidelining a book that was very important to me, but because I had to start again. From scratch. I had a book that, although flawed and in need of work, was complete, and easy to navigate around, and in perfect order in my head, and I had to swap from something familiar to something completely unknown. Who were these new characters? Would the ideas work? Would I ever love the story?
Writing may seem easy to an outsider, as though a writer simply sits down and writes a story from beginning to end and it’s done, but that’s not the reality of it. I make a thorough outline, I write a messy first draft which I usually abandon before the mid-point and start again, sometimes twice or thrice, finally getting to the end with a book where the beginning is polished beyond belief and the ending has only been reached once. Then I share it, and change it based on feedback, and polish, and tweak, and revise, and edit, and finally, finally, it becomes A Book.
For me, the drafting stage — actually getting words down on paper — is the hardest part. It’s painful. I hate it.
And just after signing with a literary agent, I had to start that process all over again.
It knocked my confidence. Writers usually go on submission to publishers with the book an agent signs them for, and it happens quickly. That’s what I wanted. I want to go, to be on submission, to get my career started, but I couldn’t. I had to wait for this new book, and only once it was ready would I get that opportunity. I can’t describe the pressure of that. Everything rested on me, on how quickly I could get this book written, and how well. Nothing could happen until it was done, yet the pressure of having to write it made writing it impossible. I overthought everything. I second-guessed every chapter, every scene. I restarted it several times, changing the focus, changing the characters. And then I had to change it again after sending it to my agent, a change I should and could have made much earlier if I’d managed to get a completed draft to her at one of the various self-imposed deadlines I missed.
I’d done the hard part of getting an agent, but I didn’t feel I could celebrate it. I didn’t feel that extra confidence you get from signing with an agent, because I still didn’t have a book to submit. I was there, but not really. Not a real client. Not a real writer. Working on something that wasn’t yet a real book.
But, somehow, it became one. I stuck with a draft, I pushed through the difficult scenes, and the hours and hours I spent writing in bed from morning to evening, and the dinners and bedtimes I worked through, all added up. Tweaks were made. Every word was polished. ‘The End’ was typed, and I was happy with it.
Almost exactly two years ago, I shared this picture on my Instagram: a colour-coded story outline and a celebratory ice cream to bookmark the start of the creation of this book. And now, two years later, it’s finished — and my journey towards possible publication can finally begin.
If you’re not a writer, let me break down the process. Anyone can self-publish a book at any time (although it takes a lot of extra work!), and anyone can also submit their own completed novels to small publishers who may release it on a smaller scale or in ebook form. But to be traditionally published — that is, to be in book shops and supermarkets and to be marketed — a writer needs to first get a literary agent, and then have that literary agent submit to the editors at publishing houses on their behalf.
So the stage I am (finally!) at is submission: my agent has sent my book out to editors at various imprints, and there’s nothing we can do but wait.
In a lot of ways, this is just like the feeling I wrote about in a previous post: limbo. Not all submitted books get published, and that’s a reality you have to face. Editors might not connect with the story, or they may have already signed something too similar, or perhaps something in the story comes off differently to other readers. As a writer, you just don’t know how a book will be perceived by other people. I may have spent these last two years working on a book that goes nowhere but back onto my hard drive, and find myself back at square one with needing to write another new book to try again with, and another, and another, and…
Or, alternatively, this could be it. An editor could love the book, make an offer, and suddenly I have a deal to be published. I’ll be in print. People will read my words. I’ll be an author, like I’ve always wanted to be.
So, yeah. Limbo. Hopeful and with crossed fingers, but also painfully aware of how quickly the dream can be over. All while squirming with the mortification of knowing other people — professionals — are reading my work, judging it, scrutinising it. If blog posts feel like a naked rendition of “look at me, look at me!!“, being on submission is worse! Perhaps that’s why I’ve finally had the courage to post again.
This is where I am now: on submission, working on a new outline for the revised version of The Girl You Left Behind, and not sure whether it’s healthier to be optimistic or realistic.
Regardless of what happens with this book, I’m so proud of it. It’s a psychological thriller about sisters, grief, and how little we really know the people we love, and it’s very dear to me. I hope that one day I’ll have a gorgeous copy of it sitting on my bookshelf, and that you’ll be able to go out and get one, too.
The funny thing about publishing is that is moves very slowly, and in secret. So if my dream does become reality, I’ll know about it long before I’m allowed to share the news of it here.
As of right now, there is no news. But tomorrow? Who knows…
One thought on “On Submission”
I wish you every success with your book Lucy, My advice – hold the vision of it on your bookshelf as if it’s already happened and enjoy/celebrate that fully and completely. Works for me.