Thursday, 28 August 2014

Our Path to Publication - Claire Huxley

Summer break is almost over and we are nearing the end of the Path to Publication feature. Today is the turn of fellow RNA NWS member Claire Huxley. Thank you for sharing Claire, I am sure there are many things in your post that us fellow newbies can relate to!

Thanks Heidi for allowing me to be part of your blog, hopefully my writing story will entertain your readers and give them some things that they can relate to if they are also writers. People can find me on Twitter at @clairehuxley

Have you always been a writer?

I first started to write when I was 14, which was in long hand, access to computers not being readily available back then, and not always my best handwriting (if my hand writing is ever at its best!). In fact when I found these initial scribblings a couple of years ago again, even I struggled to read them. Then life, exams, university, finding jobs, etc ,all got in the way and it wasn’t until 2010 when I decided that I would try and write a novel - eek!

Chick-lit has always been what I have enjoyed reading since my late teens, and that is what I decided to write. I then fell into what I now know is a somewhat typical pattern - where the first 30K came quite easily, but then I was left scratching around for what I was going to fill the next 60K with. However, over the course of a couple of years, eventually it became a novel of 95,000 words.

I'd done it, I'd written a book. I still have to keep telling myself that as I can't quite believe that I did finally achieve it.

What led you to the RNA and have you attended any events?

I was reading books by the lovely Katie Fforde. Both she and Jill Mansell spoke highly of the RNA, and there was a mention of it at the back of a book of Katie's that I was reading. A bit of research later (with access to computers, this is so much easier!) I had found out all about its New Writers' Scheme and was determined to join.

There wasn't so much priority on getting your form in and there was no midnight deadline a few years ago, so I posted my form off - but unfortunately, the first time, I received a reply to say that I hadn't made it in that year as it was full.

I did discover that I could attend the conference as a non-member though, which that year was in Newport, South Wales - near enough for me - so I booked my place and my train ticket and set off nervously, not knowing what to expect.

What an amazing experience! The conference was full of useful talks on plotting (so that's where I was going wrong!), story telling, creating characters and the rest. It was great and to top it off there was a lovely dinner, - an opportunity to dress up (though without a fancy handbag in my case, still don't believe in those - shocking I know!)

It was a great opportunity to meet other writers, published or otherwise, who had all been in my shoes - and more importantly, it was somewhere where people would accept that in your spare time you wrote things and that wasn't strange at all. After that event my confidence grew and I started to be more honest about writing - it was quite a breakthrough weekend.

That January I made sure that I was online to apply through the new system of an e-mail sent at midnight and this time I made it I was one of the lucky ones and my journey with the RNA began.

What are you planning to do with the MS you submit?

This year will be my third year of submitting to the RNA New Writers Scheme. I'm yet to submit and, yes, it is nearly the end of August - I'm working on it each and every day and I will get to where I want to get to by hook or by crook. The first year I submitted the first novel that I had ever completed and its feedback was on the whole fairly positive.

Last year was busy, and aside from moving house and finding new employment, I also attempted to put the edits into practice and re-submit my manuscript. This time the reader didn't like it as much, leaving me with a pit in my stomach. No amount of Shep, my dog, trying to cheer me up was going to shake me out of it when I first opened that envelope and I read my report.

I'm a bit ashamed to say this but for a while, a good while in fact I didn't write again. I was filled with confusion over how I could have such differing opinions on my work but then new story ideas started to drift in to my head - whether it wanted to hear them or not. It would seem that my writing brain didn't want to just stop and it wasn't going to let me. I'm glad it didn't too.

Having attended my second conference, at Newport, Shropshire this time, and again loving it, it was useful to explain the issue I had experienced with other RNA New Writers' Scheme participants and discover they too had gone through the same thing. Some have even gone on to have the novel that their second reader didn't like published. It is all down to personal taste at the end of the day.

Now I'm working on my second novel, and a bit like a band's second album, it isn't an easy journey. In fact, although you would think, having cracked it once it would become easier, it doesn't. But I'm enjoying writing again. Following the advice from my second reader last year, I am trying to write in the third person - which to start with I found like pulling teeth - but gradually I am starting to get into it, even enjoy it. My aim is to get a third to half of it complete to send off this month - wish me luck!

I’m pretty sure that my other half wouldn’t let me get away with not submitting it anyhow, without his belief in me, his patience when he proof-reads and makes suggestions (even if I don’t always agree with him) and his ability for making me feel guilty if I said that I was writing and I haven’t been – I doubt I would have had completed as much as I have. He is a true star!

What are your literary aspirations?

My dream would of course (like everyone's) be for my book to have an agent, be published, be turned into a film or TV series - and the rest, as they say, is history.

*Snaps fingers in front of face, oh yes, reality beckons*.

Well, to start with, I'd like to finish book two, get my RNA NWS report back and see what they have made of my writing in the third person. Perhaps, if that has worked, I may change my first novel into that style. Then I could try and submit to potential agents and see where I go from there.

There was a lot of mention of self-publishing at the recent RNA Conference and even I as a sceptic about this process found myself warming to the idea, so you never know. I also feel that, if I get to that point, I may have to bite the bullet and get an e-reader of some sort; otherwise I may never be able to access my own book!

This Autumn I would also like to start my own website/blog – watch this space!

Most of all I'm glad that I have come through a tough writing time and now have characters and book ideas buzzing away in my head again. It's a great thing! 

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