I love lists. They’re awesome. I could write a list of the ways in which lists are great. But I won’t. Instead, over the next few weeks & months I’ll be sharing my views on self-publishing and, be warned: there will be lists.
1: The Decision
So, let’s assume that you’ve written a book, and it’s the best book you could have written. It’s beautiful, it’s perfect; you love it like your own child.
You’ve done everything you need to in order to get it to where it is. You’ve given it to trusted friends to read and critique. You’ve made some changes. You’ve had a professional edit and made some more changes. You’ve left it for a while, done something else to clear your head and come back and made even more changes. You’ve had it proof-read again by a professional.
You’re good to go.
At this stage you might, like me, have carefully chosen a few (possibly ten – that seems like a good, round number to start with) literary agents and submitted to them, having looked at the guidelines on their websites. You might have had a few agents ask for the full manuscript and you might not have. Either way, if you’ve waited for about three months after submission and no agent has called you, begging, desperate, loving your book as much if not more than you do, then you find yourself at a crossroads and you need to make a decision.
You could try submitting to more agents. Go ahead – why not – you never know. It’s a very subjective business and it might be the eleventh, or the twenty-first, or the one-hundred-and-first agent who loves your book. You have nothing to lose but time.
You could abandon this novel, think of it as a practice novel, and start writing a new one. Also OK – think of it as honing your craft. Your first novel will always have a special place in your heart, but it might be your second novel that’s the belter. And you can always come back to it later and make it better.
You could self-publish your novel.
I would recommend this to anyone who:
Ask yourself the question: is self-publishing right for me?
Some useful links:
This is a company that will help you at almost every step of the way, from writing and editing courses to professional edits and proof-reading to an agency database.
I did the ‘Edit Your Novel’ course and it was amazing. I learnt so much and made some friends with who, I’m still in touch all these years later.
How to Write by Harry Bingham
Jericho Writers is owned by Harry Bingham, who is also a successful author. This book was invaluable and gave me loads of ideas about how to take my MS forward after the first few drafts and a professional edit.
Next blog: #2 More Decisions – How?
A road-trip YA novel with a difference
I read a lot of YA fiction because it's fun and light and easy to read. Occasionally, I come across a YA novel that's so good, I recommend it to everyone, no matter what age or sex they are and no matter what type of books they usually like to read. Tschick / Why We Took the Car is one of those books.
I read it in German first and, because I knew I loved it and my German isn't as good as my English, I bought a translation of it and read it in English, too.
In terms of genre, I don't really know how to describe it. It's about two 14/15 year old boys and is coming-of-age / Bildungsroman. But it's also about a road trip and I think, the way the scenery and the dreamlike sequences are written, it could also be described as literary fiction. But who cares about genres anyway?
Quick summary of plot: Maik and Tschick, two unpopular boys at school, drive in a stolen Lada through Eastern Germany, meeting many strange and kind and interesting characters along the way, getting themselves deeper and deeper into trouble as they go.
All to a soundtrack of Richard Clayderman piano music (because that's the only tape they have) and one-liners and put-downs that make the boys (and Isa, the hilariously foul-mouthed girl they meet at a rubbish dump of all places) so realistic as teenagers and so likeable.
Its always hard to pin down what you love about a book, especially when there are so many things. But I do love the friendships between Tschick, Maik and Isa, and of course how confusing those friendships are because Maik loves Isa and Tschick loves Maik (I think) and they all throw insults at each other which, in my world at least, shows how much they all love each other.
When I read this book (twice) I thought it was unfilmable, partly because so much about Maik that you like - his awkwardness, his lack of confidence, his belief that he is boring to the point of invisibility - is internal; also partly because the book is about the scenery and the landscape of their journey and how do you make that into a good film? But I watched the film in 2018 and it was amazing.
It's quite a unique book but I think that if you liked these books, you would like Tschick too:
Almost English - Charlotte Mendelson
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
The Universe Versus Alex Woods - Gavin Extence
Let's begin the important business of choosing what we're going to read this summer. Here are my choices (in no particular order):
THE POWER by NAOMI ALDERMAN
Teenage girls who can harm men with an electric shock... the world is turned upside down and inside out when this 'power' spreads to every female on the planet. We follow three women - Roxy, Allie and Margot - and one man - Tunde - as they learn to live in this new reality. This story asks the question: what would the world look like if women had physical power over men? And the answer is not always good...
For fans of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood; Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel; The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey.
THINGS A BRIGHT GIRL CAN DO by SALLY NICHOLLS
Set in 1914-8, three women - Evelyn, May and Nell are involved with the campaign for women to get the vote. Sacrifice, violence, imprisonment, war and love are the ingredients of this wonderful book.
For fans of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith; I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
THE WONDER DOWN UNDER by NINA BROCHMAN AND ELLEN STOKKEN DAHL
Written by two Norwegian medical students, this is a non-fiction book about the vagina - I know - right?! It covers everything: which holes are which, icky things like discharge and periods, pregnancy, contraception, sex, orgasms, masturbation, female health. This book is a right hoot: I laughed out loud several times at their no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is style. And the detail! Wow. They know they stuff - and now, so do I.
Everyone who has a vagina or who would like, at some stage in their life, to go near a vagina, should read this book. I can truly say that if I had read this book when I was in my teens, it would have changed my life for the better.
I first heard about this book through their Ted Talk.
For fans of A Book for Her by Bridget Christie; Sex and Lovers: A Practical Guide by Anne-Marlene Henning and Tina Bremmer-Olszewski.
#thewonderdownunder #ninabrochman #ellenstokkendahl
FORCE OF NATURE by JANE HARPER
The follow up to Jane Harper's excellent The Dry, which made me feel hot and thirsty and sunburnt all the way through. I like a good murder mystery every now and then - and this one was particularly well written.
For fans of Tana French and Robert Galbraith.
HOW TO BE FAMOUS by CAITLIN MORAN
I haven't even read this book yet but I loved How to Build a Girl (plus everything else that Caitlin Moran has written) and I know I'm going to love this - so it goes on the list.
By the way, a few years ago I lent someone my copy of How to Build a Girl and I never got it back. If I knew who you were, I'd never talk to you again.
NO NUMBER NINE by ME
Sorry, just couldn't resist...
So, if you like any of these books or you want to recommend other similar books, please post a comment below or go to Instagram or Twitter and leave a comment there - the more the merrier!
Q: What's with the initials, FJ?
A: I prefer to be anonymous because I want to keep my writing separate from the rest of my life. And if JK can do it, so can I.
Q: Is that your motto?
A: No, my motto is, "When being chased by a hungry lion, you do not have to be faster than the lion, you just have to be faster than the slowest person in your group."
Q: Nice motto. Remind me never to go on safari with you. Are you a man or a woman?
A: Who cares, these days?
Q: Tell us about your life.
A: That's not a question.
Q: Are you always this annoying?
Q: [sighs] What can you tell us about your life?
A: Not much to tell - I don't lead a very interesting life. I was born, I have parents and siblings, I moved around a lot, I like reading (duh). Are you asleep yet?
Q: [stifling a yawn] I'll ask the questions, thanks. By the way, nice question-dodge.
A: Thank you. Maybe if you asked me about my writing, we could get somewhere...
Q: OK. I give up. Any advice for aspiring authors?
A: Write the kind of book that you'd read yourself.
Q: How did you get started with writing?
A: I re-read 'Far from the Madding Crowd' with my book group (hello book group!) and thought "Wow, Bathsheba Everdene is a kick-arse feminist heroine and I want to write a modern-day story about her." I rattled off 'The Islanders' in a few months and then spent many more months editing it. After that, more and more ideas for stories pinged into my head, mostly on long boring car journeys.
Q: What are you planning to write next?
A: I have an idea for a follow-up to 'No Number Nine' - it's going to be from Nadine's point of view, so might be filthy. It will be set when Pip and Nadine are in their thirties, and there's going to be stuff about pregnancies - I'm provisionally calling it 'Just for Kicks'.
Q: What are your favourite books?
A: What, ever? Have you got all day? I love Caitlin Moran and have read every word she's written. I love Gold by Chris Cleave and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and everything by Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy and Margaret Atwood.
Q: All right, all right. Is 'The Islanders' autobiographical?
A: A few things are familiar to me. I went to boarding school for a while. I directed a school play, badly. I've been to Cornwall on holiday. But the story is inspired by 'Far from the Madding Crowd' so it's definitely not about me.
Q: How about 'No Number Nine' - is that autobiographical?
A: Not really. I lived in Munich, I was an au pair, I was sacked from being an au pair, I went to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. All the rest is made up.
Q: Do you, like Pip, speak German?
Q: Any chance 'No Number Nine' will be translated into German soon?
A: Ja. Aber nicht von mir.
Q: Um. Right. Did the ending of 'No Number Nine' actually happen, or was it in Pip's imagination?
A: You get to decide that. Also if you read 'Just for Kicks' you'll find out, won't you?
Q: What about hockey? Do you play?
A: I used to and still have a stick, somewhere, that I dust off from time to time. I've played for lots of clubs: Canterbury, Manchester University, Freiburg University, Wimbledon, Battersea Wanderers, Richmond, Rot-Weiss Munich, Grasshoppers Zurich.
Q: Which team will you cheer on in the hockey World Cup 2018?
Q: Aha! So you're English then?
A: No shit, Sherlock.
Q: Do you think anyone's still reading this Q&A?
A: The chances are slim.
Q: What shall we do now?