Stepping Up

Mind how you go*

There’s a scene in Chariots of Fire where one of the athletes achieves something (hey, I claimed to have studied the film) and a younger runner is told to give him some space afterwards, in the changing room. The explanation runs along the lines that, while failing is part and parcel of competition, achievement is its own special conundrum.

I’ve had a recent taste of that because two of my Brit thrillers, Standpoint and Line of Sight, have been acquired by Joffe Books. In fact, as I mentioned on my personal blog, Joffe is interested in the planned series of five books. As my good friend and American writer, Monika Spykerman, might say, I’ve hit pay dirt.

I signed that contract with satisfaction and a Mont Blanc pen, which my former BT colleagues gave me as one of my leaving presents. Inevitably, there’s a sense of validation when an industry professional is interested in your work. You want to reach back in time and thank the previous you who stuck with it and kept writing even though no one was beating a path to your door.

The funny thing about my series is that, while Standpoint has been submitted here and there in the last four or five years, Line of Sight hasn’t been anywhere. After all, what sense is there is submitting book two if no one is interested in book one? I had to go back through Line of Sight to put a synopsis together because I’d never needed one for it before.

So what has changed? Everything and nothing! The next page of the third book (the trequel?), The Caretaker, still needs to be written. I’m also acutely aware that working with an editor might be a challenge at times – and in fact I want it to be a challenge. I want my books to be the very best they can be, and if that means a visit from the green pen then so be it.

There’s a finality to publishing as well. No more opportunity or reason to pick through the manuscript one more time, or to check my facts about Customs & Excise, Harwich Port, guns, cars, and the North York Moors National Park. I can feel my temperature rising just thinking about it all. Luckily, I know that a range of reviews and opinions is part of the game. (Plus, if you’ve looked through my reviews for Covenant on Amazon you’ll know that I’d be hard pushed to ever get a worse review.)

Like Susie, who has contributed to this blog, I’m aware that the real achievement lies in having a completed novel, imbued with sweat, toil, tears and hunger. All those hours of living in my characters’ world have amounted to something tangible.

I realise too that I cannot hide behind the mask of being a novice. Don’t get me wrong – I still have a great deal to learn – but just as I’m no longer eligible to enter debut novel competitions, I’m also no longer entitled to dismiss my work lightly. Not because it’s a work of genius (necessarily…); rather, because it’s no longer purely mine.

These days writers have a responsibility to actively market their work and I’ve already made myself comfortable with blogging and twitter over the last four years. The jury’s still out on Facebook though, as far as I’m concerned.

In case you're wondering, it was a sheer fluke that I heard about Joffe Books - through - and that when I submitted something, last September, they were interested in the idea of a thriller series. They also needed a little convincing, which is why it helped that I had a pitch put together and that I’d considered their market ahead of contacting them.

My point, as I progress with another book, is that it can be done. Previously, I’ve been the happy conduit to two friends approaching the publisher and the agent who subsequently signed them up. This time the next step appeared before me. The next time it could be you.

* Even if you are dancing around the room.


L said...

Well done you and thanks for giving us hope.

DT said...

Thanks, that's kind of you. Not just hope, I hope, but possibility (I can't speak for probability unfortunately!). I'm happy to share what little I've learned along the last few years if it can help anyone get closer to publication.

Rena George said...

Lovely inspiring post, Derek. thenk you.

DT said...

Thanks for your kind words, Rena. What do you think of plans afoot to remake Poldark?