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The In Writing Creative Hour returns this Sunday 26 March at 5pm London time. Last time, I got confused by daylight savings and gave the American subscribers the wrong timings – I’m very sorry. I don’t want to take the same risk again so I’ll just say that if you’re in the US, it will be on Sunday morning – just check the time difference between wherever you are and London.
The Creative Hour is a Google Meet get-together for paying subscribers that I host a couple of Sundays a month. We meet online, have a chat, and then write for the best part of an hour in companionable silence; think of it as a virtual library environment, just with more moral support from your In Writing community. It’s a very nice way to get some work done at the weekend.
If you’d like to join us, do upgrade your membership (if you haven’t already) and look out for an email first thing on Sunday, when I’ll send out the link.
The last couple of months have been quite eventful for me, writing-wise, so today I’m going to share what’s happened, and three things that I’ve learnt.
1. You can trust your brain to get on with things unsupervised
In December, I had an idea for a book related to In Writing.
This is something I’d previously worked hard on for a few months in 2021, then shelved, and then been mulling over at a very, very low level ever since – just sort of applying 0.1% of my brain power to it in the background, like the way your laptop remembers what time it is, even though it has more important things to get on with. Anyway, in December, quite suddenly and effortlessly, while making coffee and getting set up for a day of work – I had a new idea for a way to structure the book.
On some level, you imagine that maybe a confetti cannon will go off when you have a good idea, but actually it was just quietly, anticlimactically obvious that it was the one. For some reason I’m reminded of Bulldog losing and finding things on Frasier: a lot of panic and passion followed by a peaceful resolution.
I know I’m not the only person who goes through periods of feeling that I’m striving and striving and nothing is happening. I had a message from a friend just yesterday who is in the middle of it. I’ve found it very useful and comforting, then, to be reminded that things are always changing, always progressing, even when the progress isn’t yet visible. You strive and strive and strive, maybe sweating over projects X and Y, and then one day, your brain supplies you with a good idea for project Z, and that changes the whole landscape.
2. I really do need deadlines
Once I had the idea, I wrote a sample chapter of the book in a pretty leisurely, enjoyable way, and finished it in mid-January, and ran it by my agent. She was enthusiastic, but pointed out that she was quite heavily pregnant, and that if I was going to write a book proposal – which would mean a second sample chapter, plus a pitch, a biography, a full chapter breakdown and so on – I’d have to do it pretty fast if I wanted her to submit it to publishers before she went on maternity leave.
So I did it very quickly – I think in about two weeks or less. Maybe that sounds like loads of time, but it didn’t feel like it, especially as with a book proposal it needs to be as polished as you can manage, because you only get one shot to impress each publisher. It was absolutely exhausting, but honestly, I was surprised (and a bit disturbed) by how much of a kick I got out of working against the clock.
I think possibly my agent is a bit like me, and also gets a kick out of this kind of pressure, but I may be wrong. She might have been less than thrilled when she went into labour 12 days early, in late February. We were halfway through the auction for the book when her daughter arrived. All is well and the baby is divine.
3. The submission process is packed with NRE
I’m reliably informed that NRE – new relationship energy – is a term commonly used in the polyamory world. It describes those intense feelings that you get at the beginning of a relationship, which (thankfully, as far as I’m concerned) calm down once you get more committed and used to each other.
NRE makes me feel insane: the highs, the lows, the uncertainty. And that’s what being on submission is like. We submitted my proposal on 2 February and I basically felt mad for the entire month. I still feel a bit mad now.
Anyway: we sold the book. Granta Books, to my total delight, will publish it in autumn 2024. I’m very happy, and very, very tired, and also busy and excited. I will keep you posted, of course.
I’ll leave you with this very funny (/bleak) piece that a friend sent me from The Fence: 12 Rules for Getting Your First Book Published.
So now I have another deadline. What this means is that this free newsletter will be less frequent this year, and a bit ad hoc – I expect it will be back with a vengeance once I’ve turned in the manuscript. For paying subscribers, the Creative Hour will continue and the In Writers Write-In is always there if you want to talk about any writing problems, or share any brilliant resources (or indeed, your own work).
I look forward to seeing some of you on Sunday! Good luck with your writing this week.
Huge congratulations Hattie! And thank you for that Fence link - it's hilarious and I thoroughly depressing! Can't wait for your book
Congratulations Hattie, this is so great and also very comforting to hear, regarding the suddenness of the correct idea. I've been working on a novel for a few years now and just in the last two weeks I've decided to finally stop redrafting what I've got and start afresh. I'm waiting for that 'making the coffee' moment of inspiration for a new way to tackle the material, but I already feel relieved that I've accepted what I had wasn't good enough. Congratulations again!