The Naked Desk

Writing a book, I’ve found, is like wading out into a river. At first, you can’t even see open water through the reeds, let alone the far bank, but you have a vision of what might be there as you struggle through waist-deep mud. There are times when you scramble back to firm ground to find a better way in, and even when you can see your way clear ahead, the silt slows you down. Eventually, you can swim. Finally the current takes you, and then the ride is spectacular. Nothing is going to stop you until your feet touch that far, glorious bank. And as you climb out, there comes a moment when you can sit, take a breath, and look back at how far you’ve swum.

That, for me, is the moment when the Work In Progress is finally worthy of being shared with beta readers. It isn’t finished, and it won’t be finished until it is sold into publication, edited, re-edited, and polished to a publisher’s satisfaction. But it has reached a milestone. It has moved from screen to paper for a last ‘red pen’ edit. It is as good as I can make it on my own. The criticisms will come, need to come, along with those ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ suggestions, but for a moment the WIP is a fine and beautiful thing. I haven’t landed in the place I saw in my early dream, but then my dreams evolved each time the current took me in a new direction. The trick is to ride the currents and avoid the eddies.

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Today I’m sitting on that far, metaphorical bank, but in the real world I’m staring at a strange sight. Beneath the never-vanishing stack of bills, correspondence, and reading material, my desk is naked. The WIP has been sent out into the world. But on the shelf above are three books that I’ve bought to research the next project. They include ‘The Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry’, written by Geoffroi de Charny, who was to die as the standard-bearer of the French oriflamme at the battle of Poitiers in 1356.

It’s a good time to think about the next river. 14th Century and the chivalric ideal.

Total immersion.

Saxon’s Bane Acquired by Solaris Books

I’m delighted to announce that Saxon’s Bane has been acquired by Solaris Books, an imprint of Rebellion, and will be released in September 2013.  Solaris Books’ press release, excluding the blurb and bio that is already posted on this site, is:

Acquisition announcement:

Debut author finds Saxon treasure beneath 21st Century England 

COMING IN SEPTEMBER 2013: Saxon’s Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion

Solaris is proud to announce a 2013 debut novel that brings the Dark Ages crashing into the 21st Century.

Geoffrey Gudgion’s historical supernatural thriller, Saxon’s Bane, will be published in September 2013.

A contemporary novel with a thrilling historical heart, Gudgion’s first novel is set in the 21st century but grounded in the Dark Ages, with a Saxon legend at its heart.

The past invades the present in this beautiful, lyrical and frightening tale, inspired by Gudgion’s love of ancient, ethereal places, and his eye for signs of the distant past in the English landscape of today.

“It’s a rare occasion when a submission comes in that I have to read right the way through in one go,” said Jonathan Oliver, editor-in-chief of Solaris. “Saxon’s Bane was such a book. Discovering a new writer is always a thrill, and Geoffrey’s novel is of such a high calibre that I can’t wait for people to read it.”

For all press enquires please contact Michael Molcher

on +44 (0)1865 792 201 or press@rebellion.co.uk

http://www.solarisbooks.com/

The first five years are the hardest…

Five years.  That’s how long it is, this month, since I stepped off the corporate ladder and became a freelance consultant or interim, specifically to free up time for writing.  I had a book in my head that was fighting to land on the page.  There had been false starts and scribblings before, but this time I’d do it properly.

There will be other posts to follow but here, in writer-speak, is the back story.  Because it’s the back story it will probably be of most interest to fellow writers, so savour, skip, or share at will.

It took:

  • Two years to write, polish, and submit that original novel, before the wall of rejections made me realise that it was a turkey which would never fly.  That was a hard lesson.
  • Well over a year to write Saxon’s Bane to the point where I was satisfied enough to start submitting.
  • And another year of rejections, polishing and rewrites before a literary agent (Ian Drury of Sheil Land Associates) was satisfied enough to take me on.
  • At which point it became Ian’s job to sell the novel and mine to write the next one.  He managed my expectations to a longish sales cycle; it’s a brutally tough market for a debut novelist, unless you’re a celebrity, particularly of the overtly curvaceous variety, or writing ‘romance’.  I don’t qualify on either count.

Five years.  And if I’d have known at the beginning what I know now, it probably wouldn’t have taken much less.  There are some lessons you can only learn through the cycle of composition, submission, and rejection, such as:

That first book vented some autobiographical baggage, but the world ain’t interested in baggage unless you’re writing a misery memoir.  It’s interested in characters with tension and plots with jeopardy.

Every aspiring author rails at the agent system until they ‘bag’ one, but agents seem to reject for just 3 reasons.  Either their list is full, or they don’t work in your genre, or the novel/submission isn’t of publishable quality.  Research will filter out the first two, but finding out why it isn’t ready can be hard.  Very few rejections come with feedback.  I had three crucial sources of help that told me why:

  • Litopia, (www.litopia.com) and other friends who offered objective critiques.
  • The Verulam Writers’ Circle.  Feedback, writerly company, and libations.
  • And most significantly the writing consultant Debi Alper, via the Writers’ Workshop, whose professional advice was invaluable.

Finally, I had to learn to balance the hubris of self belief with a willingness to accept that my baby was ugly.

But it grew to be beautiful, I think.  With a lot of help from my friends.

And years of polishing.