Once Upon a Time…

It feels only right that my first blog post starts at the beginning. I’m sure for so many writers the story starts the same: they’ve written since childhood. I recall sunny afternoons sitting in my bedroom, drawing endless pictures of the stories I created. Pantsing in pictures, you might say. By the time I was a teenager, I still used art to create the story, so many of my ideas came as I sketched characters or scenes. But I now wrote the stories. Terribly, but I wrote them.

A collection of all my old sketches and notebooks.

For a long time I put writing aside, concentrating on my degree in Illustration for Children’s Publishing. Perhaps I thought publishing a novel an unachievable goal. Yet I stumbled across an old story and fell back in love with it. I thought– just for me–I’ll get this printed and keep it on my book shelf. Yet if I do, I’d best fix the typos. And that’s when I realised how bloody awful it was. So I’ll rewrite it. How hard can that be?

A double spread from my children’s book Fox Hunt, which was Highly Commended in the Macmillan Children’s book Prize.

Flash forward to 2018. The story is entirely different, but I have a first draft. I say first draft loosely, who knows what actual draft I was on, but for the sake of ease I’ll call it a first draft. Likely it still read like one. From time to time I thought perhaps I should search for an agent, but every time the chest tightened. Wracked with crippling doubt, I knew it wasn’t ready. But I’d come as far as I could alone, what to do now?

Anyone out there who thinks Critique Partners and Beta Readers aren’t necessary is a bloody idiot. I say that with confidence, knowing that I was once one of these idiots. For my strengths, I know I’m good at developmental edits. Some beats were still missed, but I’d taken a messy first draft and refined the story. But that was all I’d managed alone. I joined a website where I hoped to find a Critique Partner and I found… sod all. I had people who got in touch then vanished, even better when they vanished after I sent them their critique, and even, even better when I was all but receiving ‘dick pics’. And so I got angry. I would not be deterred by all the negative experiences. I would find someone! I blazed onto the forums, opened the very top post searching for a Critique Partner, and wow. Kind of fell in love with the synopsis. I got in touch with the author, and amazingly, I got a response.

Enter Crispina.

I don’t think I could ever fully express how grateful I am to Crispina Kemp. She once told me people had called her bossy (a trait I too have been accused of, and can’t fault in her). She never held back, was brutally honest, I may have needed a few strong cups of tea, but with every piece of advice shared, I know I improved. You can watch as many Youtube tutorials, read as many blogs and books, study till your eyes are sore, but there is no substitution to having your work critiqued. And for my part I hope I helped with her series. Seriously, check out her blog.

Now I have a manuscript I’m proud of. The heart palpitations lessened, I was able to send it out to several Beta Readers, and though I still enjoyed a strong cup of tea when I read their feedback, it wasn’t a necessity. I enjoyed it!

And that takes us to now. I’ve received all my beta feedback and–sweeping declaration!–this is my last round of edits. That thought still scares me a tad. Now when I finally see those two little words ‘The End’, I will actually be finished. And I must query. Holy crap…