Last week I paid a visit to my writing mentor, Wanda Whiteley. We live around a hundred miles apart so it was a rare treat to meet face to face, have a cup of tea and a chat about how things were going.
Wanda is the person I send my manuscripts to for editorial critique and she has an uncanny ability to hone in on what works and what doesn’t, what should stay and what should go. But last week’s meeting wasn’t about a manuscript, it was about me trying to juggle the simultaneous demands of –
Usually I’m very efficient at time management (years of practice juggling family and career) but I’m new to this writing business and couldn’t determine which tasks should take priority.
Talking it through with Wanda made me see that promoting Learning To Speak American was what I should focus on for the next month or so. As she pointed out, you only get one chance to be a debut author and after all the years of working and hoping, you need to do everything in your power to make your book a success. It’s a hugely competitive market out there with hundreds of thousands of books published each year (and that’s just in the UK). Far too many of those books will go unnoticed without the right promotional campaign.
I’m fortunate to be working with Midas PR, a top public relations consultancy that has a department dedicated to authors and publishers. When I met with them last week it became clear that the way to generate interest in a book is to generate interest in the author, that one follows the other. I will elaborate on this in a separate blog once the PR campaign has run its course, but suffice to say I was given a fair amount of homework to complete!
So, back to juggling. When I used to daydream about being a writer I thought about, well, writing. But drawing on her many years experience in the business, Wanda explained that is only half the job of a professional author. The other half is working hard to build a readership and this takes time, commitment and collaboration.
In the meanwhile, there was no point me fretting about not having time to write. Even if I managed to squeeze in a few hours a day, being so distracted would have a detrimental effect on the quality of my work so it was best to put it to one side and come back to it in a few months time.
I have recently had a conversation with my editor about revisions to An Unsuitable Marriage and am expecting his notes any day now. It’s strange revisiting a novel I finished months ago and hearing someone else’s thoughts and opinions about it. After conferring with fellow authors I realize that I’m lucky in having relatively minor revisions requested of me. This is largely due to the fact that I invest in an in-depth editorial critique before submitting work to either my agent or publisher, so it’s in pretty good shape by the time they see it.
All of which brings me back to Wanda. The advice she gave me seems obvious in retrospect and you’re probably wondering why I got myself all flustered in the first place. I suppose the answer is that I care so deeply about doing well, my rational thought processes became rather less than rational.
I left Wanda’s house full of tea and calm optimism. She even drove me to the station and put me on the train. Every writer should have a Wanda. I’m not sure what I would do without her.
Wanda Whiteley is Founder and Editor-in-chief of The Manuscript Doctor