One of the benefits of the M.A. program has been the opportunity to meet other aspiring writers, some of whom have become firm friends. I’m pleased to introduce Reb Alexander, a classmate who is soaring high before she’s even graduated. Her novel, Borrowed Time, was a runner-up in the Mslexia 2011 Women’s Novel Competition and is now with an agent! Over the past year Reb has given me some wonderful feedback and much needed morale boosts and I am in awe of her productivity. You can see more of Reb over on her blogs - Witchway and Rebecca Alexander, but for now, here she is to talk about her journey from wannabe writer to author with an agent.
When I was a little girl, I was going to be a writer when I grew up, and had a number of half-finished novels under my bed, in my toy box, and one in a plastic bag in the garden, that was made into a nest by a family of mice. Most of them had tragic or violent endings, I remember, and most had animal protagonists. Now I’m a grown up, it seems pretentious to say ‘I’m going to be a writer’ but, technically at least, I have grown up. I do write. So: I must be a writer.
The next stage is to be a published writer. That means, put a novel together, send it out, get an agent and let them sell it (preferably for a number with some zeroes). This, we were led to believe, is almost impossible, so I put the first few chapters of my latest book out to a competition instead. To be honest, I was hoping to get longlisted so I had something to write about in my dissertation for the MA (the one Downith and I are doing). I got longlisted, spent 72 hours writing the end of the book, sent it in and waited. I was one of two runners-up out of 1800 entries, a staggering surprise. Within two weeks I had been approached by a London agent, who is going to represent my book. The problem for me was, I had fallen out of love with that book and was halfway through the next one.
The agent has been invaluable. She gave me a list of things she wanted me to do to improve the book – 18 of them in total. I have done 17 of them, filled in the back of the book and ramped up the tension and emotion. I now like the book again, in fact those characters (Jack and Sadie) have wandered into my next book and made themselves right at home.
The winner of that competition has the same agent – and the Bookseller expects a publishing deal within the week. So, it’s not impossible. Wow.
I’m up next…Jack and Sadie will be paraded around the editors at the London Book Fair and hopefully they will ask to see the whole book. Then – it’s offers time. Or not. Maybe it won’t sell. Maybe mice will set up shop in the battered remains of the manuscript. But I’ve enjoyed the ride, and my writing has clearly improved. If not this one, the next one, or the one after that…it turns out, it’s not impossible. It’s just hard work, an overactive imagination and a lot of luck.