THE SECRET DEEP – Pre-order PRIZE DRAW

The Secret Deep is my YA debut, out on 2nd August with Chicken House Books …less than 4 weeks!

For a debut author particularly, it is difficult to be spotted in a world with some many brilliant books. I want to say a huge THANK YOU to those have supported my book early on by running this draw.

So for generous people who pre-order – or have already pre-ordered – there’s chance to win some LIMITED EDITION (some parts hand made by the author!) book merchandise/swag.

Pre-order here:

Amazon  /  Waterstones   /   The Book Depository

OR from your local indie bookshop…

DM me (twitter, instagram or Facebook – links to your right) or email me at lindsaygalvinauthor at yahoo dot com with a photo or screenshot of your receipt and your address. 

Try before you buy! Read the first chapter here : Chapter 1 THE SECRET DEEP

***Closes 18th July at midday***

I will draw names from a hat…30 winners in total.

The Prizes:

25 winners will receive the DEEPLY GRATEFUL PACK of 3 items:

  • Limited edition ONE OF A KIND book mark charm handmade (by me!) with sea-life charm – either a ray, seahorse or starfish, made with semi-precious beads of turquoise, hematite, blue agate or hoplite. Each one is different. Chosen at random.
  • One exclusive The Secret Deep 25mm button badge – coming soon.
  • The Secret Deep double sided personalised signed bookmark

THE BADGES (Arriving soon):

5 winners will receive the *GRAND* SECRETLY DELIGHTED PACK with 6 items:

  • All of the above PLUS:
  • Limited edition Candle Bag (Linen bag with exclusive The Secret Deep manta ray stamp, sea-life charm and Sea Salt by St Eval scented tea light candle inside)
  • ALL 3 The Secret Deep badge designs

Names will be drawn from a hat and announced on 18th July.  UK only – apologies, this is due to postage.

Thank you so much to everyone who pre-orders and puts their faith in this brand new author.

Remember – pre-order before 18th July midday to have a chance in the draw.

More photos…

Call it what it is (or not). All about Titles.

I am a fan of book titles.

I jot them down, I roll them around my mouth, I overthink my own. To summarise the essence and vibe of a book in a few words is magic. I think a title should feel good when said aloud and have flow. I like the words to sound right together and it needs be enticing.

I was chatting to a fellow writer about the title of my debut this week, and recalled how it has changed over the 5 and a half years I’ve been writing this book.

THE SECRET DEEP is a YA mystery thriller set on a desert island exploring a secret hidden deep in the beautiful waters. So my title is self explanatory. I love it for that and the sound and simplicity.

But I loved my previous titles too…

Ex title 1. THE BREATHING SEA. Me, my agent and my publisher were attached to this title, but agreed it wasn’t quite right for the book. We wanted to emphasise the mystery element for the readership. I didn’t want to let this one go at first, so at the suggestion of my brilliant editor, I integrated it into the last line of the story. This title landed me my agent and my publishing deal so I am a little sentimental about it. And breathe…

Ex title 2. SUN CHASERS. This is an example of when an title (author) tries far too hard to be clever. It refers to abstract themes in that draft. The story was not really about the sun or chasing. This title did not land me an agent. Huh.

Ex title 3. CLAMOUR. I just liked the word, I have no idea why. It looks like Glamour. No.

Ex title 4. LONE LAND. First ever title. I still like this and at least it’s got an island vibe. Don’t know why I dropped this one. Other people didn’t like it probably.

Words do have power and titles have power to make someone pick up your book. Pressure!

Advice if you are trying to pin your own title:

  1. Write down all evocative words that even remotely relate to your book. I had dive, deep, ocean, blue, depths, breathe etc. And hidden, beyond, capture, below…etc. Hundreds.
  2. Sometimes two opposing ideas, or things you wouldn’t normally combine make a great title. See The Book Thief.  It raises a question.
  3. Take your time and build up a bank of possibles. Your publisher or agent might want to change your beloved title. This can happen for many reasons, but to fit with your cover design is one. Have back ups.
  4. Research titles of comparative books. This didn’t take me long as there aren’t many for mine! But it helps if your title ‘fits’ with comparative titles.
  5. Say it aloud. You will have to do this a lot when published. If it doesn’t roll of the tongue with a proud flourish now…
  6. Check it on amazon and google. It needs to be original. And not also the name of something dubious!

My favourite titles:

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness.  This one is oblique, but captures essence perfectly. Say it. It’s as brilliant as the book.

Stranger Things – that show is perfection and the title says it all.

The Book Thief – pure intrigue.

What is your favourite book, film or TV title?

Happy in my Struggle Zone*

Why finding it tough, is okay.

As a teacher I’ve almost-slept through a lot of teacher training. But lately I sit up straight in my hard plastic seat to relate learning theory to my writing. Because I’ve only been writing five years, and I’ve never learned so much, so quickly, in my life.

The idea of The Struggle Zone is popular right now. I don’t like the phrase. I don’t think of my students as struggling, because my lessons are super fun and inspiring, obviously. Labels aside, the cognitive theory makes sense to me.

We learn best when pushed out of our comfort zone… but (importantly) not enough to stress us into panic.

I love writing. But getting a book to the best standard, ready for publication. That’s hard. A struggle. But actually – that’s how it should be.

If I’m going to learn – and I really really want to learn and improve – I need to be in the middle box. The struggle thoughts I have: Why can’t I get this right? Why am I making the same mistake again? Why do the words hate me? Other people probably don’t find this so hard…

I should be feeling like that. It’s a sign I’m making progress! Phew.

Breaking down that middle box (in the wrong order):

High Challenge: How many words? How many times did I rewrite them? That’s just silly! Writing a book is running a marathon I didn’t train for, but with my brain, cross-country in Antarctica, naked. And I’ll die if I fail (okay not the last one).

Thinking Required: Just a bit! Things held in head when writing: intriguing plot, beguiling characters, sharp dialogue, perfect POV, tea? immersive setting, title ideas, does it even mean anything? resonance, flow, more tea yet? pace, to avoid or not to avoid that adverb, have I got too many names starting with S, other newer ideas, what does this say? Stopping characters narrowing their eyes and growling, tea or gin?

Effective Learning: I know I am improving! I like reading my own writing now and there are even some people who aren’t related to me who like reading it too. I was stupendously bad when I started out. Real baddddd. Learning has happened.

THE IMPORTANT BIT

Low Stress: People don’t learn well when stressed. Hmmmm. Oh dear.

I’ve got the other three but this? I am a little tiny teeny bit stressed at times, I admit it. A lot of writers are

stressed, so it feels normal, and that’s probably quite dangerous. But The Struggle Zone is not about stress. Stress is not okay, and will hinder learning.

For me, stress happens when things beyond my control bother me, and I stop doing the things that relax me. So for me I need to block stress with less internet and overthinking, more yoga and talking to positive people.

So if it feels a struggle, welcome that. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it means you are learning and improving, pushing out of comfort into the unknown. But no stress. Stress is bad, and belongs in the bin. Find any way to block its entrance and recognise when it is sneaking back in.

*The Struggle Zone can also be found just outside the Habitable Comfort Zone on your chosen post-apocalyptic world. It’s life or death, but it’s also where all the cool stuff happens. So kit up and get out there, kids. 

Draft Zero Diary – Ground Work.

I am writing a Brand New Thing.

Since I last waffled here, I’ve been busy with rewrites of The Breathing Sea for my publishers, and have also started and stalled a couple of new ideas — now shelved. If I’m not fully enthused by the time I get to 30K of a draft then I don’t think I can see it through to the end. I expect drafting to be hard, but it was too hard. I wasn’t feeling it.

Why couldn’t I think of an idea I liked as much as my first.  I felt… clouded.

I started thinking differently. Subconsciously, I’d been picking book ideas at random, running with them if they felt sparky, or I could imagine they would hook readers. I didn’t consider if they were the kind of thing I would be any good at writing. I was forcing it, these ideas weren’t really my thing.

I went back to The Breathing Sea. Why, after five years and so many different versions, do I still love it? The main character — Aster — has always felt real. And the story is based around a setting and premise that fascinates me. I will never get tired of learning about the oceans and science innovations, and am into biology and psychology. I’ve always swum and I love diving, the experience, the simple feel of it.

I dredged my mind for the last scene in a story — either book, movie, or TV —that had shaken me, that I had truly loved in a visceral way.

I identified it easily.

And I based my new book idea (let’s call it Z-book for reasons) around what got to me about that scene. Z-book is nothing like that scene in setting, character or premise, but my love of the action and emotion is the spark.

The Breathing Sea is about what’s below the surface. Z-book will take me to the clouds. And that feels… right.

So fast-forward two months, to now.

I have a whole notebook of research notes. This novel needs research, but the kind I love, science, but also history, myth and speculation. Researching has been my geek heaven and there will be a lot more later, which for me — is fun!

I have a story backbone. Fourteen key scenes, written into Scrivener – a couple of lines to describe each, 700 words in total. In the past I’ve used various different story planners and beat sheets and I think they overwhelm me before I start. I’ll test my draft structurally when I have a draft. Right now I feel the shape of this one in my bones, like it already exists, I just need to find the words for it. I’m going to explore my way in.

I have put in groundwork with my MC. Her backstory is detailed and there will be too much of it in draft zero but I’ll allow myself that and cut later. I’ve thought about her every day and she has personality and voice. I’m starting to see this story through her eyes and she will lead me through it, changing my initial ideas as she grows. As soon as I started to hear her speak and was jotting down her comments, thoughts and conversations, I knew I was probably ready to let her speak.

I’m making it sound like I’m confident. I am so very not. But that is fine.

I’m going to diary my progress weekly. I’d like a draft by the new year. Next week, I’ll post the first week of Draft Zero Diary, and outline what I did towards my story each day, and how I fit it in the cracks of time.

Did I mention I kind of hate Draft Zero? It’s so painful watching the shiny ideas wither in my dreadful unedited words.

Because I hope this one will break the 30K barrier, and fly.

To work.

How long will I be on Submission? (they sob)

(Note: I had to remove and repost this as problems with comments)

It’s almost a year since The Breathing Sea went on submission to publishers. I want to write about what it was like to sell the book, starting with THE WAIT. And yes, it does deserve capitals.

The Wait haunts all stages of writing for publication. There are different levels of waiting, a bit like Dante’s circles of hell. Waiting for critique, waiting to hear from agents, waiting to receive edits, waiting for feedback on edits, waiting waiting waiting W A I T I N G. And my character flaw is lack of patience.
Submission  waiting is the WORST.  It goes like this: you polish your manuscript with your agent (possibly over the course of many months) who also prepares a list of fabulous editors, a strategy, and a pitch. Then you leave your agent to do his or her part and sell that shiny story which has your tender heart and soul nestled within its pages.

And you Wait.

An agent can’t tell you how long it’s going to take, even if you beg them to ‘please, just tell me when this agony will end and then I’ll be able to cope’. They can’t. They shouldn’t. They don’t know. And the uncertainty is the killer.

My agent is very sensible and honest and told me it could sell in days, or take months, and that there was really no way of knowing as every book is different. She was totally right. Some agents impose deadlines on publishers. My experience of watching friends on submission is that these deadlines usually fly by unheeded, sometimes numerous times causing more agony due to falsely raised expectations. The process really does take as long as it takes. But I ran a twitter poll which could at least give you an idea of what to expect.

Out of 210 published authors, half of their debuts took over 8 weeks to sell.

I think knowing this might have helped me a little. Maybe.

So what is actually happening whilst you are waiting, refreshing your inbox? Does it matter? I don’t work in publishing but from what I can glean,  editors are genuinely busy with their current authors who often have tight deadlines, they also need to get multiple reads of new books, and then the process of acquisition meeting, marketing, costing all requires meetings, that need to be organised when Clare or Sarah are back from holiday (there seem to be a lot of Clares and Sarahs in publishing). Plus everything either slows or speeds up around book fairs in February, March and October. Oh and Christmas and Summer are silent wastelands of misery, you need gin to get through those.

The length of time you wait is not a sign of quality.  I repeat: How long it takes to sell your book does not indicate how successful it will be. I needed someone to shout this at me when I was waiting for The Breathing Sea to sell, because it felt like this:

1 week: It would have been so cool to sell quickly. Oh well, still so much time! They are probably reading and discussing it right now *dreamy sigh* I’d better add some actors to play my MC’s on my pinterest boards,  I’ll need those very soon.

2 weeks: Hurumph. I haven’t been ‘snapped up’.  I’m probably not going to see the words ‘hotly contested auction’ and my name in the same sentence. But I can cope.

3 weeks: Where is everyone? My refresh button finger has arthritis. I know, I’ll twitter stalk some editors I know it’s on submission to, that will help at lot.

4 weeks: I wish I’d never written the thing. I hate it anyway. I’m going to write something else right now, it will probably be finished by the time this one sells which will SHOW THEM ALL.

5 weeks onwards: BURN EVERYTHING/ rock in front of screen staring at other people’s successes/ BURN/ rock and repeat.

(There were a few rejections and false starts peppered throughout to give the waiting a little seasoning. I’ll chat about those another time.)

Since this poll I’ve spoken to more authors in person. Some were on an open submission and took more than a year to sell. And those books were brilliant, often ground breaking books.

Some books will sell within a day, at auction or big pre-empt, because they are genuinely works of genius. Others sell big because there’s buzz surrounding their premise or they are similar to other books that have done well, or they have something which taps into current zeitgeist. But prize-winners  waited too. Bestsellers are often not the books that sold a auction within days of submission.

It’s a strange and unpredictable business, but here’s something wonderful and also terrifying: when the average reader picks up a book they don’t know how long it took to sell or how much money it sold for. Readers judge books by their cover and then by what’s inside.

But the best thing about waiting? There’s always more just around the corner.

 

Finding a Literary Agent

This is how I joined the slush pile and found an agent, based on some advice I followed, and some I shrugged at because I couldn’t see the point.

I am not suggesting anyone ignores advice because it worked for me. I knew nothing. I was lucky.

I’ve never studied creative writing, and when I started out I knew only one writer, who wasn’t writing in my genre. I wasn’t even on twitter! There was so much conflicting advice online, much of it from the US whose querying system is a little different.  I soaked it all up, then planned my own Find An Agent campaign. I think I succeeded mostly due to luck, but grit and willingness to learn played a part. I read a lot of posts like this, so wanted to add my own.

‘Edit before submitting.’ YES

The first draft of The Breathing Sea took around 6 weeks to draft and over 8 months to edit. I wrote the book as an experiment to see if I could, then loved writing it, so edited because I wanted to make it good. I bought writing craft books and devoured blog posts by authors I respected. Through trial and error I developed an editing method (whole other blog post). Then I polished every word of my sample pages over and over.

‘Don’t query too soon.’ Shrug.

It was impossible to know what was too soon. I queried agents 10 months after I started writing my first ever book. On 22nd August 2013. The MS hadn’t been properly critiqued; I didn’t know what beta readers were. I couldn’t afford a professional editing service. It was probably too soon, but I couldn’t have known that, then. You learn by trying. Luckily it worked out.

‘Only submit to agents who represent your genre.’ YES

I didn’t know any writers in my genre to ask for their opinions or recommendations. So I read the whole Writers and Artists yearbook 2013 then submitted to all of the 21 agents who represented YA. A few sounded like a great fit for my book on their website bios, and a few were in the acknowledgements in my favorite books, so I submitted to those first.

‘Send a couple of queries at a time, carefully personalized.’ Shrug.

I sent my MS out in batches of 6 every 3 weeks. I couldn’t see the point in waiting. I had no clue how to tell which agents were right for me. I felt awkward waxing lyrical about their lists and trying to compare myself to their other authors, so I kept my cover letter short and focused on my book. I think you can only tell if an agent is right for you when you meet them.

‘Follow agent submission guidelines.’ YES

Submitting is not a time to break rules or attempt to stand out. I followed submission guidelines rigorously. I hated the idea of agents rejecting me before they had even read my pages.

‘More than 10 rejections means the book isn’t good enough.’ Shrug

It only ever takes one person to love your work and it is completely subjective. Out of 21 submissions 3 agents didn’t respond. I received 15 form rejections and 2 personalised rejections. I received 1 full request but 3 weeks later the full manuscript was rejected. Form rejections always sting, but it was nothing like publisher rejections. Being so new, my expectations were low. I started querying in August, by January that first round was over. A few agents had seen a glint of potential, it was enough to keep me going.

‘Work on another project whilst submitting.’ YES

I wanted to be a writer, so I kept writing. I drafted a weird and overly complex ghost story over that first rejection riddled submission. It needs reworking and might never see the light of day. I’m more relaxed about taking breaks now, but at the time, having another project kept me going.

‘Don’t ask agents to give feedback – they don’t have time.’ Shrug.

I didn’t expect agents to give feedback, it isn’t their job. Now I have an agent I really appreciate how busy they are. But if an agent took the time to give a personal comment, or read my whole manuscript it seemed silly not to ask. I thirsted for industry feedback. A very polite ‘any feedback you could give me would be hugely appreciated’ resulted in a few useful lines from one agent and a whole conversation over email with the assistant of the agent who rejected the full. That was incredibly generous of her. It was only one person’s opinion, but it was astute. Professional . It led to a rethink, followed by a rewrite. I asked if she would be interested in seeing the book again after substantial edits. She said yes. When she rejected a second time I was sure to thank her and tell her how important her initial feedback had been. She said that made her day.

‘Thank everyone.’ ALWAYS AND FOREVER YES

The smallest kindness or act of faith can make the biggest difference.

‘Don’t query the same agent twice.’ Shrug.

I may get in trouble with agents here. After the first submission campaign, during January 2013 I rewrote the book. It was a hard structural rewrite. I cut 20K and scrapped the first 10K. I gave it a new title, for good luck. Breathing Sea was born. In February I resubmitted to some of the same agents and some new agents – different people at the same agencies. I sent 2 batches of 8 submissions. In my letter I mentioned that the MS had been rewritten after industry feedback. The agent who I am with now was the first to ask for the full manuscript at the beginning of March.

‘Do not give exclusives.’ YES (I mean don’t)

Only one agent requested an exclusive and it was too late, the full manuscript was already out. Considering the months an agent might take to read, giving exclusivity is not feasible if you want to be agented within the decade.

‘Agents don’t need to know if you have other interest. Never nudge.’ Shrug.

I nudged all agents I’d submitted to when one agent requested the full. I know some agents say don’t do this, but my goal was to obtain the right representation for me and my book. That just seemed more likely if I had offers from more than one agent so I could meet them and compare. This was a best-case scenario and I didn’t expect it to happen, but it did happen. At one point I had 12 agents reading the full. Some declined. I met 5 agents, they all offered representation.

Lastly: ‘Go with your gut.’ YES

I didn’t find this useful advice at the time. How can you find your wise and profound gut instinct when your gut is filled with flapping butterfly wings? But I’m learning to zone out the noise. If something feels wrong or off, it generally is.

I often revisit that time in the slush pile. It wasn’t long, but it was intense. I take myself back there when I read something stunning and feel the imposter syndrome sucking at my soul, or when I’m staring at what everyone else is doing, smushing my nose too hard against the glass, or when it’s all so nerve-wracking and tiring and difficult.

Publishing a book takes an army, but I navigated the slush stage completely by myself — and despite the luck involved — I’ll always be proud of that.

Good luck if you are currently in the slush pile. Any comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you. If you want to hear from me every month or so, then please sign up to my newsletter.

Steering a course – A second book story

I have second book problems before I’ve even decided what the second book is.

 

 

The Breathing Sea is my first ever book. During the 4 years of writing, editing, rewriting, I also wrote three other books with characters and even whole scenes I may use again — but essentially those books are trunked. They were much needed practice for a new writer and I don’t want any of them to be my second book.

I have a lot of other ideas and two or three I love enough to spend serious time with, one of which I was 30K into drafting before I trailed off, doubting. I stalled.

So what’s stopping me?

I’ve been waiting to be told what to do. And I’ve had some wise advice, but nothing concrete. General consensus is the ideas all have legs, and I should write what I’m most passionate about. But make sure there’s a central idea, that my story has something to say. Okay, fine. But all my ideas could work, in theory. I can’t tell which one is best! No one has told me categorically what I should write next and it sounds pathetic, but it’s left me feeling…lost.

Today I realised the problem lies with me, and is two-fold.

Firstly, my pitches are vague. That’s because I don’t truly know what my story is going to be about —at its core —until I’ve written it. Sigh. I’m trying to shorten the part where I have to write the thing (over and over) to find the story I want to tell. I know it wont take another 4 years but I’m still fearful of how long it will take. You can forgive me trying to fast-forward, but I accept now it isn’t going to work. I need to quit searching for a shortcut, and just write.

The second problem is bigger. I’m waiting for approval, I’m waiting to be told.

I’ve become the type of story character that annoys me the most.

The type I’ve extensively edited out of my own stories. The one who drifts, allowing things happen, rather than being active, making either good or bad decisions, and driving the plot.

I’ve been bouncing over the publishing rapids in my little writerly raft for a couple of years now,  vaguely steering during edits and completely out of control during submission. But I do have to steer a course. This is my journey and I forgot.

I’m cutting myself some slack on this one. I’ve never worked for myself, never owned my own business. I’m used to being protected by a large institution and not making the biggest decisions. And publishing can feel like that too, but at the heart it’s different. It’s going to be my name on the cover.

Consider this lackadaisical character edited. I’m making the decision on what to write — for myself. It might not work out, it might not end up as my second book, but I’ll be writing and enjoying it.

I’m learning how to steer this thing. And first draft — I’m coming for you.

 

The Call

On October 29th 2012 I started writing The Breathing Sea. It was my first ever story, let alone book, and I had no clue what I was doing. I doubted I could even write a whole novel, let alone get it published. But gradually I learned to write. I also learned to want people to read it, and I crept slowly closer to a new goal of getting my book published.

This post is about The Call. That Call when you find out a publisher wants to buy your book. The Call that flips you from one world into another.

The book had been on submission for 5 months. I’d had a dream-come-true meeting with Barry and Rachel from Chicken House Books in London a month before. It was a buzzy exciting meeting where we discussed substantial changes. I agreed the book would work as a standalone rather than first in a trilogy and they seemed to like my suggestions on how to do this. But weeks went by with no more news. If anything I’d been expecting an R and R (revise and resubmit) as the book would mostly be rewritten. I was delighted to have even met Barry Cunningham and tried to persuade myself I should be satisfied such an influential publisher had read and liked my work. I attempted to guard my heart. But I loved the meeting and their vision, and it all felt tantalizingly close. To say I was stalking my inbox was an understatement.

Then the ceiling on family life collapsed.

My 7 year old son’s school decided it was no longer the right place for him. He at home, desperately distressed and anxious, needing a new school urgently. Organizing the right placement was all encompassing.  I was off work with stress for the first time in my life. And for the first time in just over 4 years, I wasn’t thinking about writing.

Then on December 1st 2016 at 5.26 pm (yes I noted the time – I have zero chill) my agent Laura called.

I was in the kitchen, cooking.  Kids were playing in other room. I saw it was a London number.  I was expecting another frustrating phone call about school placements. Even though I was also waiting to hear from Chicken House I honestly didn’t even think of Laura. We’d always chatted on my home phone so her number didn’t come up.

Laura: Hi Lindsay, it’s Laura Williams.

Me: Hi Laura (thoughts rush into brain and straight out of mouth) You’re calling me? You wouldn’t call me if it was bad news. Would you?

Laura: (laughs) No. I wouldn’t.

Pause.

I think Laura must have loved that pause. I hope she did, I’ll ask her. Because it must be the delicious part of an agents job. She told me Chicken House wanted to publish The Breathing Sea in 2018. Yes — it was an offer, not an R and R. Yes — The Breathing Sea was going to be a book. Yes — this really was happening.

I squealed and jumped. My husband Billy came in from work at that moment and I squawked the news at him. He took the phone from me and spoke to Laura. Not sure quite what he said as I was bundling the 7 and 9 year old, but I heard something about dreams coming true, and lovely Laura seemed pretty made up when I got the phone back.

So that was The Call. It happened. And it’s saved forever in my mental vault of Good Things that Happened that Nothing Can Ever Change.

And this is what I wrote in my neglected journal:

(The following day my gorgeous son was accepted into the school we’d been fighting for and the ceiling of our family’s life was rebuilt, higher and stronger than before.)

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