How Do You Know When It’s Time To Quit?

It’s a genuine question. I really don’t know.

I have been close to quitting a lot lately. It’s probably a weekly thing at the moment. I don’t mean writing, by the way, I could never quit writing.

I’m referring to the process of editing and rewriting and revising a book again and again and again in the faint hope of a publisher accepting it, versus making the decision to quit editing, rewriting and self-publish it. I am also referring to my writing company, Chasing Driftwood, which I constantly think about quitting. I am torn all the time. Do I give up on all these childish dreams and get myself a proper job? I am increasingly tempted.

Failure is a horrible thing. We all face it at various times in life, and it’s never, ever nice. We actively work to avoid it. Sometimes that means we never even try in the first place because we are scared of failing. We are scared of that feeling and don’t want to see ourselves as failures.

I think I can safely say that I have at least tried. Very, very hard. And a big part of me wants to keep trying. Despite the mixed feedback from two rounds of beta readers, I still love Elliot Pie and I feel like I have worked on it and worked on it, and made it a much, much better book that it was over two years ago when I started it. I’ve listened to feedback and I’ve acted on it. I submitted to a list of small press publishers and had three of them fairly interested in it, which is pretty positive really. I’ve never had that response to any of the other books I’ve put out. I keep reminding myself of this whenever I feel down. They may still be rejections, but they are positive rejections, which all say positive things about Elliot Pie. I have confidence that at the very least, my synopsis, my concept and my first few chapters are enough to entice people in!

Good stuff. But that leads me on to the reasons it was still rejected. Too long. I did go through it again and deleted another character, but I honestly could not see where else to cut. I know, I know, hire an editor you say. But I can’t afford that right now. Not in the slightest. Another reason for rejection was more specific. They loved the concept and my writing and absolutely adored Elliot, all of which is fantastic news. But they would have preferred the book to be written from the POV of Elliot and his mum. Just to explain, the book is mostly from Elliot’s POV, but also from his mum’s and the three strangers he makes friends with.

Now I can’t stop thinking about this suggestion. It would mean yet another entire and potentially very tricky rewrite. Losing the POV of three characters would also get the word count down…

But I just don’t know. I personally like the other characters POV being there because it means the reader gets to know or assume stuff about them which Elliot does not. His mother never meets these people. Do you see how tricky it could be to rewrite? I would have to write Elliot into scenes he was never meant to be in, or find other ways to suggest elements of their characters to the reader, through Elliot’s perceptions and reactions.

A lot of work. And I have two more finished but unpublished books to tidy up and start doing something with! Plus The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series which I am working on…

Life is short, right? The way I see it right now, I have two options with this book and with my writing company. I keep trying, keep battling, keep working until I get it right, whatever ‘right’ is, or I learn to know when to quit.

These are two separate issues really. I know I won’t quit my company yet. I just desperately need more time to make it all work and I know I will get that in September when my youngest starts school. I have decided to give it my all that year, give it everything I’ve got, and if I can’t do it, admit defeat at the end of that year and get a proper job, knowing at least I tried.

With Elliot Pie…I just can’t decide whether to keep rewriting in the hope of getting a publisher for it…or admit it’s the best I can do, it’s the book I wanted it to be, self-publish and hope for the best.

Funnily enough, when searching for images to post with this, I came across the quote ‘when you feel like quitting, think about why you started’ and it’s now changed the way I am looking at this. I’ve been thinking about what the story I originally wanted to tell and I’ve been thinking about the reason I started my writing company…

But it’s tricky, isn’ it? How do you know when to quit? How do you know when you’ve done the best and you’ve nothing left to give?

Answers on a postcard please! Or alternatively, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts! Have you ever felt like quitting a project? Was there a point when you just realised you’d done the best you could, and it was time to stop?

Interview with Author Harriet Springbett

Last week I read and reviewed a beautiful and unique YA book, called Tree Magic. I came across this book in a Facebook group I am lucky enough to be part of, and the front cover and title immediately caught my eye. It sounded just my sort of thing. (If you follow me on Instagram you might have an idea of how obsessed with trees I am!) You can read my review of Tree Magic here. Author Harriet Springbett kindly agreed to an interview, which you can enjoy below. Tree Magic comes out in paperback on the 1st of March, and is currently only 99p for the ebook on Amazon. Grab it!

Tree magic3

1) Can you tell us what inspired you to write Tree Magic?

I was sitting under a weeping willow tree in my garden, writing the start of a novel about Rainbow, a teenager who didn’t fit in. A recent storm had uprooted a nearby sumac tree and I found myself wishing I could stroke its branches back into shape to rebalance it: we hug trees to make ourselves feel better, but who ever makes trees feel better? I started to wonder what it would be like if someone could communicate with trees and help them in this way. As Rainbow was under my pen, she became the one to be blessed / cursed with this gift.

2) Did the plot come first, or the characters?

Definitely the main character. I’d already written a short story about Rainbow, and a member of Lumineuse, my writers’ group, said she was such a vivid character that she could almost see her beside me. The plot grew organically from Rainbow, her gift and her problems. This was a deliberate approach on my part, because the previous novel I’d written was plot-led and I’d found the writing experience too restrictive.

3) The story is told in both past and present tense – why did you choose this approach, and how difficult was it to pull off?

The tenses are intrinsically linked to the characters of the two protagonists: Mary wants to forget her past so the present tense represents her best, whereas Rainbow is like a tree, with roots into her past. It wasn’t a question of ‘pulling it off’, because it was natural rather than being a storytelling device. I was warned that publishers wouldn’t like the tense-mixing, but I believed it was too essential to change. In fact, my publisher (Impress Books) never questioned the tenses.

4) Are any of the characters based on people in real life?

No! Part of the fun of writing stories is creating characters. I’m a detail hoarder, and I jot down lots of rubbish that amuses or interests me, which may then produce a character (or not). For example, the other day I was running with a friend who’d bought a new pair of trainers. I noticed that the underside of her trainers happened to match the colour of her T-shirt, and found myself thinking about the kind of person who would do this deliberately.

5) Did you have to do much research into trees, or did you already have some knowledge in that area?

I love trees. I grew up on a Dorset farm that had 10 acres of woodland and a stream, and we were always playing in them, making tree houses or fixing rope ladders and swings to them. We had our own trees in the way other children have pets. Tree Magic doesn’t have technical details about trees, so I only needed an everyday knowledge, which my childhood and a tree guide provided. However, I did research details for the habitats and characteristics of certain trees, such as the symbolic silver maple.

6) This is your debut YA novel, can you tell us what is coming next?

I have already finished another YA novel called Red Lies, White Lies. It’s a thriller with a 17-year-old protagonist, set in France, and has no magic realism. A beta reader said she couldn’t put it down – but I really should make time to seriously hunt for an agent. I love the writing part of being an author, but I’m not very good at sending out my work. I must confess that I have begun to write another YA novel when I should really be trying to find a home for Red Lies, White Lies.

7) Do you read a lot of YA yourself? If so, what are your favourite YA books?

I didn’t intend Tree Magic to be a YA novel because I hadn’t read much YA fiction. When it was placed runner-up in a competition, the judge told me that with a little rewriting I could target the YA market. An agent who rejected it mentioned YA too – so I researched the YA market and rewrote it for younger readers. I only really started reading YA a short time ago – and I’m seriously seduced by what I’ve read. There’s a refreshing liberty in YA writing. I loved The Sun is Also a Star for its ‘science versus intuition’ approach (a little like in Tree Magic). I was shocked and impressed by Orangeboy. I adored the protagonist in Wing Jones and thought A Monster Calls was beautifully written. I could go on, but I’d better stop there.

8) Can you tell us about your writing and publishing journey so far? What have been the highs and lows?

The lows were the rejections. I originally sent Tree Magic to about 10 agents, was rejected by all of them and concluded that the story was rubbish. I left it in a drawer for years before learning that this rejection rate was normal, and that small publishers accepted unsolicited manuscripts. Long live small publishers! The highs were firstly getting my manuscript accepted by Impress Books (though I worried for ages that they’d change their minds) and then the whole editing process with them. They are wonderful. The weirdest moment was when I read the blurb my editor wrote. My immediate reaction was ‘that sounds like an exciting book’ and my second was ‘it’s your book, you idiot.’

9) What advice would you give to new writers just about to start the journey into publication?

Don’t be put off by rejections. You must keep searching for a home, but make sure you get readers and other writers to critique your story first. Writers’ groups are invaluable for this. Also, I wish I’d written more short stories before launching into a novel because the experimentation, feedback and rewriting loop takes less time than with novels. Short stories help you to find your voice.

10) What have you learned so far about promoting your book?

I didn’t realise that book promotion and publicity would be so time-consuming. Getting started can be scary, so it’s wonderful if you have a publicist to guide you. If you’re not careful, it will eat into your writing time, so you have to sum up your courage and push yourself to be proactive while still remembering that the writing is what’s most important.

11) Describe an average writing day for you

I exchanged my full time job for part time work in order to have writing time, so this motivates me to sit down every morning and write until lunchtime. Most evenings I run or cycle – this is my problem-solving time, when I run through scenes in my head and visualise characters’ reactions. Of course, my friends don’t believe me when I say I’m working as I run! I don’t write at weekends, because I want to live fully, spend time with my family, do sport, see friends etc. Inspiration comes from interacting with real life, from watching and listening to what’s going on in the world, so it’s important not to shut yourself away all the time. It also means I look forward to getting back to my computer on Monday mornings.

12) Finally, tell us three interesting facts about yourself

This is the most difficult question. OK: when I was 22 I did a Raleigh International expedition in Chile and then hitchhiked 5000km from the south to the north. My ideal holiday is an itinerant trip with a bike, a tent and good company. And I’m (distantly) related to Thomas Hardy.

More about Harriet Springbett…

Harriet Springbett lives in France with her French partner and teenage daughters. She grew up in West Dorset and qualified as a manufacturing engineer before realising she preferred people to machines, and words to numbers. She moved to France in 1995, where she studied French and then worked as a project manager, a freelance feature writer, a translator and an English teacher. She has always written in her free time.

Her debut YA novel, Tree Magic, was published by Impress Books in ebook format in January 2017. The paperback is due out on 1st March. Harriet writes every morning and blogs on writing and cultural events at Harriet Springbett’s Playground of Words and Thoughts. Several of her short stories (Quark Soup, Shingle & Sand, Ami Entends-tu?, Big Bones…) have been placed and shortlisted in competitions or published in magazines such as The French Literary Review.

Links;

Tree Magic page at Impress Books: http://www.impress-books.co.uk/impress/tree-magic/ Tree Magic on Amazon.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tree-Magic-Harriet-Springbett/dp/1911293001/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485160742&sr=8-1&keywords=9781911293002 My Blog: https://harrietspringbett.wordpress.com Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/HarriSpringbett/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarriSpringbett