Where’s my careers advice?

Puzzled girl
Wafting into Soho in a chauffeured limo before sipping chilled prosecco over a lobster spaghetti lunch whilst discussing the best option for the next novel is how meetings between agents and authors go in my head.
I follow a fair few on Twitter and their feeds seem to bear this out.  Not a day goes by without a photo of something pale and fizzy heralding a successful lunch with a wonderful agent/fabulous author. And whilst I am agent-less and of course miss someone selling my book for me and negotiating deals on my behalf, what I am also missing, and which for me is just as important I have come to realise, is advice on what to do next.
Thicker than Water was simple for me.  It was a high concept novel, I loved the characters, I really enjoyed writing it and I had taken four months off work to get it done.  And whilst that manuscript is ricocheting between agents, I have launched myself with gusto into the next one.  This is where things are beginning to fray a little at the edges.
There has been a story burrowing in my head for a long time.  It began as an idea for a short story, then morphed into a different tale and then settled on its final form as a novel.  But it is not high concept; I went to a writing conference the other weekend and had some difficulty explaining it.  Once I had got the idea across to those I had buttonholed to listen to me, they were excited and interested, but that elevator pitch is eluding me.
So I wonder whether I should can it? We hear all the time how it is virtually impossible to get a debut novel published so why make it more difficult for myself by writing something that does not easily pop into a genre?  I know all the advice is that we should write with our heart and not be bound by commercial considerations but when you want to get published, surely it is foolish not to write with an eye to selling it on?  We have to paint a vision in the agent’s heads of how this novel would work, make it easy for them to do a deal.
So I had a wobble at the weekend and went back through my special notebook and folder on my laptop with all my ideas in.  That was an exercise both in pride in my creativity and depression at how much I have done and how little I have achieved.  But there are two or three ideas of novels in there and once I began reading my plot notes and character sketches I remembered my enthusiasm for each one again. I wanted to return to those people and write about them more, immerse myself in their challenges and tragedies and find out what happens.  But which one should I choose?
This is where I need a glass of prosecco and a lobster spaghetti with someone who knows what they are talking about.  Someone who knows more than me about what is going on in the world of book selling and who can give me some advice, pick over the plot, question the characters, spot those holes and share my enthusiasm until we have landed on the one. We would of course order a second bottle to celebrate our cleverness.
But it is just me.  Sat at my dining table, staring at these scraps of novels and outlines of characters trying to decide which to pick to give me the best chance of being picked. It’s not easy being on your own. But I suppose I could still enjoy the prosecco.

Don’t make me talk about it

Or How I Prefer to Organise My Life in Compartments

“So you have two minutes. Talk to the person in front of you about what you do outside of work.” Panic.
Speed dating at work is not as weird as it sounds. As part of a ‘getting to know your colleagues better’ about 70 of us were being almost overwhelmed by a cacophony of sound as we shuffled up the chairs in two minute bursts talking to people we have only seen at the tea point, maybe nodded to in the lift. The very definite brief was not to mention work but to talk about what else was important in your life.
I was not entirely surprised to find I couldn’t do it. I talked about the fact that I am a member of a running club, I had two daughters, we liked to go camping. And the usual reading, cinema and perhaps theatre if I was really trying to impress the person who had wriggled up in front of me. All the time I was willing the little bell to jingle so the person in front could move on and we would have avoided running out of things to say and I might have felt compelled to say the words out loud.
Not once did I mention that I had written an adult novel and a children’s novel or that I had a writing blog and Tweeted regularly about the challenges of writing whilst holding down a full time job. Why not?
I’m not really sure. Anyone who has read any of my previous posts will recognise a theme coming through here that seems to be driven by embarrassment that although I write I am not published. These are the people I work with. In order to do my job well I ought to have the respect of my colleagues especially my team. Wouldn’t that be undermined by them knowing I slave away bashing out stories to send them off on a wave of excitement and hope only to have them volleyed back with a no thanks, not good enough?
The unexpected benefit of writing blog posts is that it gives me the chance to consider things that have been bothering me. Maybe I would set an impressive example in creativity and resilience if I confessed to my secret hobby. Never give up, keep your passion in your life etc etc. Writing is part of who I am and what I like to do, so shouldn’t I be out and proud about it?
But then: “How’s your book doing?” I am reminded that whenever I pop into the pub on a Friday to meet my friends, the questions about the book comes up. They are my friends, they are interested, they want me to do well but I find myself embarrassed to say that the only progress since I last saw them is that there are one or two additional rejections added to the pile. I’m not sure I could cope with that at work as well.  
So I find I continue to keep it a secret. I have developed a series of coping mechanisms to fend off questions about what I have been up to at the weekend when I have been on a writing course or what I have planned for my days off when I am going to be bashing away on my laptop for two days and most of all where I would like to see myself in five years’ time which is of course on a Book of the Month list somewhere.