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.