Sunday, 8 August 2010

Guest blogger: Jackie Marchant

Come Climb With Me
Jackie Marchant

Thank you, Tracy, for asking me to be a guest blogger. 
I thought I’d invite everyone to climb the writing mountain with me.

Come Climb with Me

It’s not a diddly pretty little mountain, with clear footpaths and signs telling you which way is up, which way is down and exactly how far you need to go, but a great hulking thing that has never been climbed before. This mountain doesn’t have convenient resting places where you can sit down with your sandwiches whenever you fancy a rest.

The writing mountain is huge, dangerous, bleak, tough and lonely. It’s also incredibly alluring. At times it’s stunningly beautiful. Sometimes you want to stick a massive volcano in the middle of it and blow it all up.

Stand at the bottom of the mountain and look up. What do you see up there? Somewhere right at the top is a publishing deal. It’s there for the taking – all you have to do is climb up and grab it. Take another look. You really think you can go all the way? Of course you can! But, how?

It’s simple. Take one step at a time. Oh, and make sure you have the equipment necessary to get up there. The stamina and nerve of a mountaineer, determination to stick to your goal, willingness to admit you’ve gone wrong and need to backtrack, the tenacity of a crampon.

Think of that mountain as a ream of paper, waiting for you to fill it. One word at a time. Eventually, you reach the top and you have a whole manuscript. Now is the time to pause a while. Give yourself a pat on the back – and have a bit of a fright.

It’s not the top after all. In fact, you’ve just reached a hump that looked like the top when you were down there. Now when you look up, you see the rest of the mountain soaring off into the upper distance, where it disappears under that cloud. Your publishing contract is up there somewhere under that cloud – how far up exactly you have no idea. How on earth do you reach it?

One step at a time.

I could describe the long struggle to get published here, but it would fill up this blog and I’m only a guest. So I’ll give you a link to my website, where I describe the process of How to Get an Agent in about a thousand simple steps, based on my own experience.

So, up you go, trudging ever onwards and upwards, hitting dead-ends of rejection, the twisting paths of impossible plots, backtracking and rewriting, thinking you were mad to believe you’d ever reach the top and wondering what on earth you’re doing – why DID you think you could write? What are you doing up here? This is a good moment to stop and have a look at the view.

Not bad is it? See how far you’ve come since you were one of those hopefuls at the bottom. Feel better now? Well, let’s get going again.

And so it starts over. And just when you think you were right and you are completely mad after all, you spot something.

You are not alone.

There are others on this mountain. At first you think you should keep your head down, after all you are a novice and they look like they know what they are doing. But then the loneliness gets to you and you take a tentative step towards contact. You shyly approach, say you are a struggling, unpublished, hopeful, probably hopeless, writer who knows being on this mountain is a stupid thing to do but you can’t help yourself, when –

They greet you like a long lost friend!

And suddenly you are surrounded by other climbers on the same journey as you. They applaud you when you make progress, catch you when you fall. You had no idea that writers were such wonderful, supportive people, who don’t think you’re completely mad for wanting to fill pages up with words when you should be doing something useful. Now – have another look at the view.

See all those hopefuls down there, struggling up? Go and say hello to them, let them know they are not alone and offer them the support you’ve been given.

If you’ve been stuck up your mountain and not met anyone yet, have a look at the The Writerly Bit  of my website, in particular Networking - How to get yourself out there.

Once you’ve met some likeminded writers (and we really are a breed of our own), and you’re on your way up again, you will start meeting the industry professionals who live up there – published writers, editors and agents. Now the cloud begins to clear and you can glimpse the top.

So, where am I on my mountain? Well, it’s a very crowded mountain, thanks to the wonderful British SCBWI.

We have meetings, social gatherings, online forum, critique groups, Masterclasses, impromptu meetings on Facebook and the fabulous annual conference. We even have our own Facebook Page.  If it wasn’t for SCBWI, my mountain would be a very lonely place.

I’ve taken my own advice and in order to give something back to this wonderful organisation, I’ve been putting together the programme for the London Professional Series.

We meet six times a year at the Theodore Bullfrog pub near Charing Cross, with speakers and a chance to meet and catch up with other writers. I’ve been thrilled with the speakers so far and I’m pleased to say I have a good idea who to invite next year. It’s such an easy job – when I approach a speaker and mention SCBWI, they are nothing but enthusiastic about coming to talk to us.

I’ve also put something on my website, which I would have found really useful when I was starting out submitting my work. I call it The Perfect Submission Package and people have stopped me on my mountain to thank me for putting it there.

And my writing? Well, I have a clear view of the top of my mountain. Sometimes it’s so close I can touch it. Agent close. Acquisitions close. Twice. Then someone slaps my hand away. And there are my good writing friends to kiss it better, as well as my wonderful agent who doesn’t believe that she made a ghastly mistake when she took me on. Really.

But there are times when I want to jump off. But I know if I tried, there would be a bunch of people to hold me back. And, if I did succeed, I’d just get up and start the long climb again.

Love it or hate it, the mountain is there.
And as long as it’s there, I’m climbing it.

To join SCBWI, sign up at the international SCBWI site


Clare said...

An inspiring and very timely post - thanks Jackie and Tracy - just when I was thinking of jumping off the mountain and taking up my knitting needles!
I'm grateful to my fellow mountaineers who have hauled from above and shoved from below - maybe I'll just rest awhile instead of jumping!

Candy Gourlay said...

I know exactly what you mean - with the publication of my book, i thought i'd reached the summit of my mountain but having got here, i have just realized that its part of a huge mountain range! thanks for the inspiration and let's all just keep climbing that mountain.

(btw the captcha on this post is 'spire' ... timely!)

Helen said...

Wow! What a wonderfully inspiring blog Jackie. I have just been to a school reunion in Cornwall and I did climb my small mountain (Roughtor).I sat on the summit thinking about all of my next stages - life, books, relationships, friends etc.
SCBWI is like a permanent reunion, with inspiring, dedicated people and friends, all willing to share their journey so far. Thank you Jackie. Thank you all of

Helen said...

I meant to add that all the recent wonderful success of SCBWIer's just spurs me on up the next rocky slope. Well done all of you.

Helen (Bonney)

kathryn evans said...

Wonderful post Jackie, actually made me quite tearful xx

Sue Hyams said...

Fantastic post. Truly inspirational - thanks, Jackie. Although I now know I'm on the twisting path of the impossible plot!

Tracy said...

Thanks for all the comments and a big thank you to Jackie for being a fantastic guest blogger.
Tracy :)

Dwight said...

That was one lovely extended image, Jackie. Inspiring. I've downloaded your 'perfect submission package' for future reference and SCBWI sounds a great idea. Thank you.

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