Thursday, May 17, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Candy Gourlay

Attention all banana peelers...I must warn you. The list below, what I have coined as The Gourlay 10 Step Program on How to Be an Expert Banana Peeler is not for the faint of heart. Half of the time I was reading it, okay three-fourths of the time, I was thinking, ah man...I DO THAT!?!

Luckily, no one knows except for these guys. Phew!



If you can stomach it, there is some pretty solid advice. If you can't stomach it, no need to sweat it... I am here for you, as I too am guilty of committing many of these blunders along my journey to publication.

Please welcome this week's Banana Peelin' featured author, Candy Gourlay!

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So many banana peels, so little time. My dear Elizabeth, with such a focused theme, how long do you suppose will you be able to keep this blog going? Well ... forever.  The road to publication is LITTERED with banana peels. For every book published, four score and seven commissioning editors lie snoring, bored to oblivion by their slushpile. Let not their sacrifice be in vain. Here are some choice banana peels for the discerning blunderer on his or her journey to the slushpile:



1.  By all means, spend hours ... YEARS ... on that hooking first line to get that editor to read on. The rest of the manuscript may be crap but you sure hooked that sucker.
2. Ditto your covering letter. Craft it, love it, spit and polish it. Hone it to perfection. The phone will ring and you'll hear the words you never thought you'd hear. Send us the full manuscript, please.  Er. What manuscript?
3. Keep an eye on trends. Vampires? Check. Mermaids? Check. Dystopia? Check. Gritty? Check. They say editors don't know what they want until they see it. And when they see your saber fanged mermaid living in an alternative parallel world populated by knife-wielding hoodies, they're going to know exactly what they want. Someone else's book.
4. Authors have to build their own platforms in this digital age. So get on with it ... friend everyone on Facebook, Tweet like the the world is coming to an end, respond to every comment on your four blogs. There's only one problem. Everyone else is doing it too. Being noticed has everything to do with standing out, not hanging with the rest of the sheep.
5. Fed up with sad stories and depressing plots? Go ahead, write a book filled with goodness and light. Let the hero's dreams come true. Let the sun shine on your characters. Let their every desire be met. It will be the first tension-free book! Surely, a world record! Which will be wonderful because it will make up for the fact that nobody's going to want it - nobody wants to read a book with no tension.
6. Cherish your prose. Hold it close, savour every word. Only show it to people who you know will love it, like your children and your best friend, the one who owes you money. Put that manuscript on a pedestal. It will look great up there. Safe from the bitter criticisms of commissioning editors and critique groups. Never to be thrown to the mercy of the undiscerning, unreliable reading public.
7.  Rejected? Again? Tweak that manuscript, tweak it, I say! Tweak it if it takes years! Then reformat the whole thing, print it once, twice, print it three times until it looks perfect. Then send it out again. Multiple submissions, that's the trick. Do everything to get it published. Everything to avoid writing another book.
8.  You have no time to write. You tweet about this sad fact, you blog about it, you discuss it with your friends on Facebook, and  you discuss it on the phone, and on the way home from school and on the way to work. And at bedtime, you have a row with your partner because he or she hasn't been supportive enough to help you find the time. Yes, you definitely have no time. And you definitely have no book.
Photo by Raymund Rivera
9. You're nearing the end of the manuscript! Hurrah! But what's this? You haven't planned for the ending? You were trying to allow the story to develop organically, you say, and now you don't know how to finish? Keep calm, here's what you do. Simply wake your character up. That's right. It was all a dream. Sorts everything out.  Or even better, why not end it at a bad moment and say it's the first of a trilogy. What about the other two books? No point worrying about the rest of the trilogy until you've got the book deal.
10. You've written your novel, perfected your submission, caught the eye of an agent. You've done it! Time to celebrate! What's that? You've got no friends to celebrate with? What about family? Oh I'm sorry to hear that. I could have told you. Alienating your friends and family is one of the slickest banana peels on the road to publishing success.
Candy Gourlay's debut novel TALL STORY made a splash when it was published in the UK in 2010, with nominations and shortlistings to the Carnegie and other major children's book prizes. It won the Crystal Kite Prize for Europe and since publishing in the US appeared on Kirkus' Outstanding Children's Debut list for 2011. Candy was a journalist in her native Philippines. Marriage to a British foreign correspondent brought her to England.





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Dang. That is all I can say, other than where was Candy Gourlay when I submitted my autobiography on being a saber fanged mermaid living in an alternative parallel world populated by knife-wielding hoodies? NO wonder I haven't been contacted for my own Lifetime movie! =)

43 comments:

  1. Oh the guilt...I am constantly saying I don't have time to write at the moment and will do it when I have finished marking etc etc. Slopes off into the corner to write! Great post Candy

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  2. Such painful lessons - very true but at the same time very funny!

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  3. Thanks for having me, Elizabeth. If it's any consolation, I have done every single one of those things. It's a funny situation because on the one hand you've got to do all these things (write a good hook, build a platform) but on the other ... it takes your eye off the ball: writing a good book. And if at first you don't succeed, don't hang around, write another one (you'll be a better writer every time you write another one). At the end of the day, it's not that you won't get published. It's just that it will take a little bit longer.

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    2. Candy! Well said! Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute to the series. There are at least three (or seven blunders) I think everyone can relate to! :)

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  4. Candy, this was a slippity list if ever we've had one on this blog and I am sure I am on my way to committing the same banana crimes, but at least I will laugh as I look back on them!

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    1. Joanna, that's the spirit! it's a good idea to laugh as loud as you can to drown out your screaming.

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  5. Any author who hasn't done all of those things isn't a proper author in my book. Very funny, Candy :)
    I'm particularly interested in number 4 as I have just checked the foundations of all of my platforms and they're all a bit creaky.

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    1. That makes me a truly PROPER author! That's all right then!

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  7. Ah, Candy, brilliant as ever! I'm now off to skid on a banana skin because that's how I role, or skid, or slip, or slide... ;-)

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  8. What a wonderful post, Candy. It made me smile so much. :)

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    1. glad it made you smile! it made ME grit my teeth!

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  9. Oh, number 8, the lurking quicksand for the writer to avoid. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have been pulled under too many times. Thank you, Candy, for this humorous list of banana peels!

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  10. I'm really worried. Not only have I got banana peel engrained in my trousers, I still like sabre-fanged mermaids.

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  11. Ah, nothing like starting the day off with a dose of optimism! So much truth behind all that humor. I especially love number 4- networking=not working...

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    1. Now THAT's a cleverer way of putting it!

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  12. Hmmm 6 and 8... Not guilty... Honest... Never! Not guilty of any of them - but particularly not those two... And I never waste time commenting on other people's blogs ;-)

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  14. Ha! Proper hilarious and so true for me!

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    1. I'm a pro at number 1 and 2.

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    2. Addy's just written a moving piece about letting go of a manuscript The Book of Letting Go ... a must read ... but take a hanky.

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  15. Fantastic! This would be so funny if it weren't so tragically true!

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  16. That was a great post. Funny. Painfully true... but fun.
    Sabre-fanged mermaids? There is a niche at that end of the market. I'd enjoy reading that end of the genre.

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  17. What Sue said. Yes, it's all so true.

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  18. I love number 4!! So why am I commenting . . .?

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  19. Brilliant - funny and frightening all in one emotional response!

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  20. Awesome, Candy! Sheer awesomeness! And Elizabeth I had no idea you were a saber fanged mermaid. Me too! You should totally join our saber fanged mermaid mommy playgroup. We meet at the Cliffs of Doom every Tuesday.

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    1. I so want to meet you at the Cliffs of Doom!

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    2. Wearing my clamshell bra and holding a special fang toothbrush.

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  21. Gee, a lot of those banana peels feel awfully familiar! :)

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  22. Thanks for the entertaining banana peels, Candy!

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  23. Thank you all ... may your banana peels not get in the way of dreams coming true.

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  24. What a great series!!! I was sent over here by a commenter on one of my banana-peel worthy posts.

    sf

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  25. Wow! What a list. Bookmarked this one!

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  26. Thanks, Candy! Re: [1] Before I started writing for children, I was trying to write an adult novel. I'd made hundreds of pages of notes (literally) but I wrote and rewrote the first two chapters DOZENS of times. They were pretty polished (and I was even paid a small amount to read out the first chapters at a noir night for a local independent press, and then offered by one of their authors to be my mentor) but I never made it past those two chapters.

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