Some months ago I was contacted by a publisher’s agent asking if I would be interested in them publishing my next book.
I don’t know how they knew I had a ‘next’ book but was flattered because it implied they were among the select few who knew I had actually written a previous book.
The notion that the request came to and not from me was exciting too until my inner cynic awoke and exclaimed ‘scam’!
‘Ah yes’ I thought, they either want money from me or they want to steal my ideas and publish them under another name. I’d been here before and although the alarm bells weren’t peeling in a high decibel panic, they did tinkle like a pillow muffled alarm clock.
However, I investigated the message, the sender of this message and the publisher behind it and was relieved to discover this was not a scam. I spoke with the representative and learnt that they produce academic material for a growing readership base in the Far East.
The agent duly sent me the guidelines for writing a book proposal and explained that I needed to produce the chapter headings and detailed synopses along with all the other stuff (my profile, really life experiences etc). In short, I had to write a book about writing a book. They would then let me know if I could write for them.
At this point my keenness hit the wall. I had just completed a year of academic study and had found the style required stultifying and difficult. Although I was glad to have completed a third of a Masters, the idea of being tunnelled in yet more academic research and writing did not appeal. Even my dreams reflected this. I dreamt of missing deadlines, of leaden doors slamming above me and of trains pulling out of stations with me left on the platform. My anxiety levels rose whenever I thought of producing this proposal and for the sake of my wellbeing; avoided doing it.
And then I was set free.
A footballing friend called Tom (an extremely good footballer as it happens) told me, among his other his social media followers, about his forthcoming book. I called his publisher them to ask for their own multi paged, civil service style proposal forms. The submissions editor patiently listened to my ideas and asked how far along I was with the first draft. ‘First draft? I thought you’d want a full proposal before I begin any kind of draft at all.’
She told me that, unlike the academic publisher, they don’t work ‘that way’ and what they want is for writers to write their stuff and then they’ll decide if they can use it. ‘Sorry to disappoint you’, she said, but I was not disappointed in the least because she had in fact liberated me from the sturdy cage of logical planning to the welcome wilderness of getting on with the writing.
Once again, I can do what I like; write and change, delete and add and allow the shapes to appear. Planning is of course important, but I know I am more effective when motivation and creativity kick off the process and the planning follows.
I realise this means I may embark on a wayward project but quite frankly I am more relaxed with the idea of being able to meander and create rather than conforming to a preordained structure, even if it’s one of my own design.