Friday, 25 July 2014

Guest Post - Sam Tonge: The Long and the Short of it

If you're a regular reader of this blog, womagwriter and novelist Samantha Tonge will need no introduction, as this is her third guest post for me (I think!) Her latest novel, From Paris With Love, has just been published by Carina UK (my new publisher! Woot!) and here's a post from her talking about the difficulties of writing novels to short deadlines and still trying to write short stories in between.

 The Long and Short of it

When my debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was published last November, I kept telling myself that, come the New Year, I would start writing short stories again, Last year I sold around fifty to The People’s Friend – I stopped subbing in September when I signed my three book deal with CarinaUK Harlequin. There followed a frantic few months of revising, editing and promoting the book and before I knew it 2014 had arrived…
The thing is, with a digital-first imprint, the turnaround is VERY fast. I signed in September. Doubting Abbey was published in November. Then the deadline loomed for book two. I began writing the standalone sequel, From Paris with Love, in December. I handed in the manuscript in April. Revisions and edits then followed. 

Then writing posts for my blog tour. The book was published last Thursday, 24th July.
However, as soon as I’d finished editing that one, the deadline for book three loomed. The manuscript for my Christmas book is currently with my editor. We hope to have the revisions and edits finished by the end of August.

So within around a year, I’ll have had no time, nor the headspace, to start producing shorts again, due to becoming the published author of three novels. Yet I am lucky enough to write full-time – during school hours, anyway - so theoretically it should be more than possible. I know writers who wear many different writing hats, and would find it laughable that I find it so difficult to switch between, and time-manage, two genres. But the long and short of it is, quite simply, my brain isn’t wired to skip from one fictional project to another. I made one feeble attempt at a submission, a story about a school prom, but it was rejected for being too light-hearted. Clearly I’d failed to jump out of my chick lit tone.

What’s more, I find it stressful trying to manage these two areas of writing. Around January time I felt like failure, telling myself I’d worked so hard to find success with the People’s Friend and was now throwing all that away. I told myself I HAD to start writing shorts again – apart from anything else, my wallet missed the income - but inside I knew that my novel deadlines weren’t going to go away; that if I put pen to paper for a women’s magazine, I’d be fretting at the back of my mind that the time could have been spent writing another chapter for the next novel, instead.

Before signing my novel deal, I also greatly underestimated the amount of promotional work necessary, to get a digital book in front of readers’ eyes - the interaction on Twitter and Facebook, the long blog tour on well-known chicklit blogs, finding reviewers and sending free copies out to them…. That’s not to mention putting together picture boards on Pinterest, setting up an account on Tumblr, and creating a website just for the book… I could go on.

Eventually, I do hope to find some balance. I miss working with the lovely People’s Friends editors, and the daily interacting with fellow short story writers and magazine readers. Yet, at the same time, I love writing novels. Becoming a published novelist has been my goal for ten years and now that I’ve finally achieved it, I feel that I owe it to myself to give it my all. I believe the first couple of years of being a published author are crucial, in terms of creating a brand and garnering a loyal readership. So, just for the moment, I’ll be sticking to 90,000 word stories. At least I’ll save money on stamps…



I get that, Sam, I really do. I've been unable to write short stories for a while now, since I began concentrating on longer fiction. Like you my dream was to get a book deal, and now that I have, there's no time for writing shorts. Unless my writing class is holding an end-of-term competition - I just have to enter all those! 

Best of luck with the book launch. I've just been over to Amazon to buy it. Loved Doubting Abbey and am desperate to find out what happened next to Gemma and her posh bloke!


Bio
Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family, and two cats who think they are dogs. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, came out in November 2013.
Blurb
Every girl dreams of hearing those four magical words Will you marry me? But no-one tells you what’s supposed to happen next…
Fun-loving Gemma Goodwin knows she should be revelling in her happy-ever-after. Except when her boyfriend Lord Edward popped the question, after a whirlwind romance, although she didn’t say no….she didn’t exactly say yes either!
A month-long cookery course in Paris could be just the place to make sure her heart and her head are on the same page… And however disenchanted with romance Gemma is feeling, the City of Love has plenty to keep her busy; the champagne is decadently quaffable, the croissants almost too delicious, and shopping is a national past-time! In fact, everything in Paris makes her want to say Je t’aime… Except Edward!
But whilst Paris might offer plenty of distractions from wedding planning – including her new friends, mysterious Joe and hot French rockstar Blade - there’s no reason she couldn’t just try one or two couture dresses is there? Just for fun…


Links



13 comments:

Patsy said...

I can see it's hard to balance writing short fiction and longer works if you have a tight deadline for the latter. Without that though, I think they compliment each other. A short story feels like a break after a long stretch writing about the same characters or situation and working on one is a good way of clearing my head between edits.

Samantha Tonge said...

Yes, i agree Patsy - before i got a publishing deal i was able to manage the two alongside each other. Deadlines seem to change everything!

Wendy's Writing said...

Oh, Samantha - how I empathise. Being a regular PC writer is a blessing. and an income. I have now started my novel and I am hoping to be lucky enough to join RNS NWS next year but of course this would mean a deadline for the novel to be completed. Am I willing to give up my rewarding shorts? At the moment I say no but of course this is what you said and look where you are - a published author with a contract. You only managed this by forfeiting your magazine writing. I want to follow in your shoes (after all most of us aspire to be novelists) but scared of what I might have to give up (is it a coincidence that I've also sold that number of stories to PF since you stopped writing for them? ��) a very thought provoking post, Sam x

Samantha Tonge said...

Hello Wendy - ah, i see you have a deadline... Well, you know my view :) If you can afford it, give it a go and put to rest that voice in your head asking if you could write a novel. Nothing lost if eventually you decide the long form isn't for you, as you'll have learnt even more about writing. Good luck with your decision! Sam x

Molly Wishlade said...

Hiya Sam, I know how you feel but not because I've been writing shorts...because I teach FT, have a young family and am also trying to write. I think you've done an amazing job this year and I am sure that you will go from strength to strength. I think that the early days are the hardest and once you've made a 'name' for yourself, yes, you will still have to promote your work but the pace should slow somewhat. It's thrilling being published and I'm so happy that we're on this journey together as Carina UK authors. We have such a GREAT cheerleading team! Hugs, honey, and enjoy the weekend! xxx

Samantha Tonge said...

Thanks Molly ! Yes, combining writing with other responsibilities is also a challenge, isn't it? Here's to the pace slowing :)

Sam x

Tricia Maw said...

Hi Sam I thought you were probably writing a novel as I've missed your stories in PF. It's still a market I haven't managed to crack! But I have just sold my first novel to Accent Press - No More Secrets came out in June and is on Amazon kindle. I'm also going to Swanwick to hear Shirley Blair so hope to pick up some tips. Many congrats to you. Tricia

Samantha Tonge said...

Aw, thanks very much, Tricia.Yes, i do really miss writing short stories.
Ooh, and well done you on the novel.
I would love to meet Shirley Blair and hope you blog about it..? I'm sure you'll crack that market if you keep plugging away.
Best of luck with the novel, it sounds intriguing! Sam x

Karen said...

I can totally relate to the difficulty of balancing short stories with the novel writing, and find the more I get into the novel the harder I find it to switch back into short-story mode - yet I love writing short stories, and can't give up! I'm limiting myself to one short story a fortnight at the moment :o)

Lots of luck with From Paris with Love.

Samantha Tonge said...

Well done, Karen, that is better than me! It's really hard, isn't it, to wrench yourself away from a project when you are 'in the zone' with it?!

Librarian Lavender said...

What a great article. I can imagine it's hard to write different things at once. I don't think I'd be able to do that either. I love your novels, so I hope I will have the chance to read many more of them!

Samantha Tonge said...

That's so kind, Suzanne, thanks very much - makes it all worthwhile :) x

Jan Baynham said...

A really interesting post, Sam. Good luck with 'From Paris With Love'. I've bought it and I'm looking forward to reading it soon. :-)