Guest author and blogger Elisa Lodato is author of An Unremarkable Body. Here Elisa describes how, with some help from one of our editors, she took her story from pen and paper to published novel.
In the spring of 2015 I sat down to write the novel that had simmered in my head for over nine years. I was determined to do it. I’d just had my second child and I thought, if I can do this – if I can look after two children, cook dinner, do the shopping – I can write that story.
So I set about the first three chapters of what would become An Unremarkable Body in the same way I set about anything difficult and unwieldy. It had to be done and I would do it. But as I sat down to write with my teeth clenched, I didn’t anticipate the euphoric lightening I would feel: that delineating a unique truth would feel exhilarating and freeing.
I wrote every day: I woke early and went to bed late and my story felt like a delicious secret. I strained to reach the end. I raced through sections to just touch the conclusion. And then I went back and edited until I had something that I was proud of. That was all mine.
I ordered a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook because that seemed to be the thing to do. But for the life of me I couldn’t work out how to connect the two. I knew I needed an agent, but I also knew my manuscript needed polishing, that I needed someone objective to read it. In short, I wanted to know if my story had legs.
So I paid for an Opening Chunk Review and got Dexter Petley as my editor. He edited the first three chapters with clinical precision, outlined exactly what he thought was working and what wasn’t, but crucially, he stuck with me and has supported me every step of the way to publication.
And there are many steps. There’s finding an agent to begin with. Dexter pointed me in the direction of Agent Hunter, which I used to filter profiles and find Alice Lutyens of Curtis Brown. Her wise and perceptive edits took the novel to another level.
And then the next step, the fraught wait when your manuscript goes on submission to publishers, was soon upon me. I was lucky: I was on submission for just over a week when it was bought by Arzu Tahsin of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, but Dexter was there, sending me emails, reassuring me it would all be all right. When the proofs were printed earlier this year, he was first in line to read, and provided a quotation for the jacket of the hardback.
Writing is a lonely business. We all share the motivation to give shape to something so unique it can only be written by our own pen. But once realised, the writer needs support. I had that in spades here, having put me in touch with someone who has been my editor, voice of reason and now, friend.