His Naughty Little Friend

When I was a housewife, before I started my master’s degree (which should basically have the title, ‘Lucy wants a master’s’), I had a lot more time to pay attention to my rabbits. Now, I am still a housewife (in the sense that I take care of it, because I like how it grounds me) but I’m also doing my MSc in Obscure Science (not housewifery or even midwifery, either of which would be useful), and I have a social life now thanks to the university’s writing (Lucy starts a book club) and sports societies (Lucy goes sailing), and doing a placement at an academic publishing house (Lucy wants a career), where I code their website and copyedit bibliograhies into English from bizarre languages; then I’m also applying for grad schemes with Severn Trent (Lucy still wants a career) and writing my romance books (Lucy… writes something??). While I’m cooking his dinner or sorting out the dishwasher in the evening (Lucy’s a fifties housewife again), I tend to look out of the window and see the rabbits. It’s the only time of day I tend to notice them now, but don’t worry, they’re not being ignored. Ricky – I mean my Dearest – can spend lots of time with them because he’s getting hardly any work due to having a very foreign last name which is career-fatal in post-Brexit-vote-Britain (Lucy and Ricky still want to move to Canada).

Poppy and Fifer are the only two rabbits living in the huge indoor-outdoor enclosure (Lucy gets a rabbit… or 4), who live in the big shed in our garden which I think the council built in the fifties so housewives got some reprieve from their husbands filling their home with tools (like mine does, since our shed is home to our rabbits). After Fifer lost Katie (Douglas Adams never had to write about these sort of problems) I thought he’d never love again, then Poppy appeared. The bunnies love each other so much it makes my heart grow three sizes just to see them grooming each other. Until Timmy goes outside. Then sparks fly because Poppy is a romantic at heart.

Poppy is a very determined rabbit (by Fifer’s standards). Fifer wants her all to himself, and she wants some sort of three-way with Timmy (our indoor rabbit). If Timmy is outside, every time Fifer hops away from the fence for a few minutes, his naughty little girlfriend is straight over to where Timmy is sitting, and she’s trying to get out of the rabbit run to be with him. I think she might be a polyamorous rabbit, but Fifer has no interest in a guy-on-guy relationship.

I think in Poppy’s mind, there’s no problem with having two boyfriend rabbits and she can live a life of luxury. I guess she’s a little bit of a bored housewife sometimes too (maybe she can be Ethel in our Lucy analogy; she’s also a housewife) and wants something more than a giant rabbit hutch, 24/7 indoor/outdoor access, an attentive (if slightly overprotective) boyfriend and a nice view of the rest of the garden. She wants the excitement of a second relationship with Timmy. She adores Timmy just as much as she loves Fifer. Fifer, however, disagrees, and he’ll chase her away and bite her if he catches her showing an interest in Timmy.

little Timmy and his bed
Timmy lounging on his bed in the living room next to a pile of his toys.

Anyway, it’s been even more fun this weekend, as we had to put Poppy and Fifer in the kitchen due to the November 5th fireworks. Guy Fawkes night is a British thing where people celebrate that something horrible happened to someone for standing up for what he believed in, because people need to know that conformity is hella important and whatnot. I was raised Catholic by my strict Irish grandma (who looked after me in fits and bursts when my mother was lounging around the house sleeping her life away and waking up to shout at us, hit us or lock us out and tell us how lucky we were to not be Chinese, where, apparently, people were starving. Long story short, my grandma stepped in whenever we started missing school, but sent us home again every time my mum promised she’d changed).

My grandma was an amazing woman (I’ve kept her last name after I got married, in the matrilineal style – when I was engaged, one of my biggest worries was how to respect my husband by taking his name while still honoring my grandma by keeping hers, so I split my double-barrel, dropped the side I had no affinity for, and replaced it with my husband’s name). So, anyway, I digress a little, but the point is, when you’re raised Catholic by a grandma who never moved on from the fifties and sees *everything* you do, you tend not to burn Guy Fawkes for being a Catholic criminal. She was more vigilant than the nuns that I knew, but like the nuns, she was lovely until you were naughty, and she was lovely again straight after. My grandma died in ’99, when I was twelve, but as far as I know, my entire extended family has never made a Guy to burn.

Maybe it’s my old-fashioned upbringing, but as an adult, I find the idea of burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes to be in very poor taste. We wouldn’t stand for people doing that to Saddam Hussein, for example, we’d say it was racist jingoism, but Guy Fawkes? Get kids to scrounge money by walking him round in a wheelbarrow then set him on fire. Because it’s British.

Poppy is his naughty little bunny
Poppy wants her picture taken.

Anyway, the rabbits are terrified of fireworks and last week the neighbors on one side decided to have huge loud expensive fireworks aimed over our garden, and I was being pelted by shells of fireworks and getting sparks inches from my face and explosions a couple of feet above my head while I was trying to get the rabbits in, so we planned ahead and got them in early this weekend, to make sure my PTSD wasn’t triggered by a giant dick with too many fireworks. Because of our brand spanking new door between the kitchen and the living room, with the see-through glass panels, the rabbits can now see one another when the door’s closed. I open their indoor hutch because I don’t agree with confining them just because the rest of the world is setting off incendiary devices for entertainment. To be honest, the heat level in the kitchen is far too hot for outdoor rabbits so I try and keep the thermostat low while these two are inside. So while Poppy is hopping around in the kitchen, she can get a glimpse of Timmy, but Fifer can’t smell him, so he doesn’t know. But his naughty little girlfriend sits by the kitchen door and watches Timmy while he sleeps (Timmy sleeps a lot). If only Fifer knew what she was doing, she would be in so much trouble!

Poppy and fifer little rabbits
Fifer decides it’s time to put his foot down

What happens after a publisher accepts your work?

There’s millions, if not zillions, of articles for unpublished writers, but what about for those people publishing their first novel, who don’t know what to expect? There are a lot less people whose work has been accepted by a publisher, so I guess less people can write about that with any degree of authority, not to mention the fact that less people want to know about it. I thought I’d start with talking about what happens after a publisher accepts your work for publication, giving people an insight into the publication process.

If you start by sending in a proposal, they will read over the proposal and they should either accept your proposal or decline it. If they’ve accepted it, they may suggest changes to make it more marketable. Mandatory changes should be made clear. After you have your proposal back, you can get on with writing (unless you’re really naughty like me, and start writing the bits you know will be fine while you’re waiting to hear back from them).

If you didn’t send in a proposal, you’ll either send in a sample first, or just a complete manuscript. If you did send in a proposal, the next thing you send them is the full manuscript. Make sure you’ve done as much editing as you can to the manuscript before you send it to them; I found this very, very difficult with my first book because I had no idea what needed doing to it. After they’ve got everything, it gets sent to a line editor. The line editor’s job is to go through your work and write notes on any improvements you need to make to your work; some improvements are optional, but some are mandatory. If you’re unsure about whether a change is mandatory or not, ask your editor and they will tell you one way or the other.

Once they’ve written those notes, they will send you back the annotated manuscript, or they’ll send you back the notes separately, and your job as the writer is to make the changes and improvements to your work. Some places give you deadlines for this, others don’t mind. After you’ve made your improvements, they will send your work to a copy editor.

The copy editor is the last person from the publishing house who will see your work; they go through it and format it to in-house style guidelines, and they generally use the Merriam Webster dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style as a reference for anything that’s questionable. They will also flag up typos and spelling and grammatical errors, inconsistencies (one minute she wears a red hat, the next minute she wears a blue bonnet), and factual errors. After they’ve done that, you should get your work back, at which point you either have to make the copy-editor’s changes or you have to have a damn good reason (“I don’t like that change” isn’t one) to reject their changes – the Big Five Publishers, and some of the smaller ones, will usually expect you to give references to support your reasons for not approving every change made by the copy editor, but check this before sending back reams of information, because some places don’t want that (my current publisher doesn’t). When the copy editor gets it wrong, you need to raise that with someone at your publisher (or get your agent to do this, if you have one).

Once you’ve approved or rejected (with references) the copy edits, you send the work back to the publishers and they start work on the cover. After you’ve seen the cover, it’s natural to get very excited about your forthcoming book. If you like the cover, let them know, and they will get the blurb written and the proofs made up, or if they’re an ebook publisher, this is when it will be prepared to be made available online.

At some point before the book is made available online, you should receive a contract (if you haven’t received one, let them know). The contract is the only thing that protects you from getting royally screwed over by your publisher, so read it carefully and get a lawyer (one who has seen other book contracts, not any old lawyer) to read it over if you’re unsure about anything. Sometimes publishers try it on with their contracts but you have to stand your ground, otherwise you’ll regret it when the book’s a bestseller and you’re not making any money. I got taken for a ride by one publisher, a few years ago, who published my unedited work, lied literally every step of the way, and never paid me the advance. Later, when I tried to get that sorted out, I discovered that I would have to go to somewhere on the East Coast of America to take them to arbitration to get my money back, and that I had to do this within a certain time period, which I’d missed, because they’d spent so long delaying in answering and I’d been too patient. If I’d understood this beforehand, I would have acted sooner to get it resolved, but it was my first book and I didn’t know what to expect from the publication process (hence this article).

If you’ve signed the contract AND RECEIVED THE ADVANCE (if you are in the habit of accepting advances – I am not) then you’re good to get excited about the release date. Many contracts have a clause stating the author must do their best to publicize the novel – there are a bunch of ways you can do this and I’ll talk about them in a future article.

Has your experience of the publication process been different? Let me know in the comments!