Tag Archives: new beginnings

All change

At the start of the summer, I thought I knew where my writing life was going. I was certain in fact: I had discovered Mslexia’s brilliant guide to Indie Presses, and I had resolved to find a home for my writing through one of those.

And then…

I picked up the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook Guide to Getting Published, and my resolve weakened. The approach it advocated was much more traditional. It didn’t reject independent publishers entirely, but it cautioned against them as a way of launching a career.

My personal jury is still out on the pros and cons of the various routes into getting my words in print, but I was forced to acknowledge that there was a third book, waiting on my hard-drive in its unpolished state, that might still hold the key to the prized arrival on the literary scene that resided in the enclave of the bigwigs in the publishing world.

So I read it.

And I really enjoyed what I read.

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From what I could see at first glance, there were none of the obvious roadblocks that my first two novels contained within their pages: the question over cultural integrity in my young adult novel exploring my experiences as a teacher; the doubts over a generic home for my slightly obscure hybrid between psychoactive thriller and mental-health steeped realism. In fact this third novel reflects much more of where I’m at now, of my life by the sea with its echoes of the city. The characters are ones which resonate with my own experience rather than one I’ve observed, and though the path they choose is unconventional it is not unbelievable.

So I decided to give it a chance.

Having read through my words in print – a much more satisfying print, incidentally, having tried to approximate an actual novel in the way I presented the words on the page rather than just the standard sheets of A4 – I returned to Scrivener to tweak the narrative to one that rang true.

And then today I sent it to my agent.

Who knows whether her optimism will match mine, but right now I’m feeling pretty positive about our prospects.

This change of heart has been made all the more possible by a change in my circumstances that I’m just starting to get my head around. Leigh has finished his medical school training, and launched into his career as a junior doctor. This might have spelled the end of any time to myself, but we decided as a family that the next phase of his training would be better carried out part time.

So suddenly I have two whole days a week when he is taking the lead in parenting. Two whole days a week where I can focus on my council and freelance work, and on my writing.

It’s amazing how much you can get done when you don’t have a three year old to entertain at the same time.

Now, having submitted that first draft, I am looking forwards. I haven’t yet written a synopsis of novel number three, so that is top of the list. And then there’s a short story competition which perfectly resonates with my love of outdoor swimming, and a children’s novel competition that I am going to bite the bullet and submit my first manuscript to.

I’m feeling pretty positive about it all, despite the fact that my agenda has undergone such a major u-turn. It’s a writer’s prerogative, right? To follow the thing that feels true?

It’s hard to know for now how that might change again in the future, but finally I have the time to really work out the best way forward for me – and for my writing.

 

Writing Bubble

Setting sail

So the whole getting up at 6am to write thing is… getting there. I’m only aiming for weekdays, and out of those I managed to get to my desk by 6.30am four out of five days in the past week.

I’m actually (whisper it) quite enjoying it once I prise myself away from under the duvet, but I still have some work to do on managing to get to bed at a reasonable hour so my brain’s in tip top writing nick: no mean feat with meetings till 9pm at least a couple of times a week and thirty-odd years of conditioning against early nights to contend with!

I certainly think it is the way to go, for lots of reasons.

But rather than dwell on those right now I’m just going to take a few moments to savour the deliciousness of embarking on the voyage of discovery that is the writing of a brand new novel.

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It’s not all plain sailing of course. The fear of the blank page can be overwhelming at times, as can the doubt that the words you’re forcing down to get rid of it are ever going to be the start of anything worth reading. But if you can quieten those niggling demons then the rewards are well worth the effort.

The leap from a few bullet pointed notes to a thousand words of prose is satisfying in itself, but it’s how it happens that delights me most. When you give yourself the time and space to listen to your characters, to let them take you by the hand and lead you through their story. I’d sort of forgotten how much fun it is.

There was a moment one morning this week when I was struggling a little to transport myself from a dark February morning with wind and rain hammering at the windows to the height of a hazy summer, and struggling even more to work out what my protagonist was up to as she meandered aimlessly into town. But then I tried to see her journey through her eyes and realised where she was headed. And with that realisation I suddenly made a lot more sense of her summer and in fact several important aspects of the person she becomes in her adult life.

Phew.

This whole novel writing adventure is, when it works, just a succession of those delicious little moments of clarity. And when it doesn’t? Well, then it’s just a matter of getting the words down, one after another, until it all starts to make sense again.

And, of course, making sure I’m awake to write them…

 

Writing Bubble

Begin again

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I had grand plans for this January. Having spent a couple of months pondering and planning, I was all set to begin writing my third novel. There’s something about starting something new that sits very comfortably with me this time of year. The no-pressure creativity of a first draft, where you’re free to let the story and the characters take you where they want, secure in the knowledge that there’ll be plenty of time for redrafts later.

But then just before Christmas I opened an email from my agent that scuppered all that.

It wasn’t a bad email, and I knew it was coming. I’d sent her the second draft of my second novel a few weeks before. Though I’d prodded and tweaked and added and deleted, I knew it wasn’t perfect. But I suppose somewhere in the recesses of my mind I hoped that maybe I’d managed a miracle, that I’d solved all the niggling problems of the first draft in one fell swoop and we’d be ready to begin the terrifying but exciting process of sending it out to publishers.

Part of me’s glad that she agrees it needs more work. But it’s taken a huge mental shift to put down the tantalising threads of the new story that was beginning to develop and return to this one, hoping that somehow with fresh eyes the answers about how to release its potential will leap out at me.

I didn’t touch it at all over Christmas. And then there was Arthur’s birthday. And New Year.

But yesterday I sat down and read Becky’s email again. There were plenty of positives to buoy my spirit, and plenty of questions to challenge me too.

I’ve decided I need to see my words on paper. I haven’t done that with the second draft yet, and it really does make a difference. So I’ve printed the manuscript off and am ready to begin again.

I’m starting small this time, with the new mechanical pencil that Santa bought me replacing the multicoloured pens and post-it notes I used to attack the first draft. I feel like what I’m looking for is more subtle this time. Not that I’m ruling out major changes – I have some ideas about structure and characterisation that might make things very different.

We shall see.

But for now it’s simply time to embrace the new challenges January has thrown up, to hold onto my conviction that this is a story worth telling, and to search deep inside myself for the very best way to tell it.

It is time to begin again.

 

 

Muddled Manuscript