So here I am again. This time last year I was sure that 2017 was going to be The Big Year of Getting Somewhere. I was sure I’d have an agent, and a publishing date, and that if I didn’t have those things then it would feel like a wasted year. I wanted tangible milestones to prove to myself that I was progressing. None of that happened, of course, but it doesn’t feel like a wasted year.
I began contacting agents in November, so of course I haven’t heard back yet. The rest of the year I spent working super super hard to make Hold Back the Night better. I also rewrote another draft of Harriet Starling. Considering I was working full-time, I produced a massive amount of work.
And now I’m quite tired. I’ve spent the first weeks of this year watching inordinate amounts of television, and I’ve also decided to do the 100 submissions challenge. I’ve already submitted to 6 journals/competitions. Last year, I submitted 8 times overall so this is quite an improvement. I am, as the challenge says, going to collect rejections. It feels a little like adding bricks to a mesh net hanging over my head, hoping I can avoid getting hit when it falls apart, but hey, it’s a different kind of work compared to last year.
So for 2018, I’m meandering through a third draft of Harriet, I’m working on my query letter and synopsis for the next round of agent submissions for Hold Back the Night, and I’m reading old stories and trying to improve them, word by word, so that I can find a home for them. I’m ticking things off slowly, between episodes of The Good Wife (and my actual job), and watching that basket of bricks swinging over my head. How many more can it take? I’m hoping as the rejections fall in and I resubmit and resubmit, the load will become lighter. By December, they will be bricks made of foam that simply bounce to the ground, ready for me to throw back up in the air. And who knows, maybe one will turn to sparkles and cover me in glittery dust.
I sent a manuscript to an editor this week. There is a great service where, for a hefty price, you can get professional feedback. No one has read this manuscript. It is of a fairly personal nature and so the thought of anyone I know critiquing it is uncomfortable, to say the least. But a stranger? I’ll have me some of that.
The thing is, when you have been polishing and polishing and polishing something for a long time, and then you let it go, everything else tends to look a bit shit. I was excited about getting back to work on something I haven’t looked at since July, but on opening the document my heart sank. It’s not very good. Which doesn’t mean it can’t be, but my god the WORK still to do! It’s endless!
So instead of facing that uphill battle immediately, I started something new, because having three unfinished novels going at once clearly isn’t enough. This one, I hope, might be fun. I’m not very good at fun, in general but particularly with regards to writing. I’m not a fun writer. After the personal, slightly tormented slog of the current one (last one? I’m not sure what to call it since it doesn’t have a proper name yet), it would be really good to write something enjoyable. Characters I can laugh with would be nice. We’ll just have to wait and see if the personality make-over is successful though, or if on re-drafting all the fun disappears.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the struggle to keep going. The novel I am working on was feeling unwieldy and misshapen, and I couldn’t get a grip on it. It was only by writing that post that I realised how long that struggle had been going on, and I took drastic action.
The next day, I cut 12,000 words. It was like losing a gangrenous limb. Those three sections had, at one time, seemed necessary. They were long, obviously, and I liked so many things about them. I had worked so hard to make them as good as I thought they could be. But I had had doubts for weeks and the relief when they were finally gone, falling away while the rest of the manuscript drifted slightly higher, was intense and energising.
I began a new plan. I moved other elements around. I streamlined, though that sounds coldly managerial, and all of a sudden I had room for the parts that had been missing. Which means I am once again writing, actually writing, and not just tweaking. Whole new scenes need to be created and, since that is the fun part, I’m in quite a good mood.
It’s easy to write blog posts about things being difficult, so I am going to leave this happy little post here to remind me: there is so much joy in creating something new, and that creation shouldn’t always be shackled to complaints of how hard it is as well.