Saturday, 3 March 2018

#Amwriting - at last

I am almost ready to start writing again. I'll stop wittering on about my garden, the things I've cooked, which birds are landing on the bird-feeders this morning. I will stop posting photos of my dogs on Twitter, stop following up endless reading recommendations from writers whose opinions I value and stop checking out obscure opportunities that I could never win in a million years - though that 4-week one in Ireland sounds like fun. (Thanks Varuna Alumni newsletter for making it sound almost feasible!)
So after a six week lay-off where I've written not one creative word, I'm almost ready to tidy the desk, open the notebook to a clean page, check to see that the word count option is still working and hit the keys.
At the very end of January I submitted the final draft (yeah, right, of course it is) of my favourite manuscript to my agent. I had worked 4 or 5 hours a day for most of January on the final edits she sent me just before Christmas - 14 closely typed pages, in 2 sections, several weeks apart. The first section I tackled with gusto - minor queries to be addressed, issue of chronology to be clarified, a few darlings to kill. The second section though made me reel backwards in dismay. Big changes, big deletions, big issues of voice and character to be addressed. Then just when it seemed as if my shoulders might be permanently sagged, she rang me. "Don't be too alarmed," she said, "I just wrote down every thought that came into my head. I love it, I really love it."
So, euphoric, made bold by praise, I started on the second lot of edits and in the following weeks I learned more about writing than I had for the past umpteen years.
When finally I sent off the final draft though, there was no sense of relief or accomplishment, only that paralysing knowledge that it was now out of my hands. It might go nowhere, might never find a home. This significant milestone might signify only the beginning of another long and lonely wait.
But the human spirit in an aspiring writer is indomitable, if you wait long enough. Today I opened up an abandoned manuscript that early readers had loved. It won a few awards, went through some workshopping at RMIT, had some good feedback and some big faults pointed out without mercy. But it's a good story and there's all that stuff I learned while working on the last one. I know the weakness is in the plot and so I'm taking heed of that precious piece of advice from the matchless Cate Kennedy: "Make Things Worse!"
I'm girding my loins - planning to tear apart the plot, delete all that back story, up the tension, make all those poor characters suffer till their hearts bleed. I don't know how I'm going to do it. But I think I'm ready to start.

Wish me luck.


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