Friday, January 26, 2007

A Word on my Words...

I have spent the last nine years trying to write novels. In that time, I have completed three adult novels, and two children's novels, self published my account of the marathon, and had two picture books published. For most of it, I was simultaneously struggling with small children and holding onto the tattered remnants of my publishing career by existing as a freelance editor. My writing, therefore has always come at the bottom of my massive To Do List.

But, since the most majorly exciting (professsional) event of my adult life, namely that Cinderella is going to the ball and getting her book published, all that has changed.

I have spent the weeks pre and post Christmas working incredibly hard on the rewrites of Pastures New, which was a lot more difficult then I had ever envisaged. (To anyone whom I have ever edited, and sent away with pages of editorial notes, my deep and humble apologies. I had no idea what I was asking you to do).

I spent the days leading up to Christmas skulking around behind the scenes of my novel, performing invisible mending (if you like me, are a fan of Jasper Fforde's wonderful Tuesday Next series, you will get this analogy), and trying to tie up all the ends so they didn't show. I've never been much good at sewing, so I'm hoping the seams hold.

It was a very intense and quite draining experience, and all my mummy friends in the playground were witness to me being more then usually vague when it came to pick up time. But eventually, I did it, and sent it off to my editor, without a clue as to whether it was any good or not. I had lost total sight of and was heartily sick of all my characters by then, and wondered why on earth I thought this whole shebang was worth doing.

I was therefore hugely relieved, when my editor (to whom I owe huge thanks for turning something that was ok, into something, which I think is probably a lot better) rang after Christmas to say she liked it, but there was still more work to do. The first bit was a structural alteration, and the second lot of edits were the line edits - dotting the ts and crossing the is - less intense but more fiddly. I nearly went into meltdown when she sent it to me electronicallly with the comments incorporated in the text - though I do edit electronically, I've been out of the real world for so long I'm a tad behind, and anyway, I'm still old fashioned enough to like to read and correct hard copy - but once I got the hang of it, it wasn't too bad.

So last week I sent it winging back to her, and it is now being copyedited, which will no doubt throw up a few more queries, but the bulk of my work is done.

After nearly four years spending time with my characters, Amy, Ben, Saffron and Harry, it's time to say farewell (I have to confess, they've been part of my life so long, it is a wrench to let them go), and say hello to my new bunch.

Enter, stage left: Mark, Emily, Rob and Katie - all of whom have been champing at the bit for months to get me to take notice of them.

I've had a loose plot in my head for yonks, featuring these guys, and when out on the school run, or pounding the downs, I've mentally written and rewritten the first chapter dozens of times, and have been champing along with them to just Get On With It.

So why is it, dear reader, that now I am finally here, and have cleared all my other work, I find it nigh on impossible to get going?

Part of the problem is actually the publishing deal itself. Up until now, I was playing at writing, but with a contract suddenly I have people having expectations of me. Not that that's not nice, it's great . But it is a tad scary. Suddenly from being the strange little hobby my husband lets me indulge in, this has actually become a job. Probably the best job you can have in the world, if like me, you live a lot in your head, but still... it's all a tad daunting.

So to help me out, I have entered Kate Harrison's Great Novel Race. Kate like me is a member of the Romantic Novelist's Association - the most wonderful organisation I know in publishing - and is the author of Old School Ties, The Starter Marriage and Brown Owl's Guide to Life. She's organised the race to spur herself and other writers on to help us meet our deadlines.

My deadline is not till the end of the year, and I have a target word count of 100 000 - you'll notice the word counter I've added to the side of the blog still says 0 - so not far to go then...

But given, that a) I'm really really good at procrastinating and b) I am going to lose at least ten weeks of my deadline to school holidays (let alone when they're sick) and c) I can only work between the hours of 9.30 and 3 anyway, I think I need all the help I can get.

So if you'll excuse me, I am halfway through doing a more focussed plan of my new story which has been a tad vague up until now, (I have written over 1000 words of THAT) and I hope that I will soon be able to start the race proper. I am way behind my fellow runners - but like the tortoise I plan to get there in the end - so a booby prize is all I can expect, but at least I have some other comrades to cheer me on my way.

Who knows, by the end of the day, you may see the 0 creep up to a few hundred.

But don't hold your breath....


Bernardine Kennedy said...

Booby prize for not being able to figure out the Novel race is all mine!

Lucy Diamond said...

Hi Jane,

Hope you are getting stuck in to Novel 2. When is your first out?

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I ain't joining the Novel Race because I'd be putting too much pressure on myself but I just know what you mean! Tonight, having over the last week written a character study, selling blurb and 8,000 word synopsis, I finally reached the crunch moment where I actually had to type 'Chapter 1' and start'proper' work. So ummm...I have written 4 words and gone to procrastinate on people's blogs instead!

Jane Henry said...

Bernardine... I still can't figure it out!!

Lucy, hi, welcome to my blog - First book is out in Sept. Am hoping to get on with no 2 this week, but unlikely to today as the kids and their cousins have utterly trashed the house this w/e!!

Elizabeth. Am so glad I'm not the only one who procrastinates by visiting blogs... Think I might have to work downstairs with the laptop!


nutmeg said...

Life is too busy! After seeing you here, there and everywhere Jane, I finally got some time to visit you in person. We've had a couple of "Well I agree with Jane...", "Well, like Nutmeg said..." incidents that I'm sure we have at least a little in common!

A real writer - well done. I know the procrastination thing well.... Now I don't want to distract you too long from it, but I will enjoy coming back in the future to check how it all goes :-)

Unknown said...

Jane good luck this week getting started. I fell off the writing wagon last week and i'm trying to climb back on but I have child home sick which doesn't help. See at coffe on Friday and hopefully we'll both have good news :-)

Jane Henry said...

Hi Liz,

Sympathies re sick child - I have touch wood had everyone healthy for ages - but with four it is a fairly common occurence!

Am kneedeep in editorial work today, but if I clear it quickly then I'll be ok for tomorrow/Thurs to get some writing in.

Well... that's the plan anyway...

Caroline said...

I went through the same with my novel over the Christmas period. Six proofs later and it's finally signed off.
Good luck with novel 2.