Friday, December 04, 2009

The rest is still unwritten

This week I printed off 360 fresh white pages of a new manuscript, bundled it into a very large envelope, wrote in my very neatest writing on the front and then popped down to the Post Office to post it on its merry way to Dublin.

My fourth novel - marking 14 months of blood, sweat and tears (there were a LOT of tears) - is done and it is off on its way to my publishers - the lovely people at Poolbeg.
As you read this I will be sat, fingernails in tatters, nerves wrecked like never before awaiting their response. I can only hope and pray (there has been a LOT of praying) that they like it and just like the man from Del Monte, they say yes.
Because that is how it happens - you research and you write and you send it off and then you hope. They can still say no. There can still be a shake of a head and a strongly worded email and you have to run off and lick your wounds and start again. There is no fear like it.
Starting over again is scary - staring at the blank screen in front of you willing your fingers to start moving over the keyboard and battering something together which makes some ounce of sense. Actually it has to make more than an ounce of sense - it has to be those magical words - a potentional bestseller. Those, believe me, are strong enough words to strike enough fear into the heart of your average writer so as to induce a gut-wrenching dose of writer’s block.
It has been three years since I signed my four book deal with Poolbeg. I remember, quite vividly, laughing at the deal. Four books? Seriously? Me? Write four of the buggers? Sure the one I had just finished had almost killed me.
Still, if they had faith in me enough to think I could do it, who was I to argue? So I signed and set about on what seemed like an impossible task. Four books. Sweet Lord. That’s almost half a million words - at least 400,000 of them were not to be “feck”.
But they are done - and three of them are out there (in the shops, for the record, and delightful Christmas presents they would make, and all).
Each marks a different time in my life and a different set of experiences while writing them. Writing Rainy Days and Tuesdays was a leap into the unknown. Feels Like Maybe was the difficult second book - but a blast to write. Jumping in Puddles was my most challenging book to date while the new one was fun from beginning to end - just interspersed with morning sickness, hospital stays and nappy changes.
During the course of writing each one I’ve wanted to pack it all in. I’ve wanted to go back to a life of reading books without analysing them or worrying that the reading is taking away from precious writing time. (Or worse still worrying about the fact that your latest hard written book has some of the best lines from the book you have just read slap bang in the middle of it).
At other times I’ve been on a high living in my wee imaginary world, having random conversations with my imaginary friends and playing out different plot twists in my head. It is fair to say that it will do you no good whatsoever to try and talk to me during such times. I may look as though I am listening. I may even answer but you are not really talking to me. I’m off wondering how my characters would respond to your line of questioning or planning what they are going to wear in the next scene. (I have lost sleep over what they wear - it’s like having your very own dressing doll. You want to get it just right).
I never ever forget that I am in a very privileged position where someone took a chance on me. I don’t think I’m better than any of my writing colleagues (except perhaps those celeb wannabe authors. They really grate my carrot). I’ve just been lucky enough to achieve a certain level of success.
But now, well the jig is up. My four books are done. I’m hoping and praying (there is a LOT of praying) that this won’t mean the end of my writing career. Even though I never thought I would get this far in the first place I’ve grown to quite like it - and there are a few more books in me. Maybe not four, but we’ll see how it goes.

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