Posts Tagged ‘manuscript’

Finishing The Manuscript.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Yet again I must open this blog post with apologies – it has been an absurdly long time since I wrote anything here. However in my defence this was because I was extremely busy first of all writing thousands of words elsewhere and then extremely busy deleting them again. Read on to find out why…….

I’ve been busy in an unprecedented way finishing my second manuscript. This was actually a manuscript that I had part-written about three years ago and abandoned because I just couldn’t seem to get it to go anywhere. A muddled plot, too many characters and not enough substance didn’t help matters. So I closed the file one day and left it, choosing instead to write something else which became Things He Never Knew.  Then an agent whom I vaguely knew and liked described what sort of work she was looking for and I suddenly realised that my muddled bundle of words might just be that thing. So with that in mind I went back to my poor abandoned manuscript (think in terms of rusting car with no wheels) just before Christmas and upon re-reading it was staggeringly obvious where I’d been going wrong. Seriously obvious. Embarrassingly obvious. It had potential – but cunningly disguised. So I ruthlessly cut huge swathes of text, updated, re-wrote and re-focussed on where I was going. The ease with which I was able to do this showed me just how wrong I’d been going. The only odd moment came when the writing changed from re-hashing what I already had to continuing the story without being led; not unlike jumping off that infamous precipice. But once I’d got over my traumas about whether what I would write from scratch would match up with what I had already written, it was fine.

Now I’ve never been the most disciplined of writers. I would love to be like dear old Enid Blyton with her 6,000 words a day or whatever it was, but if I did that my fingernails would be ruined, my eyes would fall out and my family would leave home, (those are ranked in order of priority). I can produce 40,000 words in a week but then I won’t touch the manuscript for a month. It’s in line with my all-or-nothing personality. But it isn’t conducive to steady progress. And when you add into this my two daughters and their complicated school timetables (during this term alone I was required to be at their school on twenty-six separate occasions; EXCLUDING drop-off and pick-up) I found it hard (all right, impossible) to have a regular working pattern. Plus I am very much one of those writers who rely to an extent on being in the right mood, which is an indulgence I know, and actually I think I may have trained myself out of it, but I hadn’t when I was writing manuscript number two. It does have a title by the way but I’m not sure I like it. Anyway, so I made progress over the spring, never quite meeting the deadlines that I was setting for myself, and all of a sudden I found myself in the last half of the summer term and I knew I had to get it finished. With the best will in the world I would have achieved very little over the eight week summer holiday that the girls have from school. And this is when I seriously focussed, reduced the frantic socialising that I am fond of and made Finishing The Manuscript my sole priority. Unfortunately this coincided directly with a severe crisis of confidence. I was very pleased with what I had produced so far, it was exactly what I had wanted and the manuscript was coming together very nicely. But instead of appreciating all this, my brain just said “Well what if what you need to write now isn’t as good as what you’ve written already? The whole book will be ruined. Months of effort and thousands upon thousands of words wasted.” And this insidious message was ever-present in my mind; it was something I had to get through to be able to carry on writing. The irony of course was that when I did get through it and produce another few hundred words they were always up to standard. The lesson therefore being that I need to trust in myself more, and if anyone wants to know how you get through that feeling the answer is that you start writing and you just don’t stop and it might take one hundred words or it might take five hundred but in my experience if you just keep going you do eventually become attuned to the story once again. Anyway, that’s not the important bit. The important bit was that through blood, sweat and tears I did eventually Finish The Manuscript. I did this under the encouragement of a very nice agent (different agent) with whom I had been communicating on and off for about three years. When I was very close to the end I sent her some chapters which she read and liked and that in turn gave me some of the impetus I needed to write the final words. It’s a real boon to know that someone is actually going to read it.

I did find it difficult to finish the manuscript, I really did. It was a combination of wanting to, needing to and not being certain that I could make it all the same standard as previous chapters. Oh insecurity thy name is Sarah. But over the course of a week or so I seriously applied myself and watched my word count climb and climb until I reached 142,000 words, including the best two: ‘The End’. I printed it and sent it straight to the agent. To discover that she was out of the office for a week; which was both nice and awful. It meant that I didn’t have to be on tenterhooks immediately and I had a lovely few days shopping and drinking wine, thoroughly enjoying the feeling of having actually Finished The Manuscript.  But it also meant I had a longer wait to see what she thought. I also knew that good news would be via a phone call and bad news via an email. Of course I was also wracked with self-doubt over that week and experienced the strange juxtaposition of knowing that I couldn’t have made the manuscript any better – but what if my best wasn’t good enough? But there wasn’t anything I could do about it, and as my great-grandmother used to say: “Do your best and the rest don’t worry about”. Sterling advice. The following week however I literally jumped every time an email popped up on my (pink) BlackBerry and my heart would race as I looked it, praying that I would not see that name. I really, really wanted her to like the manuscript; she’s someone whose opinion I value very highly indeed.  And eventually, in the middle of one afternoon, my phone rang. She liked the manuscript. But I had no time to absorb this rather incredible news before she was also telling me that it was too long. 42,000 words too long to be precise. I needed to cut it down. However she also said I didn’t need to rush, it was holiday season. Well sod that. All-or-nothing. The phone call was Thursday afternoon and despite a heavy weekend’s entertaining to do, I metaphorically rolled up my sleeves and got working again. By Monday morning the revised manuscript was in her email inbox; I’d reduced it by over 20,000 words. Once I looked at it, it was glaringly obvious what I needed to do. I hoped and prayed that it would be acceptable. It obviously was because by 12 midday I’d been told that it had gone to various publishers and that now we had to wait. Wait! I hate waiting. I’m not good at it. But I suspected in this case I would have to. And actually, against all the odds, it’s not that bad. We’re three days away from the end of term and not having to worry about the manuscript means that I get to relax and enjoy the summer (summer? Ha!) with the girls. And I still have four of those twenty-six occasions to attend. And Saturday is Sports Day which means I need a dress and it has to be red because that is my eldest daughter’s House colour; I don’t own anything red, I need to go shopping. And I have to organise end of term gifts for the teachers, and cards. And I have to make sure that I have all the uniform they need for September, and I need to confirm playdates and I need to see if we can squeeze in a holiday among the already-packed summer schedule….and….and….and…..so no, I don’t think waiting will be that bad.

Oh, just things…..

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Well I don’t know that I would like to be in the jungle with the celebrities but I certainly would prefer the temperature over there – it is freeeeeezing in Hampshire! The central heating is on 24 hours a day here (don’t tell my husband) and I’m still having to wear at least two jumpers and my cashmere/angora wrap garment/thing – I don’t know that it has a name, it’s definitely not the most attractive piece of clothing that I own but it’s lovely and warm so fashion be damned. So British of me to talk about the weather but let’s face it – I’m good at queueing, prefer not to display emotion publicly and I wear a lot of Jack Wills – ergo I am British. That’s one of the most depressing things about getting older actually, every time I go into Jack Wills I feel a little further removed from their fashion. It’s very sad. Or it would be if I cared; I’m quite happy to embrace age and float towards the inevitable Windsmoor skirts of my seventies. Gone already are the days when I habitually wore the shortest skirts I could find; this happened because I discovered nice lingerie. Stockings and suspenders, etc. and you cannot wear those with short skirts. Or only in very particular circumstances anyway. Actually, I’m going to London next week and I’m going to visit one of my favourite shops in the world, the What Katie Did London boutique where I shall indulge my love of all things vintage. Well, not all things, bullet bras don’t really do it for me, but there’s an awful lot of lingerie and corsets that do. I doubt I’ll buy anything very much but I love the feel of the place; it’s like going back in time. It’s classy, the underwear is beautifully and artfully arranged and the staff are fantastic. They’re passionate about vintage lingerie, knowledgable and helpful. I really would recommend them if you’re after anything like that.

Anyway, the primary reason that I shall be in London is to attend Ali McNamara’s launch of her book “From Notting Hill with Love…..actually” which I’ve seen described as the cheekiest book title of all time.  I haven’t read it yet, I’m hoping to get a signed copy at the launch party, and I am tremendously excited! It’s the first launch that I’ve been to, other than my own. I shall write a full report about it next week. Watch this space!

I’ve just finished reading an absolutely brilliant book called “The Last Letter From Your Lover” by Jojo Moyes. I’d seen it in a bookshop and loved the description, I nearly bought it but at the time I had a stack of books to read so I didn’t. Which actually worked out to my advantage because a few days later Jojo’s Babyliss Big Hair appliance died right before a big event that she was going to. Cue potential hair disaster, she had my sympathy. So  because I’d just bought one and hated it (I should have known that NOTHING can beat my ghds) I offered to send her mine and I received three signed books in return, which was very lovely of her. And I have adored Last Letter, it’s truly one of the best books that I have read for a very long time. The subject matter is slightly delicate, it covers extra-marital relationships in an almost defensive way, but it’s sad, emotive, funny in places (look out for the real love ‘letters’) and absolutely gripping. I thoroughly recommend it. I can’t wait to read the other two books that she sent me.

And speaking of books, I made a rather big decision over the last week. I’ve gone back to working on a manuscript which I had all but forgotten about. I started looking at it again for a variety of reasons and I found myself feeling very positive about it. It’s no good in its current state, I’ve already cut huge swathes of prose from it, in fact the current word count is 91,000 words and I don’t expect that to change much for a while, even though I am continually working on it. I’m easily erasing as much as I write. But I’m excited about it. My characters are very real and vivid, some of the events in the book make compelling reading and I’m loving the opportunity to re-work it and make into the best manuscript that I can. So we shall see. It’s very similar in tone and content to Things He Never Knew; I obviously have a subconciously preferred area of fiction and writing style. Which is a shame because my mother doesn’t like it. Pretty much only positive thing that she has actually said about Things He Never Knew was that she was impressed by my ability to knit the plot together so neatly. To me, that’s like complimenting someone on being able to eat with a knife and fork. At my daughter’s birthday party she told me that she’d like to see me write “…something more literary…”. And that is a verbatim quote. I replied that I wouldn’t necessarily confine myself to my genre, but that I was quite happy with the area that I have settled into. I suppose it’s a natural thing – she would like to see me write to the best of my ability, but as far as I’m concerned, ‘best’ doesn’t mean literary. But then we’re back to harbouring grudges against chick-lit and not buying books with pink covers. ……my mother is nothing if not entertaining. Actually, in our last conversation she mentioned that she was going to start writing a blog. My mind can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like, I shall simply have to wait for the reality, but I promise you it will be linked on my blog if she ever does actually do it. It will probably be tales of herds of cats and her Aga woes and how the skip from the building work hasn’t been removed from the driveway yet so they can’t fit all of their cars in. She leads a hard life, you see.

I’ve just remembered that a VERY exciting thing happened to me yesterday!! I can’t believe that I didn’t mention it before. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has started following me on Twitter! This sent me stratospheric with excitement, as my husband, children, friends, neighbours and people that I met in the street will testify. I don’t know why he is (I say ‘he’, I’m sure it’s probably not) all I did was tweet about a signed photograph that I was given and the fact that it’s on my desk, making me very, very happy. I was even open about the fact that I adore him because he is so gorgeous and his political views are a secondary thing. Though I am broadly speaking in support of those as well. Yesterday went down as one of the best days of my life.

But now I must go back to proper writing and trying to prevent my fingers from becoming frozen with cold. If it wasn’t such a cliché I might try typing in fingerless gloves, but I’m too afraid of looking like something from Withnail and I. If you see me with Deep Heat you’ll know it’s time to worry. But as it is I shall settle for turning the heating up (don’t tell my husband) and wearing my staggeringly unsexy cashmere/angora wrap/garment thing, and look forward to the hour tonight when I can let the alcohol warm me instead.