Sunday, 16 January 2011

This Writing Thing (2): The Cuckoo

My third novel is almost finished and I'm reluctant to let it go. If it hadn't been for my spell of ill health it would have been finished months ago. This blog was the beneficiary of that long interval of short concentration span and low energy. I did wonder if I would ever pick up The Cuckoo again and struggled to find the depth of emotion needed to finish it but since I allowed Ros, Nick and Anna to claw their way out of my subconscious, I'm resisting the parting.
Once a novel is finished to first draft, I find that the dreamy period of intimacy, almost like the first flush of love, is over. Like marriage, after that it's hard work: re-writing and re-drafting, again and again, tearing out beloved chunks of prose and struggling to reduce the complex plot into a one page synopsis. Worse, your best beloved comes under the gimlet eye of others, like when your best friend tells you they've never liked your partner.
'It doesn't make sense. The relationship doesn't work. She wouldn't behave like that'. I want to write back, in capital letters...'you're not getting it. She's complex, unpredictable, she doesn't always know what she wants, she's human'. But I pull myself together...she's not human, she's words on a page, a page that has to sell.
It's harder to let this one go because although it is my third novel it's also the one that lay in a drawer for nine years, the one I wrote for my first writing course, taught by Graham Joyce at the Leicester Writing School. It was fatally flawed but I adored the three main characters and some of the prose was good. At Manchester University in 2005 I had it scanned onto a disk and a brilliant technician in the ICT Support Department managed to convert it into a highly unstable Word document which I was able to store on my laptop. It has been so satisfying to rescue this novel.
I've still one final chapter to write and then I'll edit the first three chapters for sending out to agents. While I'm waiting for a response, I'll edit the rest. I have another project in mind but it will have to wait - it's been waiting forty years so a few more months won't hurt. Also stacked up like planes waiting to land is the editorial report I commissioned from Cornerstones on my first novel and the potential outcome of the UK Authors Opening Pages competition, where The Hunting Party has been shortlisted.
Maybe the Public Sector cuts are the answer. Redundancy has never looked so attractive.