Thursday, 30 September 2010

Rewrites and primroses

I've just delivered the rewritten manuscript of my second novel, WRITTEN in WATER (as it is now called) to my agent. Wish it luck, please.

I've written about the novel before, here, but it was a while ago (writing a novel is like climbing a mountain, you keep reaching a summit which, you discover, has another summit hidden behind it). And here as well, when it didn't have a good enough title, among other things. And here, if you really want to read any more or go back that far.

And primroses ... :

because they thread their way through the novel and so, even though they are outwith the season, as one of the characters says in the novel, this photograph, which came from here (thank you) is to wish my manuscript luck when it lands on the publisher's desk, and because I hope the primroses will bring me luck too, and show me that this summit really is the summit (for this novel).

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Just When ... will we do something?

Just published by the wonderful Beautiful Books, is this volume of short stories:
Inspired by Kipling's Just-So Stories, the Just When Stories focus on the animals we need to protect today. There are stories about turtles and cranes, seahorses and chimpanzees, ducks and elephants and dolphins, tortoises and tigers and more.
The stories are published (and there's also a CD of five of the stories) to raise awareness of the horrendous rate at which animals are becoming extinct in our world. I contributed a story to the book because I think we have forgotten that this planet belongs to ALL the creatures, not just us, and I wanted to do something, just a little something, to try to help restore the balance.
Tamara Gray, who put this whole beautiful book together, says:
One hundred years ago, when Rudyard Kipling wrote the Just So Stories, including his story of the rhinoceros with the itchy skin, rhino numbers stood at around 65,000. Today, fewer than 3,000 black rhinos survive. The same tragic story goes for too many other animals.
The title Just When Stories asks the question: when will the irrational and cruel destruction of wildlife stop? And when will we take action to make it stop? Estimated at between $6 and $20 billion a year by Interpol, the illegal wildlife trade has drastically reduced numerous wildlife populations and has some teetering on the brink of extinction. All profits from the sales of the book and associated media formats will be donated in full to WildAid and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. The authors are: William Boyd, Raffaella Barker, Anthony Doerr, Nirmal Ghosh, Romesh Gunesekera, Witi Ihimaera, Radhika Jha, Hanif Kureishi, Antonia Michaelis, Michael Morpurgo, Jin Pyn Lee, Lauren St John, Kate Thompson, Nury Vittachi, Polly Samson, Shaun Tan, Louisa Young and Angela Young.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Nine months later ...

... and exactly the right amount of time since my last post, because I have just delivered the manuscript of my second novel to my agent.

The process hasn't been painless, but what birth is?

But the most important thing I've discovered is that a story can be told in many different ways without its heart getting lost or its soul fragmented. This novel has been through several drafts (all quite different) but the story at its heart has grown stronger each time. In fact my trouble is that I fail to get to the heart of the matter quickly enough. I circle round it but fail to find the courage to dive in until the very last minute. I love words so much that I let them lead me where they will instead of heading (wrong word, hearting) for the heart of the piece as early as I can.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.
And he's so right ... my agent, the wonderful
Heather Holden-Brown suggested, when I delivered the second draft in the middle of April, that she still didn't care enough for my protagonist. It was only when I went where my protagonist went with my own heart, when I cried and laughed with her as I wrote, that I got there ... no surprise, of course, but it is the thing I avoid doing because it means I must feel too ... aren't we strange creatures? The very thing I need to do to make the novel work is the very thing I avoid doing until I absolutely have to ... so frightening, sometimes, these things called feelings.

The novel, by the way, is called WRITTEN in WATER now (adapted from John Keats's epitaph for himself and suggested by a friend). And it was sent out to publishers on Tuesday. So now we (my agent and I) wait to see who'd like to publish it ... nerve-wracking and exciting all at the same time.