Wednesday, 3 June 2009

What's The Magic Word?

To a writer, there can be no more satisfying words to type than The End. Except, maybe, "Yes, I'd be delighted to accept your seven-figure offer, and cheers very much for the Nobel." But The End comes a close second.

There must have been something in the air yesterday, because not long after I'd typed those magic words I discovered that two writers whose blogs I follow had done the same: hurrah for Being Lucy Diamond and Fionnuala Kearney.

Recently this blog has been pretty low on the topic of writing - I tend to think that if you want writing advice or clever ways of thinking about process or advice on getting published, there are a million better places to look, but just for the record, here are some things I'll never forget about writing this book:

1. It is possible to pick yourself up after someone trashes your WIP, but it may take time, unless you've got one of those rhino hides - mine looks rhino-esque but bruises like a peach. I wrote the first draft in 2006. Someone trashed it. Then a someone else told me it had potential and gave me a list of things that needed doing. The list made my head hurt and I wrote a completely new book instead. I kept the insulted, rejected manuscript in a shoebox / coffin and kept meaning to have another go, but it wasn't until this year that I could face it. I'm glad I waited.
2. Letting a manuscript rest is like having laser surgery on your eyes. I CAN SEE!! To an impatient person like myself this is a hard one to swallow but it's so true. The second draft is bigger, better and bolder. I changed nearly every sentence - that surprised me, as I thought the one thing it had going for it was good prose, but evidently my opinion had changed in those three years. (I think 6 weeks will do, by the way...but three years is okay, too.)
3. After getting a publishing deal, it might be easier to write a whole book just for yourself. I say this in light of a very interesting post over on Strictly Writing by Samantha Tonge, called Don't Tell Me To Write For Fun. I like Sam's post because of it's honesty and passion. I don't think it's necessarily in line with how I feel about writing, but I admire it anyway. However, I'm feeling like the book I've just finished will probably never see the light of day and I'm okay with that. I knew way before I finished, too. This book is just too different to be my Book 2. I wanted to finish it because having it in a shoe-box, not in a state I was proud of, was bugging me. I wanted to give it my best. I just did it for me. Could I have spent all that time on it if I didn't have another book coming out next year? Maybe not. I was like a dog with a bone pre-deal. That's not to say that my want or need to be published has disappeared - far from it.
4. I respond very well to targets. I need shiny gold stars (metaphorical or real will do) and goals and promises of reward. My daily target of 1500 words per day worked because it was a rewrite rather than a fresh new book. I made better use of The Boy's nap times (taking myself to the library while he slept in the pushchair so I couldn't procrastinate on the internet worked well), and early evenings (one good thing about there being not much I want to watch on Aussie telly), and I rewarded myself with the odd glass of wine (or an even two) or an hour with a good book, and promised myself a splurge in the new Red Cross shop when I'd finished the thing. OK, it's not a very glamorous reward but as I said, this book isn't under contract... This kind of way of working might not be for you - you might think it cheap, even. But if you find you're dragging your heels and feel frustrated with your pace - get together with a few online writer friends and set yourselves a target. It might be your style.

If you got to the end of this - thanks. Normal service (feeble jokes / whingeing pominess etc) will resume shortly.

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Fionnuala Kearney said...

Well done Emuly, I admire your guts and passion. x

PS Ta for the mention!

Luisa said...

Wonderful post, Emily, and huge congratulations!

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!! I've been watching you approaching those two words with envy for ages. I'm in the middle of ripping up my first draft of book 2 and putting all the pieces back together and it's PAINFUL! So glad to know there's light at the end of the tunnel. And no, there aren't lots of better places to read about writing. We like your place.

Emily Gale said...

Thanks, Fi. Hey what's with the new spelling of my name - is that an Aussie joke or what? Emu-Emuly? ;)

Thanks, Luisa.

And thanks, Sophia (who by the way people has a fabulous new book called THREADS out this year, do check it out). I really sympathise on the pain of Draft 2 - I'm a Draft 1 junkie. Luisa (see above) told me a couple of years ago about the point at which you realise you're nearly there on a rewrite - it creeps up on you and it's exhilarating. Before I get to that point = hideous.

Fionnuala Kearney said...

LOL, oops from now on you may very well be referred to as Emu-ly!

Samantha Tonge said...

All really good points, Emily. And it does take guts to pick up a manuscript someone has trashed - my third book was brutally dissed (about 18 months ago) and even though i could see the truth in some of the comments, my peachy skin hasn't been able to face touching it since - so really well done you. Hopefully you'll have the last laugh.

Deborah Riccio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah Riccio said...

(I like) Emuly,
Well done and congrats and everything! I find typing 'the end' a strange feeling - almost like giving birth, or rather the aftershock of not really knowing if you want to laugh or cry after all the emotions it's put you through... congratulations, it's a book! *sniff*

panicboy said...

Isn't the standard practice for the situation where you have a spare book to either park it in the vault (call it an acorn) or publish under another name? You could have a lot of fun being one of those never-seen writers, your existence doubted and persona created through hazy rumour and suspected sightings.

KatW said...

Of course I got to the end of this it was a really interesting post that offers good uplifting advice. Congratulations on getting it back out of the box and finishing. I have a couple of books gathering dust & it can be scary to revisit when you've lost heart. Thanks. Kat :-)

Nik Perring said...


Emily Gale said...

Thanks, Sam. I'm happy to let this one live under the bed now (she said, still tinkering with it!)

Debs, you're right about the mixed emotions - I've gone from very high to very low since finishing.

Panicboy, I think it would have to be quite a high concept book to pull that off...and it's not.

Kat, thank you. Yes it's definitely more difficult to revisit than to start a new book, I think.

And thanks, Nik!

Tam said...

I wholeheartedly endorse the advice to let your writing simmer for a few weeks.
Well done on reaching The End. Sometimes that's only the beginning, though, and I hope this is one of those times :-)

diane s said...

Thanks for this Emily - you've inspired me :)

And congrats on your book deal! x

Emily Gale said...

Thanks, Tam and Diane, lovely to see you both here.