More often than not my own blogs for The Business of Books focus on the process of being published and on marketing, marketing, and more marketing. For any writer, particularly one clinging onto a day job as well, it sometimes seems that the actual business of creating something new is relegated to the margins.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. In fact writing the next novel is the most important thing an author can do. If readers don’t love your book then no amount of marketing is going to put that right. And all the time I’m up to my neck in marketing Another You, my agent Felicity Trew has been waiting patiently for my next manuscript.
The working title has changed a few times so I’ve taken to calling it my Lincolnshire novel because it tells the story of an archaeologist who is sent to work in that wonderful county and discovers more about herself than she does about the site she’s digging. The settings came to me on a weekend away to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary when we stayed first in Lincoln itself (which oozes history from every brick) and then at the amazing Winteringham Fields restaurant and rooms on the banks of the Humber.
Getting the manuscript to a fit state to share with Felicity has taken about eighteen months. I desperately needed clear space in my diary and in my head to finish it and make sure that the plot hung together and the main characters at least were well drawn. The obvious answer was to do it on holiday.
Now I understand this wouldn’t suit everyone but it worked for me. I am blessed with an undemanding husband who is more than happy to do his own thing while I write. Even better we’d booked a two week chill break in St Lucia in preparation for what is going to be a hectic and potentially stressful year so suddenly the time I needed was there.
When the domestic and workaday issues are removed from your life (even temporarily) it is easy to feel creative. I’d been struggling with a final twist for the book (Felicity wasn’t keen on my initial idea) and something came along which while not perfect, is good enough for a draft and at least points in the right direction. Without this I hadn’t been able to finish the manuscript – I knew where I was heading but I was a few chapters short. But as I sat on my terrace overlooking the sea chapters kept falling off the ends of my fingertips and the story ended up about 10,000 words longer than I intended.
At this point, length doesn’t actually matter. This draft is so early that it will be unrecognisable by the time the book is ready to be presented to potential publishers. But nevertheless the manuscript had to be polished, the story had to be coherent, and the characters’ journeys real. I found myself almost living inside the mind of one of them, trying to see and feel the world through his eyes, and sure enough he came alive on my keyboard too.
It was almost the end of the holiday before I was ready to send the manuscript to Felicity. Much as she was dying to read it this is the scariest moment for me and I felt sick to my stomach as I pressed send. What will I do if she doesn’t like it, or doesn’t think it’s sufficiently commercial? I feel a little queasy thinking about it now, to be honest. But one thing’s for sure – whatever may be wrong with it I need to trust her judgment and work as hard as I can to put it right.