Greetings from my messy desk in not-yet-spring, Suffolk.
February went by in a blink, don’t you think?
In many ways, for me, it was a breather month as I wasn’t under a major deadline- so I could just write at a comfy pace and spend some time in the slow lane for a while. I spent a bit of time reacquainting myself with art – and going a bit nuts on Amazon buying calligraphy pens, watercolours, and books on drawing. I now use doodling as a bit of a reward after I’ve done a bit of writing – it helps to keep me calm and sane. Sort of like that scene in Anger Management when Adam Sandler sings ‘I feel pretty’…
After the madness of completing my third novel and the structural edits in January, these 28 days though brought quite a few personal exciting things, like the cover reveal for The Cornish Escape and a new contract for a three-book deal with Bookouture – which was really brilliant.
The last few days though have been crazy as I was locked inside my writing room with the copyedits for The Cornish Escape and now that’s over, it’s time to ramp up production on my fourth novel, which is set in Yorkshire. The title I gave it was: A Recipe for Emma Halloway – though my publishers are quite keen on selling it as Christmas at Hope Cottage. I’m hoping that I can convince them to change their minds, but hey ho – titles are not in the writer’s control, alas, and their choice is pretty too. Either way, I’m really excited about this story which has given me an excellent excuse for devouring all things Yorkshire – from films set there to novels and TV series about The Dales. Devouring things food wise too – as food is a major theme in the book, which yes, is not great while I’m on a major diet. How we writers suffer for our art – grin.
I love this early writing stage as it’s so full of possibility as I get to know the characters and the little village I’ve created. Later, of course, the ‘dreads’ arrive when I’m about 2/3 of the way finished and start emailing my editor to ask her if perhaps she’s made a mistake, and has just been too polite to tell me how horrid I really am at all this, and really now is the time to tell me if I should just do something easier with my life, like say nuclear physics.
The funny thing about that stage is that I am quite certain that it has never been as horrible as it is right then. I convince myself that all the other books were easy. They were not – as my husband and dear, best friend will tell me, repeatedly.
A bit like this:
‘Oh, but you always do this.You always say that this is your worst book.’
‘Yes, yes – I know I said that last time it was a bit difficult, but really this time-
‘By a bit difficult do you mean the time when you said you were going to phone your editor and tell her that you’re going to join a Buddist community- that time? So that was just ‘a bit difficult?’
‘Yes, okay, but this time I’ve truly messed up – for one thing, the t-‘
‘The tone feels all wrong – am I right?’
‘How did you know?’ I ask, awed.
‘Because you always say that -‘
‘I do?’ Said with an immense air of surprise. ‘Really?’ Screwing up an eye in doubt.
‘Every. Single. Time.’
‘Oh. But this time it really, truly -‘
‘Yes, it’s really truly off. You say always say that too – that’s what you said about book two, and book one, and the seven other unfinished manuscripts I have read of yours – and they were always fine – nothing that couldn’t eventually be solved.’
So yes. That’s my process. Delightful, isn’t it? Apparently, even Agatha Christie felt at every single new draft stage like she’d forgotten how to write a novel – even when she’d already written around 50. That is both comforting and not so comforting. For me, this early unscary happy draft stage is the best. Truth be told though I didn’t have nearly as much writerly fear about the second book as I did the third – the last one was probably the hardest I’ve ever had it – and it was bad – ugly cry bad, doubt every sentence, think of giving it all up to clean toilets, bad. The good thing about all of that was that when I got through it, I truly felt if I could get through that, well then I could get through anything, so I’m hoping that will carry me through book four.
For now, there’s doodling and enjoying the early discovery.