Thursday, 19 August 2010

'Living in the Past' is history

Well, I’m back from the Mother-in-law’s-caravan; a whole week of self imposed writer’s retreat because I didn’t feel quite up to going on any writing courses or holidays this year while I’m waiting for my surgery.

And it’s been a productive week. I return with several thousand words added onto two of my novels, proposals for two non-fiction books, a couple of articles, one short story, and multiple lists of action points and ideas. Not bad. And the beauty of being away from home, the family and housework, is I didn’t feel guilty about writing once.

But it wasn’t always easy, maintaining the self-discipline and it took me a couple of days to get into the swing of things. In fact I have a confession to make. I wasted the whole of the first day dabbling with a possible re-write of Living in the Past.

Stop! I hear you shout. Surely ‘Living in the Past,’ (previously known as Tango Man,) is now complete? Yes, you’re right. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve tinkered with it, and I’m not talking just a little tweaking but three complete re-writes and numerous cutting and editing besides. I think this is the third year I’ve spent on it. And it’s not as if I ever thought it was the novel that would get me the Booker prize (indeed whether it will even ever attain publication remains to be seen.) I accept this because I recognise the novel served me well in terms of learning the craft of writing – serving my writing apprenticeship – and it was a story I was compelled to write. It’s been critiqued by the professionals, it’s had some positive feedback so I’m as happy as I’m going to be with it. And after all the hard work, I’m going to start sending it out to agents.

I don’t think it’s the elements of the story that keep drawing me back to tinker – the Nan, the husband, the betrayals, demons – they are all in the PAST and I worked through much of it years ago. So why the meddling? Why do I keep going back to it?

Is this normal behaviour for writers - this obsession, the pursuit of perfection? Do you have a piece of work or novel; something that you can’t stop going back to, something you can’t let go of in writing terms? Or tell me is my OCD towards my first novel simply habit or comfort, or maybe even lack of confidence towards moving on.

Anyway, it’s time to move on. I see that. Besides everything else, I’m fed up of looking at it. To mark the occasion (in addition to the blog,) I’ve penned a magazine article and a rough outline of a non-fiction proposal, all about living in the past and how to move on.

This blog is my promise to myself to let it go. It seems somehow symbolic.

So until another day

Bye for now


Chris Stovell said...

Gosh, well done you! You've certainly been disciplined and productive. If it's any consolation I must have got up to at least three rewrites of TTT! Good luck with the submissions.

The blog looks great too.

Flowerpot said...

Sounds like an incredibly productive time. I think letting go is very difficult but many writers do 8 or 9 rewrites of their novels. One well known one whose name escapes me said he always did at least 8 (gasp). Yes good luck with the submissions - keep us posted.

her at home said...

well done and good luck!!

Fred said...

Of all the people I've ever met you are the one who I would put my life on getting there.
Good luck, with both the book and the op.

Amanda said...

Excellent productivity, well done. And good luck with sending out Living in the Past. I can empathise with your path with writing it - it's very similar to mine with FMIAB - I have the same obsession, and it's my first novel.

I have everything crossed the agents will love it. I'm sure they will. x

Fran said...

You have worked hard! Here's hoping you are well rewarded for it. In terms of going back to work that was meant to be finished, I'm always hearing writers say they don't like looking at the books they've had published because they'd go back and change stuff if they could. I think it's a very common feeling!

Frances said...

What a productive week you have had! A quiet time and place to think and to write must have been so very welcome. You sound as if you've really done a lot with that opportunity.

I am very interested in all you say about living in the past. I think that we all re-visit our past ... some folks make these journeys less often than others, but we all go there. There is a difference between visiting and living in the past.

All your current writing projects amaze me. You are providing many of us with inspiration, and not for the first time. xo

Debs said...

You've achieved so much in one week, I'm so impressed. Good luck with the proposals and rewrites.

I've definitely got OCD when it comes to rewriting my novels. I need them to be published to stop me faffing about with them. You're not on your own with rewrites, that's for certain.

Jarmara Falconer said...

Well done, BM. I wish you lots of luck with your novel. I spent 10 years working on my first novel. And still I'm not happy with it so I moved on to the second.

Some times you have to say enough is enough and walk away. Please note, I didn't spend every day of those ten years just working on the novel, I wrote lots of other things too. I finished the novel in three years and then got lots of my friends to read it, then I played about with it, changed it, sent it out, rewrote parts of it, sent it out again, had it read by a publisher, had feedback, change it etc.... Then put it away and started worked on something else.

Many writers don't get their first novel published when you read that a writer has had their first book published it's not the first book they have written.

muddyboots said...

wot a lot of words, good luck xx

Michelloui said...

I think we need time to 'get into it' when we sit down to do a long session (ie a week) of writing. Dont worry if you feel you need to keep messing with it, but you need to know when its finished. I know of an agent who gives pretty thorough feedback, so perhaps thats what you need now--just submit it and get feedback and THEN do more tinkering...!

Sarah Callejo said...

Well done for all those thousands of words.
It's so difficult to let go, so good luck with that and good luck with the submissions.

Diane Perry said...

Lovely to see you popping up on my blog, that Simon does get around.
I have been working on my novel for eight years! I realise now that is far to long, but I experienced the same as you and kept going back to each chapter instead of completing it.
Half of it is with a publisher now and I am just praying that they want the next half. Good luck! I will be keeping an eye now on how you get on.
Best wishes
Di Perry

Colette McCormick said...

A very productive time - many of us would wish we could be so. I think that tinkering is part of what we are. Good luck with your projects. Great blog BTW

Talli Roland said...

Wow! I'm so impressed with how much you got done - that's fantastic. Good luck!

Exmoorjane said...

Ah I relate to this BIG time. I think that, until a book is actively wrenched out of our paws, it's totally natural to want to fiddle, to rewrite, to edit...yes, to make it as good as it possibly can be.
Total envy for your writer's retreat! And huge respect for all those projects!

elizabethm said...

What a lot you accomplished. You have such self discipline! I am in awe. I by contrast am always ready to go into the garden or make cheese scones or practically anything rather than write. A blog is about all I have staying power for!

Fennie said...

Gosh you have been busy. Yes I can relate to wanting to go back and tweak. I can't look at anything I've written without thinking it hideous and badly in need of a good tweak. Then I read something I wrote twenty years ago and I think - that was good and this depresses me further as I think I'm going backwards not forwards. Fingers crossed for you Angel.

bayou said...

Great! I can see that you try to pull yourself out of that hole. And I am sure, it will work. First of all now all the best for the surgery. Will be thinking of you!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

its like giving birth to a monster - so nice when its over!

Posie Rosie said...

Wow, fantastic commitment, good for you and with all this hard work success will follow, all of those rewrites will have been worth it, like with an essay, we tweak away, until it is perfect...let it go now and enjoy the next project x

Milla said...

I know I'd just have pfaffed about and prevaricated and then lain awake all night berating self for being crap so am full of admiration for you, D!!