Yesterday I wrote about creative ‘coincidences’, perhaps more aptly described as a certain kind of alignment. Anna Branford, author of the gorgeous Violet Mackerel books had an interesting take on this in the comments, in response to which I will simply nod my head and refer you there.
If you want to see a really interesting example of how this sort of thing might work, check out this Derren Brown experiment in subliminal communication. It’s fascinating stuff.
But to the point I was writing towards yesterday – Surface Tension and the oh no! moment. Here’s what happened.
Ever had this happen? You’re working on a project, or thinking about a project, or you’ve just sent something off to a publisher. And it’s so distinctive. It’s an idea that’s specific to you, emerging from your own personal history, and you’ve attached to it all the other little bits and pieces that accumulate during the writing process, bits and pieces which, again, are idiosyncratic, part of your own subjective experience.
And then all of a sudden you see something similar in Bookseller+Publisher, hey, I’m working on this thing and they look at you oddly and say but *I’m* working on that thing or oh, you mean like that book by suchandsuch.
In an earlier post, I mentioned having been told that Surface Tension had apparently received a “cracker of a review”, but that I hadn’t yet seen it. I’ve now seen it, and a couple of others too, and am so thrilled with the response this book seems to be eliciting so far.
So this is a wholly self-serving post to gleefully report on those reviews and bombard you with my favourite pull-quotes from same.
#1 From Bookseller+Publisher:
Surface Tension is a wonderfully layered story—reading it is like being gradually immersed in a pool of water as each layer of the narrative slowly washes over you. The writing is so gentle that the mystery at the heart of this book is as much a surprise to the reader as it is to Cassie, our protagonist, when piece by piece it floats to the surface before her … There isn’t a dull moment in this book.
I did promise the occasional dash of random and I’m not sure I’ve really been delivering. To rectify that, here are two completely unrelated things:
Random Item #1
Surface Tension came out this week. This is excellent and I’m thrilled to see it on shelves. I’m told it received “a cracker of a review” in Bookseller + Publisher, though I’m yet to see it myself. As you do when you have a shiny new book, I’ve taken to picking up a copy, opening it, reading a few lines, sighing, and putting it back down.
Shall we call it Shiny New Book Syndrome? It is an identifiable disorder – I’m sure of it.
I have a new cover.
I’ve liked all my covers well enough – some more, some less, as is the way of things.
But this cover? I love it. And in a curious kind of reversal, in some ways the cover is responsible for the book.
I wrote this book in 2009 and it was a bit of a mess. I would probably have given up on it but for the fact that I had a grant from the kind people at the Department of Culture and the Arts, and felt beholden to actually produce something.
I wrote it and rewrote it and moved scenes around and moved them back again and deleted them altogether and stepped away from the manuscript and started over – again and again. I tore out metaphorical chunks of hair and really thought the whole thing was dead in the water.
Although I haven’t had much writing time of late, I’m always thinking about it – about stories and writing and the way words hang together. And in the midst of all the things that have been keeping me from writing – among them copyediting and proofing a forthcoming novel and continuing the grind of renovations we’ve been doing on the house – something occurred to me.
You see, I like these pavers.
I’m not housey. I’m not decoratey. I’ve been driven to the depths of frustration over having to make so many banal choices during the renovating process. I don’t care about tiles or paint or – god help us all – grout colour. But at the same time, you have to choose something. There’s a process you have to move through and perhaps not caring should make it easier, but it doesn’t seem to have worked that way for me.
A book has gone to bed.
It’s been a crazy season – of eleventh-hour renovations and far-flung family and 18 people and three dogs under one sweltering roof for the craziest Christmas ever … and in the midst of it all, copyediting and layout and proofreading and all the associated insanity that goes with sending a book (or two) to press. The endless quest for less looking and staring and gazing and all of that. The growing realisation that a proofread completed in the midst of all of the above is not the thorough proofread a book needs. The last-minute panic of trying to change things I should have changed earlier – much earlier – approximately 5 minutes before (after?) we should have gone to press.
I may have broken my editor.
No, this post has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland. It has to do with editing, and my exasperation with my own verbal (textual?) tics. I know we all have them – those words and phrases we use over and over, that we rely on lazily as filler or meaningless ‘beats’ to break up dialogue. But having done a fairly quick couple of rounds of revision on my 2011 title Surface Tension, I’ve realised how pervasive some of mine are, to the extent of feeling embarrassed at what I put my poor editor through.
I am still in the trenches. Last week, I said I would pop my head up again, “all things being well”.
That may be something of an overstatement. The novel goes slowly, more slowly than it needs must (is that an actual sentence? It sounds like it should be. I guess this sort of digression has something to do with why the novel goes slowly. If I’m having to ask what constitutes a sentence, I am clearly in trouble).
But today was better than yesterday. There is progress. And that is a good thing, on a Thursday, when the book is due on a Monday.