Back in May, I mentioned that I was diving into revisions on a new book. Back then, my working title was “Set In Stone”, but that has since been set aside in favour of something more fabulous, about which more later. I probably should have known better than to tempt fate with such a dogmatic title in the first place. My next WIP is going to be entitled, “Don’t Change a Word”.
The last few months have seen me dipping in and out of that manuscript as needed, in the midst of various other bits and pieces including Book Week and its many joys.
Just yesterday, I moved the latest draft off my desk and back onto my editor’s. There is more work to be done, but with each round, the scale diminishes. Eventually the spiral of revisions will narrow to the finest of points before finally disappearing, and the book will move into the hands of others.
You may have noticed that my 2014 goals did not include blogging. However, I break radio silence to report some report-worthy news:
I have a contract for a new book.
It’s a book I’ve mentioned here and there over the last couple of years, including, most recently, here.
When I was writing it, I thought it was YA, but when I finished it, I realised it’s junior fiction – in a similar sort of pocket to my 2011 release, Surface Tension (Below in the US). I’m not sure how that works, but it does.
I worked extremely hard drafting and re-drafting this manuscript before finally submitting it. This means I only have approximately another 27 drafts to do before it approaches a publishable state. For me, this is an excellent result.
I’ve just learned that the book is tentatively scheduled for an April 2015 release, which means that all 27 drafts must be completed by October-ish this year. It’s totally doable. I just have a gazillion tons of backstory and world-building to stuff into the seams of the action.
Two years ago, in December 2011, someone on a discussion board I sometimes frequent asked if anyone was up for some ‘fast-drafting’. The goal was to complete the first draft of a novel over their winter (our summer). I’m a slow writer but three months seemed on the doable side. It would be good for me! Optimistically, I raised my hand. A thread was opened and we duly began to post our progress.
Two weeks ago, in December 2013, I submitted the draft to my editor, having long abandoned the thread out of sheer embarrassment. My ‘progress updates’ to that point had mostly consisted of explanations as to why I was making none.
At one point, shortly before I fled, I commented:
I swear that when this book is done I’m going to go through this thread, collate the many reasons I have offered for my lack of progress, run them through Wordle, and generate a giant cloud of excuse-o-rama. If nothing else, it might show me where my problems lie.
With Below having been out in the US for a couple of months now, reviews have been coming in, and it’s made me realise something.
I was nervous about this book.
That is perhaps a little odd as it’s been out for two years in Australia already. It’s had plenty of reviews and feedback from readers over here. I’m not sure why I felt nervous about the US release; it just somehow felt like I was diving into a different sort of pond. Even though Candlewick had already published my picture book No Bears and chapter book Duck for a Day, there was something different about this, perhaps more of myself in this work somehow.
… of 2012, in order to move hopefully into this new year. Last year got a little crazy for me and many things fell by the wayside. In hindsight, perhaps I should have seen it coming. I had two new books out here in Australia, two books coming out for the first time in the US, and a third in the pipeline to do the same. Lots of people wanted me for lots of things. They were all good things, useful things, things it made absolute and perfect sense for me to do. And so I said ‘Of course!’ and ‘I’d be delighted’ and ‘Thank you for asking’.
Last year, it felt like I reached a tipping point of some kind. There were simply too many things pulling on me for to do much but keep paddling madly and try and keep my head above water.
Today, an unexpected thing has happened. For the first time in weeks I have a couple of clear hours in which to get some writing done. I’m going to get right on that. There is a novel to finish, and then rewrite from the ground up.
But because it’s a shock to be suddenly presented with writing time, I had to settle my nerves by doing a little procrastinating first. So I decided to make a word cloud for No Bears. I thought it would be amusing. I thought I would simply get one giant word – BEARS – blocking out everything else.
Instead, I got this …
Huh. Turns out that book really isn’t about bears after all. I guess sometimes the writer is the last to know.
I do like word clouds. They’re fun. But also kind of pointless. Which is why I have allowed myself just one. And now I am off, to get.this.elusive.novel.done.
So this appears to be the fourth in the three-part blog-a-palooza I embarked on recently with Sally Murphy and Anna Branford.
Yes, I am aware that makes no sense.
I’m adding this coda simply to say that although it was fun, I doubt I’ll be doing something like that again. I have no idea how anyone keeps to a regular posting schedule and still manages to keep up with all the regular aspects of work and life and writing and all of that. Impossible.
I really enjoyed thinking about all those topics, and there’s a satisfying discipline in committing to setting my thoughts in order for public consumption. But when writing time is at a premium, I’d rather be chipping away at stories than composing blog posts.
I’ve been thinking lately about creativity. About the complicated relationship between humility, confidence, and arrogance. About the precarious balance between the conviction that we might actually know what we’re doing and the gnawing fear that we don’t – a balance which is required to produce anything worthwhile. Or at least that’s how it seems to me.
I’ve been thinking about imposter syndrome.
And I’ve been ironing. Usually a school uniform, in the morning, at the last possible moment.
I’m starting a new novel. A chapter book, to be precise. To be even more precise, a follow-up to Duck for a Day, whose characters I love altogether too much to leave alone.
When I wrote Duck for a Day, I knew it needed to be around 8000 words (ish). So of course, I wrote 15000. Then I pruned it to 12000. Then I sent it to my long-suffering editor, and she wrote back to me and said, altogether unexpectedly, “I love this, but it really needs to be around 8000 words.”
Eventually, we got there.
Well, I did warn you this would be the title of my next post. It’s prompted by an email I received recently from a writing friend, with the subject line “Business”. And by the last couple of months, which seem to have been incredibly busy somehow with a bunch of things which, while writing-related, are not actually writing itself.
A couple of weeks ago, frustrated with my slow progress through the various WIPs, I decided to take a good hard look at where my days are going. Of course there is a slew of other bits and pieces crammed into my day – house, family, exercise and so on – but here is the graph that represents how the time I had available for work was divided over a two-week period.
A little alarming, no?