Tag Archives: Emmeline

Remix

Fwish fwish! Fwish-fwish!

That’s the sound of me mixing it up around here, just in case you weren’t sure what you were listening to. I’m aware, of course, that this is a Tuesday, and that it has become my habit to blog on Mondays, but yesterday I wasn’t feeling one hundred percent well. So, my blog had to fall by the wayside, just once.

It wasn’t the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had, but it does give me the chance to use this nifty mixer-upper tool. Fwish! I could get used to this, you know.

Think of me like Zorro. Except female. And short. And prone to toppling over unexpectedly.

Photo Credit: armadillo444 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: armadillo444 via Compfight cc

In fact, actually, don’t think of me as Zorro. That was stupid. Let’s start again.

Right! Hello! How’s your week going so far? Mine’s going pretty fairly well. Now that I’ve recovered somewhat from feeling woeful, that is. I’m writing again – it’s going slowly, but it’s going. I think *crosses everything* that I have the bones of a fairly decent story beginning to form, but in writing you never really know whether your story is going to work until you write it. What might seem shiny and bright and fantastic in the planning stages may turn out to be rickety and rotten underfoot as soon as you put any weight on it. Of course I hope this won’t happen, but (as I never tire of reminding myself) in this game, there are no guarantees.

This is the thrill, and the risk, and the heart-crushing sorrow, of trying to create something from nothing. It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with. For whatever reason, during this year so far almost everything I’ve started has ended before it was supposed to – in terms of writing, at least. Ideas have sputtered out and stories have whittled away, fading down to an embarrassed throat-clearing noise as the universe reshuffles, hoping nobody noticed the big enormous failure that has just happened. I feel a lot like everything I’ve tried to do this year has been akin to fumbling in a darkened room, where there are scary, nasty (and quite possibly dangerous) things hidden in the murk, lurking beneath dusty sheets. Sometimes discovering these things can be good – once your heart rate returns to normal – and sometimes they can be bad. Sometimes, they can be the death of your tiny storylet, and that’s a dreadful feeling.

So, I’m fully prepared for this new story to go the same way. But I’m also hopeful that it won’t. On the plus side, I think I have mastered one important thing, which is the voice of this tale; once I have that, I think the rest of it will slot together, eventually. Finding the right register for your characters is, for me, a prerequisite to telling a tale – you want a tone which expresses their individuality, hints at their world, seems to ‘fit’ them and their personality, and it’s much harder to do than you’d imagine. Often, the first ‘voice’ you start writing in isn’t the right one; I’ve had this happen more often than I want to remember. Also, once you’ve begun a story in one ‘voice’, it can be really hard to see your way through to writing it in another, and your desperation to get it ‘right’ can sometimes be its undoing. And then sometimes, as with ‘Emmeline’, the voice hits you right away and the story practically tells itself. I’m not expecting that to happen again (I think what happened with ‘Emmeline’ was a once-in-a-lifetime thing), but it would be amazing if I could just keep going long enough to build a firm foundation for this idea, something which grows stronger with every addition instead of more tangled and confused.

Let’s hope for the best.

Fwish! I’m off. Have good Tuesdays, all y’all. Feel good. Try to keep your eyes on the happy stuff, for without it we are all lost. Create something. Give something. Share your brightness with another. That way, maybe there’s a chance for everyone to rise.

Here’s Lookin’ at you, Kid

I recently read a really good article by Margaret Atwood (I can’t find a link to it online, which is a shame) about the importance of dressing your fictional characters, and getting it right. She talked about the fashion cut-out games she used to play with as a child during the war, where you took printed ‘dolls’ and printed clothes, cut around the outlines, and used one to dress the other in any way you pleased. I remember them from my own childhood, too; they were endless fun, particularly the ones you could colour in yourself. Customisation, baby. It’s key.

The point of talking about dolls was to illustrate the importance of clothes, appearances, and the descriptions thereof in your writing. For Atwood, this appears to be important; she discussed the lengths to which she went in order to get the clothes right for her novel Alias Grace, which is set in a women’s prison in nineteenth-century Canada, for instance, which involved months of painstaking work. Only the most astute of readers would have known, in all likelihood, if she had got it wrong, but that’s not the sort of writer Atwood is. She also wrote about her influences when designing the clothing for the characters in her masterwork The Handmaid’s Tale, which drew on historical sources as well as advertising imagery from her youth. She argued, persuasively, that clothing ‘maketh’ the setting – if a reader can’t believe in a character’s clothing (i.e. it’s not functional for the role they’re playing in their world, and completely logical and sensible and ultimately, easy to picture) it undermines the whole believability of the story.

Well, yes. I found myself nodding along with all this, agreeing wholeheartedly – and then realising, like a slap across the chops, that I don’t do any of this in my own writing. None of it. In fact, something I tend not to do at all is describe the people in my stories, unless it’s a situation where they have three heads, perhaps, and that knowledge is vital to the reader’s understanding of the plot. In my most ‘finished’ work to date, my début novel The Eye of the North, I don’t describe my main character very much besides the fact that she’s wearing a dress. What colour is the dress? I never say. What fabric is it made from? Unspecified. Her coat? The same. She’s wearing one, but it could be black, or blue, or canary yellow. It could be a floor-length, fur-collared beauty, or a dinner jacket. This never struck me as being significant; as a reader, I tend to like it when writers leave imaginative space around a character’s looks, so that we can picture whoever we like in the lead role.

But maybe I’m wrong about that.

It could also be down to the fact that I, as a human person separate from my writing life, do not care about clothes at all. My mother despairs of me. I have, at most, two pairs of wearable jeans (one for the body and one for the wash – it’s logical, right?) and maybe three or four shirts/tops which I alternate, without a lot of thought as to fashion, colour coordination, and so on. If something fits me, I wear it. If it’s clean, all the better. I’ve never been fashionable, because it just doesn’t come into my sphere. I’m interested in fashion as a human endeavour, and as an art form, and I love the style of the forties and fifties, for instance – but I’m entirely the wrong shape, everywhere, to dress like a glamourpuss from the war era. For me, it’s strictly an ‘admiration from a distance’ thing. So, maybe that’s why I don’t dwell overmuch on physical appearance in my writing. Emmeline (my main character) is described, in sketchy terms, somewhere near the end of my book, but as a throwaway comment; how she looks isn’t important to the fact that she’s strong, independent, intelligent and resourceful. Her dress is only described when it gets in the way, and likewise her boots. Essentially, Emmeline dresses for convenience, a lot like me.

I wonder if I’m alone in not being too invested in an author’s physical descriptions of their characters, though. I love Haruki Murakami, for instance, but one thing that drives me round the twist with that author is his tendency to linger, rather lasciviously, on the physical attributes of his female characters. It irritates me both because it’s not necessary but also because it’s rather unrealistic, and makes me think ‘oh, yes. Here’s the author again, intervening in the thoughts of his made-up people.’ I also tend to get annoyed when an author introduces a character to us by saying something like: ‘And then Tony turned the corner and there was Billy, all six-foot-four of him, his straw-yellow hair askew beneath his flat cap. He turned, his bright green eyes lighting up as he smiled at his oldest friend, the gap between his front teeth making his broad, sunburned face look relaxed and almost childlike. He took a step in Tony’s direction, holding out one broad, rough-palmed hand in welcome.’ I’d rather know that Tony had to look up to meet Billy’s gaze (hence, he’s tall), or that a gust of wind knocked the hat off his head (hence, he was wearing one), and have him talk about his work outdoors (hence, allowing us to imagine that he’s sunburned and weather-beaten). Is it just me?

Anyway. Next month, with any luck, I’ll be starting the edits for The Eye of the North. We’ll see, then, what my editor thinks of my tendency not to describe the physicality of my characters. There may be wailing and gnashing of teeth – and lots of research into fabric, dress design and ruffles. I shudder at the thought!

 

 

It’s Official!

Yesterday, I had a wonderful task to take care of. It was the most wonderful task an aspiring author can be given, in fact, and it was this: I was finally able to break the news that I’ve been successful in gaining a two-book deal with Knopf USA for my début novel The Eye of the North. Yahoo!

The book is slated for release in fall of 2016, all going well, and I couldn’t be prouder of the fact that the publisher is one of the most prestigious in the world. I’m also really proud that it’s this particular story which will be my launching pad into the great big world of publishing, because I love it with all my heart and it’s the book I know I was meant to write. I’m so looking forward to getting to work on shaping the text with my new editor, Melanie Cecka Nolan, and I hope that between the two of us we’ll turn this story into the best version of itself that it can possibly be. I’m very fortunate, and I know it!

This is a post I’ve dreamed about writing, and for a very long time I was convinced it would never be a reality. (To be honest, even as I’m here writing it I’m not convinced it’s a reality, but I’m assured otherwise by folk who know their stuff, so I have to believe it’s true). The process of bringing a book from idea-seed to finished draft to polished draft and finally to a publication deal has been a long and arduous one (and one which I’ve exhaustively chronicled here, so don’t worry – I’m not going to rehash it!) but one thing I know for sure: without the support and encouragement of my family and friends (including, and sometimes especially, my web-based friends, many of whom I’ve never met in person), I wouldn’t be here. I want to thank you all most sincerely for your kind words, your advice, and your interaction; for celebrating my achievements with me and for commiserating on my losses; for your interest in my words and work; for your relentless enthusiasm and your certainty that one day, I would know how it felt to say ‘I am going to be a published author.’ During the moments when I didn’t believe it myself, you guys believed for me, and that got me through.

I can’t thank you all enough.

Photo Credit: @ifatma. via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: @ifatma. via Compfight cc

Writing and querying The Eye of the North has been the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead – but I’m ready and able for that. Bringing the book this far has been a complicated, emotional, frustrating, stressful, exhilarating and fascinating journey, and very little of it has felt how I expected it to feel; the learning curve has been immense, and sometimes I’ve found it hard to hang on and keep going. Having said that, I have no regrets. However, I do know how much I owe to everyone who has helped me, primarily my wonderful husband and our amazingly supportive family, who have always been so proud of me and so committed to making this happen. It has never ceased to amaze me how many people showed me unstinting support, right from the beginning of this crazy journey, and I can honestly say that not one person (at least, in my hearing!) ever expressed doubt that I could achieve this goal. I know how lucky I am to be able to say that, and I won’t ever forget it. I also know how much I owe my agent, Polly Nolan, and particularly how much I owe Sarah Davies, the powerhouse behind the Greenhouse Literary Agency, who have fought hard for me and my book from day one.

I hope I’ve made everyone proud, and that you’re all glad that your confidence wasn’t misplaced. I hope that when the finished book is in your hands, you’ll be glad to have been a part of it. More than anything, I hope that anyone who picks up The Eye of the North will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and that the love I have for every word will shine out from the pages. After all, that’s the only thing that really matters – getting the story out, and making sure it’s as good as I can get it. After that, it’s all up to the reader.

For the moment, the book will be published only in North America – so, the US and Canada – but I’m hopeful we’ll strike a book deal for the UK and Commonwealth markets, too. As soon as I have any news, about anything, you’d better believe I’ll share it here as soon as I’m given the green light, and I hope you’ll enjoy travelling with me from book deal to publication as much as you seem to have enjoyed the journey from the very beginning to here! Thank you all, again, and I hope all your Fridays are fabulous.

Have a slightly weird, awkward hug from Emmeline, and a grubby, sticky one (that smells a bit funny) from Thing, and a giant bear-hug from me. Just because. We love y’all. See you back here very soon.

 

The Indefinable ‘Ugh’

One of our neighbours has a beautiful little boy. He’s always smiling, always laughing, and he likes to run around to our house and show off his ‘toy of the day’ – lately, it’s been a small plastic handsaw with which he likes to destroy our garden gate, to a soundtrack of throaty chuckles. Today, he turns two years old, and so – feeling organised, grown up, and infinitely practical – I decided to buy him a birthday card almost a week ago. It’s been sitting on our kitchen table ever since so that I don’t forget to write in it; every time I saw it I cracked a grin, not only at the thought of how much fun he’s going to have at his birthday party, but also in the smug realisation that, for once, I got something done right, and ahead of schedule.

See? Not only cute, and awesome, but *timely*, too, what with all the rockets and planets and stuff. *sigh*

See? Not only cute, and awesome, but *timely*, too, what with all the rockets and planets and stuff. *sigh*

I sat down this morning after breakfast – so early it was still dark outside – intending to make writing the carefully worded birthday message my first task of the day, only to discover something maddening.

There was no envelope for the card inside the plastic wrapping.

I didn’t think to check, when I bought the card, that the envelope came with it. The shop assistant at the register clearly didn’t, either. I guess we both assumed that if a card comes wrapped in plastic, the envelope is included. I was so mad, I could have growled. ‘This has messed up my whole day,’ I told myself. ‘Now I have to reschedule this, and do this differently, and I’ll need to change this…

And then I calmed down and realised (with the aid of a few deep breaths) that it was no big deal. I’ll just go and get another card. I have to go out to the shops anyway; it’s no extra hassle. But the initial whoosh of irritation (with myself), and the collapse of my careful edifice of being organised, was overwhelming.

That’s concerning.

Once, years ago, I was waiting in line for the coffee machine during my morning break in work. The café was crowded; there was a long line for coffee. A woman and her friend cut the queue and jumped in ahead of me, and I felt my teeth smash together and start to grind, of their own accord. My body flooded with rage, to the point where I began to tremble, and I have never felt so close to ‘losing it’ – all over nothing. Now, this may have been severe caffeine withdrawal – or it may have been something larger. Something that perhaps happens to people more often than they realise.

It’s strange how you can be so busy, and distracted, and scattered, and everything else it takes to live life in the modern world, that you become totally out of touch with your body and how it feels. I was unaware, until this morning, exactly how much of my sense of organisation and personal capability was based around a two-year-old’s birthday card. During my queue for coffee that morning in work, I was totally unaware (until it smacked me in the face) exactly how much stress and pressure I was under, and how close I was to snapping. It took these tiny life events – forgetting an envelope, being skipped in a queue – to draw my own feelings to my attention, and to make it clear to me that I was a bit out of balance.

I’ve been working away on ‘Eldritch’ for the past while, and it’s been going, but with difficulty. My plotting methods have proved effective, but progress is slow. I fear my main problem with the work is that I don’t love it – not that I don’t love writing, because I do and will always love that – but I don’t love the story as much as I loved the tale of Emmeline. ‘Eldritch’ doesn’t grab me up in its arms and sweep me away like the other story did; it doesn’t make my heart pound like ‘Emmeline’ did, even after the twentieth re-read. I am afraid that I will never write anything I love as much as ‘Emmeline’ ever again, and that it’s pretty poor to have ‘peaked’ before you’ve even begun.

This is what’s on my mind.

I’m trying to be organised, professional, capable, grown-up, but one forgotten envelope and the whole thing crashes into dust. I’m trying to be a writer, and I’m certainly working hard, but I fear the end result will be the same – dust. It’s like there’s a creature with downturned eyes and a floppy, curled-down mouth and a set-upon expression following me around, whispering ‘ugh’ into my ear every few minutes.

Ugh. Don’t bother trying that. You know it won’t work.

Ugh. Really? You think this is what a real professional person does? You think this is the appropriate way to behave?

Ugh. Haven’t you learned anything? You’re no spring chicken, you know! You need to get a handle on things!

I think I’ve had quite enough of that.

So, today will be about remembering to smile, and breathe. It will be about being kind to myself, and taking a walk. It will feature buying a new birthday card and writing a happy, fun-loving message in it, and delivering this card to the bouncing boy who has brought so many smiles to my life, and then, once all that is done, worrying about work.

And, after all that, I’ll give the Indefinable Ugh a slap across the chops, and tell it to be on its way. I’ve got stuff to do, and I don’t have time to listen to its nonsense.

Success! (ish…)

All the notebooks! All the wiggly lines! All the markers!  This, kids, is what plotting looks like.

All the notebooks! All the wiggly lines! All the markers!
This, kids, is what plotting looks like.

Today, November 11th, always fills me full of feelings. My mind is on battlefields and gently waving rows of blood-red poppies and ranks of simple white gravestones, and on the harrowing losses of war. I’ve already shed a few tears this morning, and I’m sure I’ll shed a few more before the day is out – but that’s not what I want to write about, today.

(It’s not because I don’t care. It’s because if I started writing about the War, things would get messy very quickly, and nobody wants that).

So instead, I’m going to write about plotting (still), and how well (or badly) my ‘method‘ has been working out for me.

The first thing I did yesterday was print a copy of my own post, Conducting a Story, and lay it out flat on my desk to get an overall reminder of the ups and downs which every plot should have. Then, I  made a list of the core things about this book – significant themes, important events (by which I mean they’re interesting while they happen, but they also cause other things to happen, thereby advancing the story), the primary characters and their relationships to one another, some of the imagery which I’d consider to be essential and – something which took me by surprise, a bit – a box in which I mapped out all the places in the book where the characters have a choice about what way they’re going to act, and where they don’t, and whether there’s a balance or any sort of symmetry between them.

I was almost finished doing this last bit, mapping out the choices, before I understood what I was doing it for, actually. Strange, sometimes, how your brain just takes over and gets the job done if you give it the space it needs. It’s important when you’re putting a story together that you show your characters being active, making choices (even or especially if they’re ‘wrong’, or don’t lead them to the desired outcome straight away); that’s something I have a particular problem with, so this is why I focused on it. When you’re plotting and structuring your story it can happen, without you even realising, that you’re constructing your story around your characters’ needs and thereby giving them no space for their own agency and decision-making. Things happen to them, not because of them, and that makes for a boring story where your character is simply awash on a flood of events out of their control, going with the flow and doing whatever they’re told – and who wants to read about that?

Nope. You want to put them into complicated situations and twisty dilemmas, where the choices aren’t always clear-cut. They need to be shown wondering if they make this choice over that choice, what difference it will make; who will be affected (besides themselves) by their choices; what the long-term ramifications of their choices will be, and what the endgame is, as far as they can predict it.

So, basically, just like making a decision in real life.

The important thing is that they have to make decisions and act on them, and – importantly – that this is made perfectly clear to the reader. These decisions can’t all be internal to the character, and left to the reader to decipher. While writing ‘Emmeline’, for example, there were several instances where things appear to simply ‘happen’ to Emmeline, and contrived coincidences, none of which were intended, abounded. One of the reasons for this was that I hadn’t made the motivations of other characters around Emmeline clear – they had their own reasons for doing things, which had nothing to do with her – and because she seemed to be carried along with their actions, making no decisions for herself at critical junctures, it turned into a major mistake. To fix it, I had to bring her thought processes to the fore, showing how she was using things to her own advantage, and also change one scene subtly to show her directing the action, instead of simply acting once the decision had been made. Because the writer is clued into the characters’ thought processes it can be hard to spot where you’ve simply not explained why a character is making a particular choice – or seeming not to – and so I found it useful to make a list of the pinch-points in ‘Eldritch’ where choices need to be made, and who makes them, and why.

Then, I moved on to mapping out the ‘corners’ – the turning points, I guess, which are vital to the story’s structure – and I divided the book up into four rough quarters. I hoped that each of them would be equal, or nearly equal, in terms of length and that each corner would have a moment of crisis which led to a change, and that they’d fit together, one leading to another. Then, I took my ‘story beats’ – Change, Crisis, Choice (1), Change, Challenge, Chase, Crucible, Chance, Choice (2) and Calm – and mapped them onto my corners, in the hope that the major plot events as they stand now would fit roughly into this schema – and they did. Not as evenly or in as finely balanced a way as I would have liked, but it was a pleasant surprise to see the book’s structure come together. The story isn’t exactly where I want it, yet; there are things I know need to happen, and I’m not sure how best to arrange those scenes, but it’s a major positive to feel that the overall shape of the book will hold. I had been feeling rather despairing about salvaging ‘Eldritch’, but now I feel there may be hope.

And isn’t hope the best feeling in the world? I think so. Have a hopeful and positive Armistice Day, everyone.

 

 

 

Diagramming

Good morning! It’s misty, it’s moisty, and it’s cold, but at least it’s ours, right?

I’m back to work at the word coalface this morning after a busy weekend spent away from my usual routine. It’s funny how life can sometimes serve up to you these things you have to do, and places you need to be, and events you’re privileged to attend, right when you need time away from something work-related which is bothering you. I did do a little thinking about my current WiP (which is, technically, a revisited old WiP) on Saturday morning during some downtime, but besides that I took myself away from anything which smacked of fiction for two full days and lived completely in the real.

It was weird. But it was good.

I didn’t even do any reading – besides half a newspaper – and that’s really unusual. I left the book I’m currently halfway through sitting at home, and it’s still where I left it, gathering dust, bookmark gallantly guarding my place. I plan to get back to it later, but that’s a secret, so don’t tell it.

And why am I rejigging an old WiP, you may be wondering? Well, there are a few reasons.

I was asked several months ago to become part of a critiquing group for children’s writers in Ireland, which was an amazing honour. I immediately accepted, despite worrying that my relative lack of experience would impact upon the usefulness of my feedback – but so far, so good. Some of the members are fully-fledged published authors or people whose debut novels are forthcoming, some (like me) are those who’ve gained agency representation but not a book deal, and some are people who are aspiring to gain an agent or who simply like to write. All of us share one thing: we’re interested in improving. The group is fantastically well-organised, supportive, interesting and also demanding – which is a good thing. It’s important to give feedback which is as full and useful and honest as possible, and that takes time and effort, but it’s time and effort I have no problem expending.

I haven’t yet had to submit any of my own work for critique, though. That’s happening next month – or, in about three weeks’ time.

So.

I can’t submit any of ‘Emmeline’, because I don’t think that would be appropriate. So, I thought, what shall I submit?

Well. The first book I wrote after the initial, monstrous draft of Tider (if you’re an old-timer around here, you may remember this as ‘Tider Mark I’) was a story named Eldritch. It’s never really left my mind, even though it’s changed dramatically since I first wrote it. It was supposed to be the first part of a trilogy (now, it’s going to be a standalone); it once featured a very hard-to-pull-off narrative style which I’ve had to sacrifice in favour of picking one narrator over another (still not a choice I’m entirely happy with); it once featured a prominent girl character, who has now fallen beneath the editorial knife.

So, it’s a different beast, really. The characters are still in my head, though, and I know there’s something to be told here, a story which does exist, somewhere, and it’s up to me to find it. It’s changed, it’s morphed, it’s become something different from what I first imagined, but I know I have to try to tell the tale – and that the only thing which will allow me to see it properly is to try to look at the whole thing, the bigger picture. I want to submit the first three chapters to my critique group in a few weeks, and I want them to be three good chapters; I’m looking forward to learning from the incisive suggestions of my peers, of course, but I would like to do my best, all the same.

What I’m going to do, in order to get a handle on this book, is tape together several sheets of printing paper and do out a large diagram of the story, based around the ‘beats’ every plot should have. I’m then going to see if I can find the ‘corners’ of my story – the scenes I really want to include, the non-negotiable bits – and plot those out, in order to see how to connect them up in the most logical, interesting and dramatic way. It’s easy to get lost in the words when you’re trying to find your way through a story, and for them to become meaningless after a while. It’s like trying to scope out a landscape from ground level – it’s very hard to see beyond the next hill. If you’ve done a draft of your plot and it’s become ‘stuck’ in your head as the only way to complete a story, it can be hard to see another way to get from A to B, a way which could be far more elegant, interesting and neat. I think doing out this large diagram, then, is the way to go. I know my characters, and I know where they start off and where they end up, and I know what they need to go through in order to get from start to finish – and all that is important. But it’s the plot, and the ups and downs, and the intricate niggly bits, that I need to fill in, and for that I need a wide view.

So, it’s out with the paper and markers (I’ll refrain from using glitter, though, if at all possible), and hopefully my critique group – and my agent, who will no doubt be interested to know what I’ve been working on since I submitted ‘Emmeline’ to her nearly two weeks ago – will get a good, strong piece of work to dissect. I can’t wait to get their learned opinions, and to see what other eyes make of this revamped Eldritch. It’s a story close to my heart, and I hope they like it, but if they don’t it’s important for me to know, and to know why.

It’s good to start a new week with a refreshed sense of purpose and a determination to change up your perspective on an old problem, and I hope my attempts to sketch out a map to my imaginary world will be helpful. Stay tuned for more on how it all works out!

It’s the Most Busy Time of the Year…

Ding, dong, ding, dong!

So, yes. November. How are you? It only feels like a week or so since you were last here but apparently it’s been an entire year. (Did anyone see who made off with the last twelve months?)

November, my favourite month in many ways, and my least favourite in so many others. Loads of family events on (no fewer than seven birthdays among my friends and family, and that’s just the beginning of it), plenty of travelling all over the country going from the in-laws to the outlaws and back again, an important work event for my beloved, and an important work event for me (luckily on different weekends!) – and before we know it, December will have rolled around.

Time really does go quicker the older you get, I think. As I approach a painful age (one I’d really rather not face up to) I realise that the days are galloping past with gleeful disdain, hurrying my steps. When I was a teenager my mother used to say to me – pained expression turned up to max, of course – that she felt like a sixteen-year-old inside and that it was only like ‘yesterday’ since she was young and sprightly and that I was wasting my one and only youth and would I ever get out of that chair and put that book down and go out and meet people?! I used to think she’d lost her reason. Nobody I knew was more interesting than the people I met in books, and anyway I thought (as we all do when we’re teenagers) that I would feel young and capable forever.

Well, huh. It just goes to show your mama always knows best.

I have aches and pains in places I didn’t know I owned until they started to hurt. I’ve started making ‘old lady noises’ getting into and out of chairs. I have a dodgy knee. I don’t have any grey hair yet, but that’s possibly because my eyesight is failing. I am feeling every second of my age, and November reminds me that I’m getting older, for one of the birthdays I’ll be ‘celebrating’ during this month is my own.

*Sigh* Yeah. I feel your pain, young lady. Photo Credit: jDevaun.Photography via Compfight cc

*Sigh* Yeah. I feel your pain, young lady.
Photo Credit: jDevaun.Photography via Compfight cc

Luckily (I guess?), I’ve relieved myself of one mental burden this month, and that is ‘Emmeline’. I have returned the edits to my agent and I now have everything crossed that she doesn’t hand the book back to me pinched between thumb and forefinger, nose wrinkled, going ‘what on earth is this, then?’ The aim is to get the book good enough – good enough to catch the eye of a publisher, good enough to get a team of acquisitions people excited and enthusiastic, good enough to fall beneath the scalpel of yet another editor – and I can get on board with that. If we were trying to make it perfect, I think my brain would have clocked out a long time ago. I can’t deal with perfect; I can deal with good enough.

And so that means today is the start of a new-old project. I’m going back to basics and revisiting the first book I ever queried Polly with, one which she enjoyed and which she told me was good enough to engage child readers and make them look for other stories by the same author (which is catnip to anyone who writes, let me tell you); it wasn’t good enough for her to sign me, not at that point, but my aim is to bring it up to the same standard as ‘Emmeline.’ I like a challenge.

Essentially, I’m trying to make my agent fall in love with my work all over again. It’s a bit like a marriage, this agent-author relationship. It takes work and enthusiasm and openness and trust on both sides, and it can be dang scary – and one thing you should never do is take it for granted. So, I’m going to take everything I’ve learned from the editing process I’ve already been through, and bring it to bear on Eldritch, and hope to find a story I can polish.

No time like the present. Let’s begin!