So anyways, I’ve finally finished the re-write for the novel formerly known as Finding John Smith. I’ve exported it from Scrivener into word and am now running through to make sure everything makes sense before sending it back to the editor.
This book, by the time it’s released, will have taken double the amount of time to write as Big Girls Don’t Cry did. It’s also been so much harder than I thought it would be.
It didn’t start out that way- the first 65,000 words flew from the keyboard in just over a month. Flew, I say. But man, did I struggle once I went back to the partition job in January. To say the first six months of this year has been inordinately stressful would be an understatement, and I found that as I wrote, I was subconsciously writing the chaos of my own life- not that of my heroine, Max. Even though my circumstances were very very different to hers, it felt as though it cut too close to the bone- so I pulled back and I fought it.
In doing so, I was left with a first draft that felt both light and flabby at the same time. The story that had so excited me back in November no longer had a theme to it. In trying not to write how I was feeling, I’d somehow removed that too.
But then two things happened.
Something my BMF said triggered a memory. We’d been talking about something completely unrelated when he reminded me of the time I was repainting our bedroom and debating colour choices. He’d said something like, ‘Isn’t your bed dark wood or mahogany or something like that?’
‘Are you going to change your bed?’
‘No. My husband likes it.’
‘Right. So why are you fighting it? Design for what you have rather than what you think it should be.’
On this particular day he said I was doing the same thing- trying to come up with a solution that controlled what was happening rather than working my solution into what I knew about what was happening.
It occurred to me that I’d been doing the same with this book- in fighting the words that were coming out, I was effectively watering down the emotions. So I went with it. I think it’s added a depth of feeling that was missing in the first draft.
The second thing was something my editor, Nicola, said. We’d been talking about Max’s motivations- why she needs to grow in the direction I was sending her. While I was able to talk through that, the single word that I like to have at the back of my mind as an over-reaching theme was missing.
On re-reading the structural letter, I saw it. There’s a lot of movement in this book, Nicola had said. She said some other things around sense of place as well, but it was this sentence that was important.
There is a lot of movement in this book- both physically in terms of the locations I’m using, and metaphysically (man, I hate that term….). In any case, the massive change in locations is necessary to tell Max’s story. One of the inspirations for Max’s made-up village, Brookford, is in the pic above.
I had my word: movement.
Whatever else this book is about, it’s primarily about movement: moving on, moving past, moving back, moving up, moving through, moving away, moving out. Movement. Like in the Abba song: life is motion, move on….