It’s been a fun week, feeling all accomplished and happy, feeling that being able to use the phrase ‘I’ll talk to my agent’ is a Big Step. With EREN now going through line edits, and submission to publishers now very much a reality, it’s tempting to sit back, and think of that book as done. Except books are never really done – ask any writer you know. They get finished, and sometimes published, but there’s always tinkering to do, always things you missed out, or feel you shouldn’t have put in. Reading through EREN, even knowing I made it safe and onto an agent’s books, I still feel awkward. Did I write that? Why? That word’s a bit off. I shouldn’t have made him say that…
Books do get rereleased, of course, and sometimes authors are lucky enough to get a second chance. Mostly, though, the book has to be good enough in the writer’s eyes, even if it’s just plain old good to everyone else.
Now comes the switch, though. I feel like I’m at the end – a complete book! Edited and polished and minding its p’s and q’s! I have made it!
|Eren, Eren and agency contract in a big pile of happiness, avec stylish clips|
So where’s the next book?
There has to be another. If this is my life, where are the next few books?
The answer’s pretty simple. They’re in my head. It’s just getting them down on paper that’s the tricky part.
So I’m back at the beginning, in a way. And that’s brilliant. It’s exciting and frustrating and so, so rewarding to be working once more on a book which is raw and untamed and doesn’t make sense. New characters, new worlds, new feelings to write down. And everything I finish makes me better at writing the next stuff.
I’ve come to think, over the years, that books are like machines. They work like clockwork, I suppose, or like a great, hulking steam engine. There are different parts – dialogue, voice, tone, person, tense – that you have to understand to make them all fit together. You have to tinker and stand back, blowing your cheeks out, and saying ‘Well, that doesn’t work, does it? Wonder what happens if I do this…’
It’s writer as mad scientist and expert mechanic. It’s writer as engineer and handyman and inventor. Why doesn’t this character work? Here, try a No. 2 screwdriver and move his introduction to the third chapter. The writing is clunky and making a strange, pup-tang noice. Change it to the first person. Better?
Books are complicated things, in the end. They need watching over and taking care of, or, when you start them up and read them, they fall apart - or worse, don’t do anything. Just sit there, big empty piles of cold nothing, and you sit back and go, ‘Oh. I thought it was supposed to roar into life. Do you think I should have put this screw in?’
The best machines work amazingly and you can’t tell it, of course. A tiny white box that barely purrs and glows gentle colours, and it’s actually controlling all the phone lines in a city block. Books can be like that, too. If you don’t realise it’s writing, well then, that’s good writing. All the gunk and the innards and the workings of the beast are hidden deep beneath the pages, where only the author should look. Lift up the hood of a car, and most people can tell you just about where the oil should go. Goes for books. Authors should learn the craft, so they can fix things when they’re not working.
So I'm putting together a new book now, forcing the pieces together when they resist, banging and clattering and making a fine old mess and hoping - just hoping - that something pretty awesome rolls out at the end.