Is it just me, or are you curious about how other writers write? There's a great series in the UK Guardian called Writer's Rooms. Recently they photographed the table Jane Austen wrote 'Pride and Prejudice' on - the picture is above. My first reaction was 'how'? How can you produce a manuscript on something so small? As they so rightly pointed out doesn't this image say it all about the modesty of true genius? She stole a corner of the hallway, and in that tiny space wrote books that people have loved for decades. I drive past her house quite often - beautiful warm red brick Georgian 'cottage' - actually quite a substantial village house. I'm dying to visit but haven't had a childfree day to do this - and just looking at that delicately balanced glass inkwell makes me glad I haven't tried visiting with the two year old ...
A new reader from Norway was kind enough to ask how the book is going. Well, it's with a great new agent - turns out things were not going well with the old one. Live and learn. A whole year of 'we love it, it's being submitted' turned into nothing. For various reasons it isn't going to be submitted until the autumn now, but I'll keep you posted. Being a real life published writer with a book people can pick up in the bookstore, Amazon or library would be a dream come true - up there with being a rock star or astronaut. It is, finally, tantalisingly close.
The book is about love and loss (this was the title for a long time). It's the story of a famous American war photographer's family. When Maya returns home to paint her estranged mother's portrait she discovers they are being blackmailed about her father's past, and family secrets unfold. The book is mainly set in the wild and beautiful Devon countryside where I grew up, (there's an earlier post about finding your bone), but ranges from New York to the South of France.
I started writing it ten years ago, longhand, on the kitchen table, so these characters feel like family. The first draft was huge - over 200,000 words when I transcribed it onto computer (with the keyboard balanced on my then boyfriend's sock drawer in the corridor of our first tiny flat in London). The manuscript slept for a while and travelled with us. When we settled in the orange groves of Valencia in Spain, I really started to learn how to write (let's face it, I hope we never stop learning - right?). We had no phone, no English TV, no internet connection, no mail. With the pilot away learning to fly it was me and a husky in the mountains - so I wrote. Everyday, I sent off submission after submission to magazines in England and America - and received rejection after rejection in our PO Box in the nearest village. I mean heaps of rejections. Hundreds. Which I used as kindling each night as I lit the logburning stove. (Never give up - never give in, it's the only way to learn). Finally, articles started being accepted. Short stories got published. Then I went back to the book, and I rewrote it as I waited for our first baby to be born.
There was another break of a few years when I had to work full time with one, then two children - writing was a dream, something I longed for. Finally, when we arrived in Hampshire two years ago I thought 'If I don't do it now ...' Which is when the first agent I wrote to picked up the manuscript. I worked with an editor they recommended and in August 2007 sent them the book. Then ... nothing. Perhaps only other writers can figure what the last year has been like. However, it is time to move on (perhaps you read the quote about brick walls in a recent post?) I love the new agent, and I think we can work together really well - certainly going to give it my best shot.
Now, I write in the basement on what was our kitchen table. It is nowhere near as small as Jane's and has a jumble of talismans scattered among the pages of the new book (Venetian mirrors, pebbles from Flying Point beach, icons from Spain, skeletons from Mexico). It's cramped, and I would love a view of the sky but it's where I work for now. So that's my story - and thank you for asking. I'd love to hear about how all of you work - and what are you working on?
TODAY'S PROMPT: Give yourself the gift of space. There is a beautiful photograph on Son of Incogneato's blog which to me defines this. Who wouldn't love to think and write there? You don't need wood panelled studies or vast desks. Jane Austen wrote at a tiny table. Stephen King recommended a small desk in the corner of the room. Find yourself a corner. Make it your own. If you have a writing space already but haven't sat down there for a while (like me ..) do something good for yourself - find a fresh picture for your board, give the table top a polish, or put a fresh bunch of flowers in a jam jar. Make it your own, enjoy it, use it.