And so it begins! For more months than I can remember I've been unable to proceed with my new novel. Finally, I had an epiphany: before I could begin writing again, I had unfinished business to tend to.
The two (out of four) highly critical examiner's reports on the novel I wrote as part of my Masters of Arts degree had effectively cut me off from any connection with my nascent creativity. That involuntary divorce from my cherished dreams affected me more than I realised.
Emerging from the sense of loss surrounding the creative part of me that I was only just beginning to discover was the question of whether I believed their judgement or not. Objectivity and honesty compelled me to agree that the novel still needs much work before it becomes anything approaching a publishable manuscript. Their subjective opinion of my writing talents is, however, questionable.
While I’m no literary equivalent of Elvis Presley, what would the world have done if Elvis had believed his early critics? As Peter Guralnick writes in his “Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley”, band leader Eddie Bond told Elvis to stick to driving a truck “because you’re never going to make it as a singer.”
A view of the road ahead from a crumbled ruin is vastly different to a view of the road coloured by bright dreams of being instantly published and instantly famous. From the opposing perceptions of my potential as a talented writer, another question arose. Did I still want to write now that the writing journey facing me altered the landscape of my dreams?
Three, seemingly small and unrelated, incidents helped me make the decision:
On his blog, the sunny literary agent Nathan Bransford presented the hypothetical question “if a seer told you, with 100% accuracy, you don't have the talent to be a published writer, would you still write?” My answer was yes.
I read a book by Noah Lukeman called “The First Five Pages”. In his epilogue, Lukeman spoke of being “devoted” to getting a book published in an industry notorious for its obstacles and challenges. His last words re-defined his sense of where a writer’s devotion should lie. Rather than aiming only to get published, he said, an author should become devoted to the craft of writing for the sake of writing. He then posed the same question as Nathan Bransford: if you knew you would never be published, would you still write? My answer was yes.
I stumbled across the self-published phenomenon “The Shack” by William P Young. While I had some problems with the novel, its success also revived my dream. If there are people interested enough to read this book, perhaps my voice would also, one day, find an audience.
These three notes played the introduction to a tune I had been ignoring: The Rewrite Reggae. Before I can start any new novel, I need to complete my unfinished business. I need to re-write the novel, changing it from what was essentially a first draft submitted as a requirement for my Master's of Arts degree into a professional manuscript. Not with the primary goal of being published (although what writer doesn’t want to get published?) but with the desire to take my vision (no matter how “far-fetched” the university examiners found my ideas!) and lovingly re-mould it into a better story. Perhaps not into the best book ever written, but simply the best book I can write now. And so the dance begins...
I stole 3 hours from life yesterday to focus on starting to learn The Rewrite Reggae. There is more work ahead than I anticipated, and I'm beginning to think my examiners’ comments were lenient!
Do you know it’s possible to have 765 words ending in “-ing” and 339 words ending in “-ly” in a mere 33 pages? (Yes, you read those stats correctly!) Josephine loyally helped me click the different coloured highlights and you can see (to the left) how she felt after two hours work. I felt much the same!
The dance lessons did provide some spring to my steps, though. I’d been wrestling with my setting but with some productive research time, I may have found the solution. But it requires (you guessed it!) a lot of hard effort so I should be working on the dance steps and not blogging my time away.
Did you see there were TEN words ending in “-ing” in this short post? I need to go and practice more...