Sunday, 30 May 2010
Zen and the art of novel writing (and quilt making)
How is your bank holiday weekend going? Mine is nice and quiet. Was going to see the quilts exhibition at the V&A on Friday night, but ended up going for dinner in the Wine Factory instead. Yes, it's true, the white wine is warm, but the food was very good, I thought. The service isn't rude - just sweetly laid-back, and the waiters all look like Botticelli angels which doesn't hurt. Last night I had a little Eurovision soiree - I was quite shocked that Cyprus and Azerbaijan didn't do better. And why Germany? I don't get it.
So as you may or may not have noticed, posting here has been sporadic of late. The reason being that I've been working a lot on a novel. I finished it in February and have been rewriting it ever since. Last week I sent it out, or the first three chapters, to two agents I used to work with in my previous incarnation as an editor, and I was lucky enough to get pretty immediate and very sweet nos, saying they enjoyed the material but they didn't think it could work in a crowded market - exactly the kind of phrases I used to use - with some very useful constructive advice subtly thrown in. I feel incredibly grateful to have such feedback, because I know most aspiring writers don't. Of course, it would be great if got published, but if it isn't, that's ok.
I really mean that. The thing is that I had fun writing it - a lot of fun, as well as lots of angst - and I've given it to some friends who genuinely enjoyed it. (Or at least they said they did. Hello friends, I believed you!) And ... although this might sound hard to believe, I feel that's reward enough. If everyone who had read it hated it, or if I hadn't been able to finish it, that would be sad. But as it is, I think I wrote a story that hangs together, that has a life about it and that entertained the people who read it - and I'm happy about that.
I know, from working in publishing, that choosing what books to publish - especially in the genre I've chosen, commercial fiction/chick lit/rom coms - is a commercial decision (the clue's in the name) and one that's very difficult. A debut novel has to be the beginning of a brand that will repay the (massive) effort that you put into launching it. When things get published, it's because the creative decisions of the author have meshed with the commercial imperatives of the publisher.
Does that sound sad? It's not meant to. I've made a conscious decision not to be a miserable aspiring writer: not to stress about things not working out, but to have fun with it, working hard on what I do but letting go of the outcome. I feel like I've learned to make a quilt, and can make more, if I put the time and effort in. It would be great to be able to sell them in a shop, but even if I don't, I can still have fun making them. I also think that happiness is a decision. Why not decide to be deliriously happy, with summer (sort of) coming in, and new quilts to make?
In any case - I promise I'll post more regularly. So watch this space ...