After years of thinking about it, months of writing, weeks of editing, and days of anguishing over every last detail, I have finally finished the book and am ready (maybe) to pitch it to publishers.
It’s not perfect, but it’s about as perfect as it’s going to get without the eye of a professional editor and I have to accept that if it is ever going to stand a chance of seeing the light of day beyond my computer, I have to let it go. Let it go.
Will it be any good? Does anyone want to read it? Since my pitch is premised on the idea that there’s interest, I certainly hope so!
Just over a year ago, on Bastille day in fact, I handed in my notice, to spend time living and writing in the Pyrenees. I didn’t know if I could do it. Did I have a book in me at all? Could I write it in the time available? Plenty of people, including me, thought I couldn’t – or wouldn’t. Too little time, too much distraction. I was prepared to fail, but I knew if I didn’t make the time to give it a go, I would always regret it.
And so, I set about it. And it was hard. It was about as hard as I thought it would be. And then some. It took me two weeks of solid writing to get to 25,000 words before I stalled. I couldn’t see a way forward. For at least a week I went nowhere. I contemplated giving up, and just calling it a long holiday. But I’d told too many people my plans, for that to fly.
Finally I had the courage to unpick thousands of words and mercilessly restructure, and I moved forward again – at a snail’s pace. Several weeks later I eventually hit 50,000 – and writer’s block. A friend came to visit. I procrastinated. We daydreamed and went sight seeing. I knew what had to be done and I didn’t want to do it. I’d been here before. I sent the draft out to a friend, who confirmed what I suspected. The substance was good, but a reorder was needed.
Over a week, fueled by more coffee and less sleep than is probably advisable, I painfully and painstakingly unpicked and restitched the story together, until I had a frame that made more sense. Eventually I regained more words than I had lost. The fact that my 12-year-old was writing a book at the same time and had hit 35,000 words around this time, may have been some additional motivation.
In the nick of time, within just a fortnight of returning to New Zealand I had a whole book. Or at least a rough draft of something vaguely resembling a book. Over one last marathon three-day weekend, with the boys snowed in Andorra and nothing to distract me, I spent almost 24 hours a day doing a complete edit. And so, the book was done. If nothing else it would be something to leave to the boys to explain their mother’s madness. That alone felt like enough of an achievement.
Or was it done? After we left Quillan, I put my ‘pen’ aside while sending the draft out for peer review, and then the hard work of major editing and rewriting really started. In deliberately putting it out to those I know wouldn’t hold back, I have had to be open to (constructive) criticism. I can’t tell you it’s been easy, but it has been worth it. It’s definitely better for the fresh eyes, and thanks to a thorough proof from several wise heads, it should also have been grammar-checked to within an inch of its life.
Any imperfections (and misplaced accents) are now mine alone, and I can live with that.
So can I let it go? And will you read it? Maybe I should just review that pitch one more time to be sure…