• Marc Hamer

Having finished writing Tales of Spring Rain and sent it to my editor, I’ve burned my notebooks as I always do at the end of a project, they are just working notes and are finished with. Burning the notes is a moment of celebration when I can stand over the bonfire with an old fashioned and toast the new book. I have a few weeks before my editor Liz gets in touch, usually she sends me a letter identifying strands, asking questions, making suggestions and then the word-processed document itself comes back full of edits, track changes and so on. I’ve printed and bound my copy and when Liz has got back to me I’ll go to work on that, incorporating and changing it on paper. I do it on paper so I don’t have to sit at a screen doing the same thing over again, I can edit in bed, on a train, in a coffee shop. I’m trying very hard to reduce my screen time, it’s not healthy.

The sitting at my desk and writing part of this job is over for a few weeks. Until Liz comes back with her comments I can just hang out, do a bit of gardening, some office work, neglected tax returns, cooking, cleaning. My bathroom is clean, my floor is mopped, my desk is clear and back to the Zen like purity it has before I started work and while I try to forget all about the book so that I can come back to it as if it were fresh and new to me, my mind fills up in the early waking hours, the unguarded hours with ideas as the underlying themes start to reveal themselves. This is how it always goes, I send the book off thinking I am done with it and as soon as it has gone, the ideas start to flow again. The themes always reveal themselves at the end. That’s how it is with me anyway. Some writers put their work away for six weeks before they send it off. I can’t do that, I’m hungry and over-eager, needy. I send it off before its ready. Perhaps next time I'll be more grown up.

So ... arising while I try to forget the book are some of the themes of the story; getting rid of stuff, discarding the things that hold you back. Throwing out the past, death clearing as the Swedish call it. Pulling things out Marie Condo style and getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy, or as William Morris said: 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be beautiful or believe to be useful’. The inevitable consequences of such clearing being freedom, happiness, joy. But there's a deeper theme of examining internal things that are not beautiful or useful including thoughts and beliefs, memories, feelings of loss, anger, hatred, fear. Exploring the usefulness of bad thoughts, reactions to bad news and the consequences of that on the individual, on relationships. I think some of these ideas are clear in the text and others are nodded to and need clarifying.

Apart from those themes, this is a Cinderella story, poor Cinders and her hard life she escapes her past, burns it to ashes, leaves her family and their expectations and becomes happy Cinders who is left with a beautiful present. But at a cost. Of course it is all set in a garden, and there's a mole or two, and in this story, Cinders is a man. It is a simple story, I hope you’ll like it.

Before then, I think I have a lot more work to do to make it ready for you.

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  • Marc Hamer

3rd February 2022

Today I sent version 4.0 of ‘Tales of Spring Rain - finding peace’, to my editor. Liz Foley at my publisher Harvill Secker. It is my version 4.0 but to her it is a first draft, she has never seen it before, knows nothing about it other than what I suggested it might be about when I wrote my proposal over a year ago. If you scroll down through all the previous blog posts here you'll see my initial post on 1 March 2021 when I had recently started work on this book and you'll be able to follow some of its progress.

A few weeks ago I’d sent version 3.3 to my Agent, Robert and then had a little holiday over Christmas, visiting family in France. After Christmas Robert came back with lots of excellent observations, things I hadn’t seen, things I hadn’t thought of, observations on how it made him feel. Another agent once observed that when a reader has finished a book they might not hold onto the story, but they certainly hold on to how it made them feel.

In my writing I want to do many things. I know that I work with feelings and firstly I want to help people to feel that no matter what is going on in their lives, or who they are, things will change - things always change - the only permanent thing in life is change and so we can use this change to overcome the problems we face. I want people to be left feeling hope and I also want to leave people feeling wonder, this world is an amazing place to be in, even if it does hurt. I want to give people a sense of all this poetry - and a space while they are reading where they can explore that poetry. I want to write in a way that is poetic and beautiful and I want to tell a story that holds it all together, that has all the elements of story and finally and most importantly for me is that I want my writing to somehow transmit a feeling of inner peace, of peace and calm that will persist when they have finished reading the book. I think it works, I hope it does.

So Robert's observations and suggestions help me to get closer to this, he tells me what he feels doesn’t work, how he reacts emotionally and intellectually to what I have written, he suggests that parts might get rearranged rewritten or cut and I listen to him because I trust him. So a few weeks of slow editing, trashing, cutting and pasting, rewriting. Then I sent it to my Kindle so I could read it as a book and then followed a few more days of cutting, editing & rewriting until I felt that I could do nothing more with it. It is finished.

Except of course it is not, My editor will read it and I will listen to her thoughts and feelings and comments, I trust her too so I will take her ideas on board. I enjoy the editing process especially working with the people I do, it's a dialogue between different minds and the work is now no longer solely mine, it is out, has been presented to people in the world, it is like your child's first day at school.

I don’t always agree with my agent and editor or my wife Kate who is my first reader and when I don’t I fight for it. Books are not written by committee - well, some are but mostly not. When you get close to a piece of work, when it is your days and nights, when it sleeps, wakes eats, and walks with you, when it is the breath you breathe you need somebody to tell you what you have missed or tried to get away with, or escape from, where you have been lazy or forgetful or just wrong. Many writers are by nature solitary, I am one of those and so we can get a bit weird, disconnected and it helps to have it pointed out. Weird and disconnected is not a bad thing, it is just that sometimes we don’t make sense to other people.

So now I’ll wait for my editor to come back with her thoughts ideas and feelings and version 4.1 will be born. I will be happy for a little break while I wait, this is an intense process, a dialogue between us about something that has up until recently been deeply personal work and so this work has now gone a little public and I get to find out if I am mad or not.

Of course what also happens now, personally, as I come to the end of the writing part of this work, is I begin to wonder what I am going to do with my life next.

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  • Marc Hamer

Updated: Feb 11

I wrote a proposal for Tales of Spring Rain on 4th February 2021 and today 19th November 2021, I printed out the first draft of the whole book.

That’s not very long really, but I was thinking about the book for about a year before the proposal was finalised. I actually wrote another little book in the summer of 2020 while I was thinking about this one. (But more of that later…) I used to have to do a full time job to support my writing but I'm lucky that I don't have to do that any more and can write every day. It took years to write the first book because I had to work for a living at the same time but I don't eat much and I've never cared about the future. If you want to be a writer or any kind of artist, that is the way it is unless you are wealthy or have a wealthy partner.

Tales of Spring Rain has met paper for the first time and is in the hands of my ‘first reader’, who is of course Kate. Now I have to wait. And wait. Nobody has seen this story before. I’ve lived with it privately for a year or more in which time both the story and myself have undergone many transformations. Nobody has seen it. Kate will read it and approach me with a serious face because she thinks it’s funny to frighten me, then she will tell me what she thinks. She will be brutal, she always is, she is a professional. And I will hate it but be grateful and gracious. I have lived so closely with this story that I have inevitably become blind to some of it. I want her to say ‘it is wonderful’ of course, but I need her to tell me what, in her opinion, doesn’t work. Some of her criticism I will agree with because deep down in my subconscious I already know what is wrong with it, she will help me to bring it out. Strangely Kate always says the same thing to me as I am her first reader, in the subconscious we already know its flaws just as we know the flaws of our children but would never dare utter them to a living soul. I won’t always agree with her of course because it is my story and I have to stand by my artistic vision of the book, but often I will agree and make some changes. Most of the changes will involve cutting.

The writing is far from over. This is the living cow wandering in the field, from which we will make a wonderful meal. (Why am I saying this, I am a vegetarian! Anyway you get the analogy). Things can get a bit hectic now that much of the long process of fertilising and feeding this book to make it fat and juicy has been done. There will be different edits of this MS flying around, so to keep track of this I give each edit a number. This is version 1.3. I am reader one and have made three distinct edits. Kate will be reader 2 and any edits I make with her will be numbers, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2 and so on. Then my agent will read MS 3.0 and I’ll make more edits before it goes of to my editor who will be reader 4 and her edits will possibly go as far as version 4.5 then proofreading and copy editing and so on. By the time it goes to the printer as a book it could easily be version 7.0. Each edit will be an improvement, a correction, sometimes a compromise, each cut improving the book as a whole and helping it to become the best book it can be. It is no longer my book. It is in the world and building its own life with its teachers and mentors and I am free!

Oh, I was going to tell you about that other book. In the summer of 2020 while I was thinking of this book but had not yet got as far as a proposal. I wrote another little book for fun. We got trapped in France because of Covid, locked down and could not leave and I spent the summer taking photographs of the street cats that lived in that town. While I was working with the pictures I thought about how every cat I had ever known had taught me something about timing and relaxation, about conserving energy and remaining calm so I wrote a book to go along with the photographs. I called it ‘Every Cat’s a Buddha’ and sent it to my agent who enjoyed it and sent it to a variety of publishers, some of whom were very complimentary about the book, none of whom would publish it. Their responses were, quite correctly that this is a ‘little gift book’, a book to sit at the check-out, but none of the checkouts were open or likely to be for some time. My favourite response though was that there were dozens of similar books being written at this moment by actual monks rather than gardeners. We pictured each of the publishing house as having a resident Buddhist monk in their saffron robes sitting in the basements, all banging away at MacBooks.

Why am I telling you this? Because the life of a writer is an odd one, you speculate on what might sell, some obsess about the charts, emulate other writers, but you have to forget all that and write your own book and let it take its chances, because it is the only book you can write at the time. We try to think of it as a business and for many of the people involved in the process it is, but for writers and many of the other people involved in producing a book, it is an art and - the only art you can do - is the art that you can do at the time and it might fly or it might fall. Sometimes a person’s art hits a note that makes a reader ring like a bell, and sometimes it doesn’t. It has to take its chances.

It is time for ‘Tales of Spring Rain’ to take its chances.

Peace and love


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