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  • Marc Hamer

Updated: Nov 20


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…) It really helps that I don't have a proper job any more so I 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, don't have kids to look after any more, walk everywhere so at the moment I can just about live on what I earn from my books and I've never cared much about the future. If you want to be a writer, that is the way it is.

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



M.

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  • Marc Hamer

We’ve reached a crucial point in the writing of Tales of Spring Rain. The first edit. I haven’t done much on it for a couple of weeks, firstly we had a builder digging up the kitchen floor with a jackhammer because the floor that was laid when I had some money two years ago by a local builder (Terry Lee and Sons) cracked up, due (according to the insurance assessor who refused to pay out) to poor workmanship. Now I am skint. I mean really skint. Then it was my birthday, a big one, you know ‘The Big One’ and the remains of my house were taken over by relatives and friends who came to stay and fill me up with wine amid the concrete. Then we all got ill. Oh and then I decided to run and judge a writing competition for over 40’s (because I just got really pissed off with every writing opportunity being for under twenty fives) and that grew and I needed to read all the entries. Click the link above for details.

Progress was delayed (this is starting to read like ‘Ed Reardons Week’ isn’t it?). Anyway, I’m back on track. I have a beginning, a middle and and end, I have a plot, a story that feels strong and deep and a structure and I have reached my word count. There is (dare I say it myself) some really nice writing, but for me what is most important is the books personality, how it feels in the mind, its shape. I need to write things that I haven’t read before. (And I read an awful lot). I am looking for (in my reading and in my writing) an immersive experience that leaves me and the reader changed and I am pleased with how this book has opened up and developed, taken on a life of its own, shown me things that I didn’t know, revealed something from the depths.

I’m well on track for my submission and publication dates so I can afford to take my time with this edit. In a couple of weeks it will go to my first reader (Kate Hamer) who will give me the ‘Shit Sandwich’; firstly she will tell me how wonderful it is (to soften me up), then tell me what a cock I am and everything that doesn’t work or make sense, then tell me again how wonderful it is and what a marvellous writer I am (I do exactly the same for her work). The ‘Shit Sandwich’ is a technical term we writers use to describe any communication from our first readers, critics, agents and editors. Writers need the shit sandwich even though it is horrible and we must eat it.

This is the last book in what I think of as something of a trilogy, not a real trilogy but all on a theme. They had their own shape, this has another shape. I thought that it may possibly be the last book I would write but given the fact that I am now ‘potless’ due mostly to the said criminally inept builders and partially to my own profligacy I’ve started a notebook for a new book that I might write in the future if I can afford it - you need to have an income to be able to write. I was working as a gardener and a molecatcher when I wrote my first one, then the income from that allowed me to give up work and write my second one and so on. If there are decent sales I might be able to write another. I have ideas about an entirely different book from the previous three, a stand alone, but that is ‘pie in the sky’ at the moment.

I keep a notebook in the very early stages of a project, it helps me to form the shape of what’s going on in my head; every book has a shape, it starts as a cloud of ideas but as it grows and the ideas become connected to each other it takes on a three dimensional shape that has colour and music and feeling, I can almost feel it in my hand - when the shape starts to feel tight and spherical when it is harmonious and all the connections pulse and glow together, when it bounces instead of falling apart when I slap it, then the book is close to being the best that it can be and everything else is just finessing. So in the early days I keep a notebook to stop it all slipping away but once I get to work on a book, I never look at them, they are just the early experiments and the shape of what I’m writing tells me what it wants to be. I’ve got mountains of notebooks half filled that I have never opened since writing in them. I don’t need to once I have got going, I go where the book wants to go and the notes become irrelevant. I will have a huge bonfire at some point and get rid of them all.


Now it is time to bag up my notebooks for Tales of Spring Rain, clear my desk of the reference material and go back to a clean desk, a fresh bunch of flowers and a bottle of water. Today I’ll start to edit and rewrite, to clear the rubbish that hides its personality, the irrelevances, the sidetracks and so on. This is not always easy because there is always at least one piece of writing that I really love, that has to go if the story is to bounce.

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  • Marc Hamer

I have just typed the words 'THE END'. for the first draft of #TalesofSpringRain Now the work begins again.


I must go back to the beginning to go through it chapter by chapter, line by line, word by word to make sure that every single word is the right one, every single line is where it should be and that anything that is superfluous is gently removed and composted. It is like a garden, it has been designed, the hard structures are in place, the fences and gates and paths are there. Structure is everything in a garden and in a book. It has been planted. Some of the plants and young and need feeding, others are beautifully flowering and doing great. There's weeding to do, pruning, taking out some dead things and planting something wonderful in the gap. Adding lightness here and shade there, tearing out a bed that doesn't work and planting it again with something more appropriate. After I type 'The End' next time, perhaps at the very start of the new year. I will give it to someone else to read, they will see it with fresh eyes and tell me what they think of it and I'll go back to work again because they saw things that I had grown too close to see. It will feel horrible because I am close to it, it is my child, and even before it was born I imagined how perfect and beautiful it would be, pictured our wonderful life together, then I gave birth to it and loved and nurtured it and struggled with its wilfulness and tendencies to anarchy. I will not have any criticism of my child - and yet it must be done. It needs it. I am too close to see that parts of it are monstrous and it needs therapy. Even though I know, deep inside, with help it could be stronger, brighter, more beautiful.


I'll need to distance myself and leave it to the village to tell me all its faults. And some of those faults I'll love and feel it needs to make it human, so I'll keep and nurture them until they're strengths and others I'll cut out. Any child needs a village to raise it. People I know, people I trust to nurture my child. My agent, my editor, the proofreaders that again and again are its village and its teachers. And then it will be released and will be everybody's child and like any other book, must take its chances, hope for a powerful mentor or a lover to help it grow. It's gone beyond me.


One day I'll meet it, in a bookshop on a shelf and I'll say 'hello you, it's great to meet you here' and I'll remember the fun and the struggles we had together. I'll pick it up and open it at random and see a factual inaccuracy or a spelling mistake and I'll say, 'Oh well, what can you do.' You are who your are now and your life is your own.


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