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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, 2022

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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  • 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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