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  • Marc Hamer

First readers and glowing balls

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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