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.