Was just going through my old posts and came across this one from 21 December last year.
It interests me that a year ago I had my first draft completed of my second novel manuscript (labelled VERSION1) and that I was trying to come up with a structure for it. What I was grappling for was form not structure. There is a difference between the two, although I’m not clear on what it is. Author Kirsty Gunn told me at the Melbourne Writers Festival that structure is something that can be edited or changed during editing. Form is the way you make sense of the content. If content is the what, and style is the way, form is the how. See, I told you it’s not clear.
But in that post almost a year ago I have a picture of a Turkish kilim, I was playing around with the idea of a carpet. But I was thinking of the superficial, more surface elements, of a carpet. I’ve gone with that idea but also since come up with another way of looking at a rug and consequently another way of applying form to the novel.
I sent my agent my finished ms, labelled VERSION27, about a month ago. What went into that piece of work in the last year? I’m not sure. I’d have to go back and see how it developed but it did develop over that time. A year seems fast to me though for others it would seem slow. My first book took me four years to get to the stage where my agent sent it out, so that’s not a rush. It didn’t come easily that one, this one came more easily. It was in my head a bit more formed almost from the beginning in many ways but then extra bits did go in over time. I’m waiting for Virginia to send me her edit suggestions any minute now and that’s really exciting (although not right now as it’s 7.14AM in NYC*) But maybe tomorrow? I’m really pleased and relieved that she likes this book too and is excited for it, though I don’t think either of us have forgotten the disappointments from earlier this year with the first thing (let’s call it ORANGE.) BUT, if this second one – SUGAR for short – can get over the line, in turn it will help to put ORANGE back in with a chance. I haven’t given up on ORANGE.
It’s interesting the different amounts of work that people put into their books. Some do a first draft and go over it and line edit it and think it’s finished and ready to go. But I can’t stress enough, if anyone’s reading, that it’s not ready, no matter how much you are sure it is. It’s easy to be impatient and excited, and want to show it to people. When it’s as good as you can get it, a trusted reader needs to look at it and give you honest feedback.
Sometimes I wonder how many novel manuscripts are out there, either in Australia or the world. It’s mind-boggling to imagine how many of us there are, all trying to get a bit of traction. It seems impossible at times, it’s so competitive, and especially now it seems publishers are very unwilling to take any risks at all. Worst time to be trying to get a first novel published? Who knows. All I know is it’s the time I’m trying, the time is now, and there’s no choice about it.
EDIT – I should add that the VERSION1 had been worked on for two years at least, it wasn’t a banged-out draft and was polished to a point where the prose was pretty tight and I’d already done a lot of structure work, narrative work and character work. I’ve just gone and checked, DRAFT1 is dated Nov 2010. And before that, there’d been a lot of work done. Wow, it’s like an archaeological dig. Or something.
* It’s weird, I’m operating in three time zones. My own here in Melbourne; my daughter’s in Turkey so that’s 9 hours behind, and Virginia in Brooklyn, for her I add 8 and made it the day before, and the same AM or PM. Or I google it.