Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Writing - art or craft? (as a pig in a poke I'm partial to old chestnuts)
It seems like a long time since I first began scribbling. It was actually eighteen months ago, no time at all; not long even as a proportion of my life. I believe I've blogged before about how I started writing because I found myself with time on my hands when my children left home and I relinquished a position of responsibility at work, although not my job iself. So, in a moment of boredom, I picked up a pencil and discovered I can write. I wrote compulsively for a few months and actually thought it was easy. I still find writing easy; producing a book is another matter altogether. Back to the confession... where was I? (OK I'll stop prevaricating) I completed a 'story' and thought, "this is rather good." So, in the spirit of having nothing to lose, and without having shown a word I'd written to another soul (talk about fools rushing in!) I typed up my 'work' and sent my MS off to 3 publishers who specialise in crime fiction.
Within 2 weeks (I kid you not) I had a phone call from a publisher who was interested. She asked me to send her the rest of the book. This is where it all began to unravel. In my ignorance - may I call it naivete? - I'd submitted what I thought was a book in its entirety, all 25,000 words of it. Discovering that a real book is a minimum of 80,000 words, I (oh the embarrassment!) cobbled together four stories I'd written (remember I'd been scribbling compulsively for about 4 months by now, 2,000 words a day every day, over 1/4 million words now if not more) and submitted that as my 'book'. Sensing a cornucopia of plots, my publisher promptly signed me up for 3 books, and brought in a brilliant editor to sort me out. Said editor read my work and immediately commented that it read like a collection of stories cobbled together. I was busted!
My publisher (whom I adore not only because she spotted potential in my (very) raw talent and gave me an opportunity to develop as a writer, but also because she is a genuinely lovely woman) and my editor (who could hone in on a splinter in a forest) have allowed me time to sort my ramblings into a coherent narrative. So I feel it's only fair to come clean and admit that the delay in publication hasn't been entirely down to 'other people'. It was me all along!!! I can only add that the past year has been the most amazing experience for me. Most writers work for years before finding a publisher. I've done it the other way round, finding a publisher and an editor and subsequently putting in the work. I've been incredibly lucky to have benefited from their advice. I only hope the book sells after all this and that my publisher feels it was worth the punt, speaking as a pig in a poke.
All of which raises the question: can writing succeed as a creative outburst, or is it a craft requiring thoughtful planning and careful refining?