Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Wanderer Returns

You might remember the tale of how I deleted my first ever novel, after receiving a handful of rejections - conveniently ignoring the fact that I also had two requests for the full ms at the time, as well as lots of positive feedback. I was too stupid inexperienced at the time to know that was a Good Thing and literally wrote the story off.

Well, while my Mum was staying recently she said one afternoon, "I've still got that manuscript you gave me to read. Such a shame it didn't come to anything."

WHAT?? For some reason I thought she'd thrown it away, an assumption she was quite rightly offended about. "I'd never do that," she said touchingly.

Anyway, I asked her (nicely) to send it to me and it turned up today almost as good as new.



A couple of things struck me reading bits of it. Firstly, the optimum amount of time between finishing your novel and editing it should be roughly 5 years. It really was like reading something written by someone else.

Secondly, it wasn't that bad. Nowhere near as awful as I'd imagined it would be. I could kind of see why there'd been some interest, looking back. There's a cheery simplicity to the writing, that keeps it flowing. I hadn't overthought the story - I didn't even edit it, I was that naive.

I knew what it was going to be about and I wrote it in about three months. It dealt with things that were close to my heart at the time - email dating (don't ask) volunteer work and photography - so I didn't have to try too hard with the research. Well they do say your first novel is the closest to being autobiographical, though I'm sure plenty of authors would dispute that. This one for instance. I hope!

We'll gloss over the fact that I committed the cardinal sin of designing (yes designing, on the computer) a cover page for my novel, with plenty of pink, and a whimsical clip-art female sitting under a tree, which I submitted along with the manuscript. Beyond embarrassing.

But still ... I wish, wish, WISH I could recapture whatever it was I was doing right then, because it occurred to me as I was flipping through it that I can either do it again, because I did it once, OR - I had one book in me, that was it and the moment has well and truly passed.

I do hope it's not the latter.

28 comments:

Anna said...

It's not the latter, I sense there is much still for you to say... :)))

As for TTTW, the first half was good, but I ended up skimming the second, and can't believe how little was in the film. As if they took the idea, then shot a bunch of glossy scenes with heavy CGI.

Or maybe it's only me...

Good luck with that refit! Upheavel, novel and blog fodder, it's all good for something!

Fia said...

Mums - aren't they/we brilliant?

You had two requests for an unedited first novel and you didn't take them up on it? OMG. I wouldn't have had a clue either but then my novel got a blunt 'No' from publishers.

Utterly wonderful that you have a second chance with this.

Karen said...

anna - Typical Hollywood treatment I reckon! Yes it's all going to be going on here - good job we've got a week's holiday first :o)

fia - Mum's are the bee's knees :o)

I DID submit the full ms both times, but sadly it was a no. One agent said my MC wasn't "well-rounded" enough, the other said the story needed a stronger "second thread." By the time I re-wrote and re-submitted, the ship had sailed :o( (That's when I deleted it, in a fit of pique!)

ChrisH said...

Go for it! I hope rereading your novel gave you bags of confidence - if folks were asking you for full m/s they liked it.

SpiralSkies said...

Do you not think it's a sign of sorts that you should revisit this novel, since it's literally revisited you? Gawd bless your mum. They're not bad old sticks, are they?

How lovely that it wasn't gone forever.

Alis said...

Hi Karen - there are some things I really like about my first novel too - some phrases I still remember being impressed by all these years later (seventeen or thereabouts...)
But you need to hold on to that thought - you did it once. I don't buy into the whole 'only one book in you' thing. Apart from Harper Lee...

Gonna be a writer said...

Thank goodness for mothers. If its any consolation to you I did a similar thing with the first "novel" that I wrote when I was 18 (so that was a million years ago.)

JJ Beattie said...

I KNOW it's not the latter... wow, cheers for mothers everywhere!

Kerry said...

No, it's not the latter! This is brilliant...manuscript finds it's way home like plucky lost child...perfect interview angle for when you revisit and it's published. Or, just look at those pages and know that you did it once you can do it again with five years of knowledge and experience. I'm proper excited for you.

Bernadette said...

How wonderful to have it back! There's plenty more in you yet, that's for sure, but any reason why you don't want to rework the old novel now you have it, and with the experience you've gained over the last few years? It came so close, who knows what another edit could do?(I assume you'd have to retype, but that may make you look at it with a different eye anyway!)

Queenie said...

If you could do that well five years ago, I'm sure you can do even better now.

Honeysuckle said...

Don't be daft! Of course you didn't just have one novel in you!

And your mum...how wonderful is she?

HelenMHunt said...

I'm so glad you got it back. I think it's definitely worth retyping it - editing as you go with the benefit of the intervening years of experience and success - and then get it out there again. It's obviously got something special about it.

Debs said...

I definitely think you should either edit it, or know from writing something that did receive interest, that you've done this once, you can do it again.

How wonderful of your mum to have kept it, and in such good condition too.

Edward said...

I agree - give it another go. But I'm lazy, and the thought of actually writing a novel (compared to editing one) is a no-brainer.

channelislandsauthor said...

What a gift! Your editing will be so much easier with the time lag; you won't go on autopilot when you read. Best of luck with it!

Tam said...

Yes!!!!! It was soooo meant to be a book :-)

TOM FOOLERY said...

Tommo is raising a (lukewarm) glass of wine in celebration of your great news :) Well done Mummy Clarkey. Now start fiddling with it again and re-submit Ms Writer you. Tommox x

Lily Sheehan said...

What a nice surprise she kept it. My mum is my biggest fan so I always go to her when I need an opinion.

Suzanne Jones said...

What a wonderful surprise. (I know for a fact that my mum threw my first two typwritten mss on a bonfire before a house move, so I'm especially pleased for you.).

X

Michelle (Mickmouse) said...

This may well be a diamond that needs polishing. Mums are better than a memory stick when it comes to things their kids do, believe me!!
Hope you will give it another look - lots more in you I am sure!
Michelle
x

womagwriter said...

Well done your Mum! Get editing!

Karen said...

chrish - I think after I've finished with the current one I might go back and see what can be salvaged :o)

spiralskies - It might be worth tweaking, but some of it's quite dated. I even mention Carol Vorderman in Countdown at one point - and the Iraq war (not in the same sentence, thankfully.)

Hi Alis :o) I think it might be a case of holding onto the thought rather than the story - though I won't chuck it away just in case!

gonna be a writer - Firstly, I can't access your new blog and I don't know why!!!!

Do you ever wish you hadn't got rid of that novel, or is it a blessing in diguise?! It's interesting to look back if nothing else, and see how you've improved (or not!)

jj - Yes, mother's definitely have their uses! The pages actually smelt of her house :o)

kerry - Ooh yes, I like the idea of it being an interview story! I just need to get published first ...

bernadette - Oh blimey, the thought of retyping it all makes my head spin! If I thought the story was worth it I'd do it, but I'm not convinced at the moment :o)

queenie - Thank you, I'll hold on to that thought :o)

honeysuckle - I like you confidence - I'll have some of that! And yes, she is rather wonderful :o)

helenmh - It's sooo tempting, and definitely something I'll think about when I've finished with the current novel :o)

debs - I couldn't believe it to be honest! She'd kept all wrapped up and everything, bless her :o)

edward - The idea of retyping it all does fill me with terror, so I'll have to be very, very certain it's worth it!

channelislandauthor - You're right, it's a great opportunity, and one I'll definitely revisit at some point :o)

tam - I wish I felt that sure, but we'll see :o)

tommo - Thank you for that m'dear :o) I'll finish fiddling with the current one first, otherwise I'll get horribly distracted!!

lily - Mum's are very good at bolstering confidence - even when it's misplaced :o)

suzanne - Oh dear, that made me laugh I do apologise! I totally thought that's what my mum had done with mine and wouldn't have blamed her if she did! I trust you've still got copies of yours somewhere though?

michelle - I should know being a mum myself that I'd never throw something like that away - or forget anything! I may well get the Mr Sheen on it one day :o)

womag writer - I will! Maybe ... One day :o)

Colette said...

Sorry about the confusion over my new blog karen but I'm glad you found it now.

Amanda said...

Karen, I can see without a shadow of doubt, you have more than one good book in you!!!! x

Karen said...

colette - I'm glad I found it too! Lovely name, by the way :o)

amanda - Thank you m'dear - I really hope so :o))

Lorna F said...

Well done your Mum, Karen! This is an amazing tale. I know when you look at something after a long period of time, it does seems as if somebody else wrote it. You've come up against a two-edged sword, in a way. On the one hand, we need as writers to continue to hone and develop our skills, so when we look at juvenilia it can make us cringe! On the other hand, there can be such a thing as knowing too much - in that you lose a kind of innocence. You become self-conscious, self-editing, and lose the instinctive joy you once had. Critical awareness is a necessity - but it can inhibit creativity. Finding the balance is the crucial - and difficult - thing. xx

Karen said...

You're so right Lorna - I think I've got it just about right with the latest effort :o)

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