other blog a relatively upbeat piece about how I'm now intending to write a completely new novel instead of working on the sequel to the ms I recently completed.
This is a sound and exciting course of action; but, as some readers of this blog may suspect, there is more to the story behind my decision to leave a cast of characters who I've been hanging out with for . . . oh, around 10 years. Probably longer, if I'm brutally honest.
And this is going to be a brutally honest post, more so than that other, which -- while every word of it is true -- is a rather carefully crafted piece of spin. Indeed, my 10 years in PR have not gone to waste. (Although I think Hayley saw through it!) But I'm going to tell the whole story here on my 'secret' blog, because many of you readers have travelled with me some distance along this journey and I want you to know what is really going down.
The truth of it is that I have been receiving feedback on that first ms (the one I've been slaving over for years) over the past month or so. Some of my readers have really liked it, which is always wonderful to hear and does my confidence a world of good. Others, however, have pointed out some major flaws that are rather difficult to fix. Most of my readers seem to agree that the characters, world-building/setting, narrative (writing), structure are generally solid. The major sticking point is that the story sucks.
Well, OK, 'sucks' might be a bit strong, but the main point is that what actually happens is not compelling enough to stand out from the crowd. It holds together as a novel, but it's probably not going to rock your socks off -- or attract the eye of a publisher.
Deep down I have probably always known this, but I kept telling myself that I could fix it. It's amazing how blinkered you can get when immersed in something you're passionate about. How blind. The signs have been there for years: the number of times I have refused to tell anyone what the story was about 'because it sounds silly'. DOH DOH DOH
Thus am I unveiled as a complete idiot.
I have never known the right time to give up on anything. (Mind you, I'd be two uni degrees down if I was otherwise.) The time to give up on this one was probably about four years ago, before embarking on this latest rewrite that has itself taken far far too long.
So my first ms is broken and it's probably time to let it go. I'm not abandoning it completely, but it's going on ice for the moment. Perhaps one day I will come back and cannibalise some of the good parts and write a better story. But it is likely to be a different story to the one that captured my foolish attention so long ago.
And the thing to remember is that this is perfectly normal. As I said in the other post, statistically, first novels never make it. But of course you always hope that yours will be the exception and that's what keeps you going. I don't regret spending time on that novel because it has enabled me to refine many of my writing skills; I have always considered it my apprenticeship piece. Perhaps I do regret spending so many years getting to this point, but, well, there's absolutely nothing I can do about that now so the only direction to head is onward.
Yes, the past week has been incredibly tough. There have been many tears and much much doubt. I have consoled myself with chocolate, wine and coffee (and the knowledge that at least some people liked it!) . . . And of course I've been wondering whether maybe I should just get another proper job and give the whole idea of writing fiction away.
But it's not the first time I've felt like I'll never make it, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Dealing with rejection and failure is part of the territory of being a writer. God knows why we put ourselves through it, but we do, and we pick ourselves up and keep turning up for more. In any case, I am actually feeling positive about my new proposed novel. Already I'm confident that at heart it's a much better story. I just hope that I can do it justice!