And lo, it was February, and the never-ending task of editing the 12 books I wrote across the 12 months of 2011 began in earnest.
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure where to start with this. Some people might choose the beginning, but frankly I didn’t wanna. I could lie and tell you this is because I’ve read so many articles saying starting at the beginning is narrative suicide, but (as I mentioned at the beginning of this sentence) that would be a lie.
It’s actually something of a practical issue. I’ve lost around an hour a day to the 28 Drawings Later challenge this month, so in editorial terms I wanted something I could go back to and just edit. However, the first book I wrote last year, Caligula’s Blog, deserves a lot more research than I managed to do at the time, which means I can’t just jump straight back in. Well maybe I could, but as discussed, I don’t want to. I want to be able to take a few hours at a time to get really immersed in the history of it so that I go back with as accurate a timeline as possible and much more in-depth knowledge of the period.
So, the beginning turns out not to be a great place for me to start. However, help is at hand in the form of a couple of competitions – The Dundee International Book Prize, which I mentioned in a post last month, and The Kelpies Prize.
Both of these involve having a novel ready to go by the end of February, and having taken January off this writing and editing lark I had no intention of entering either of them this year.
29 days would not be long enough to get anything into a readable state, I thought to myself. Half of my books are not even first draft stage really, they are draft zero. The beginnings of ideas and the stretching of my writing brain in new directions do not necessarily make for a smooth read. To be honest I’ve felt some real trepidation at the notion of going back to them, particularly the volumes written from June to September, which are almost certainly awful.
Then I had a conversation with my parents, in which it was pointed out to me that worrying whether stuff I wrote is going to embarrass me when I re-read it on my own in the comfort of my own home is colossally stupid.
It was also pointed out that nobody who writes ever thinks their stuff is truly finished, and that published authors quite often say re-reading their own stuff is awful because you see so many mistakes and things you would now do differently.
I countered, perhaps a little childishly, that I can tell the difference between ‘this probably needs further work but is good enough to send a few chapters to a professional who knows what they’re doing’ and ‘this reads like something that was written in 30 days and sent to 100 publishers at random before even stopping to add page numbers’. Then came an epiphany: submitting to a competition is not quite the same thing as querying an agent or publisher, and if I give it a go I have nothing to lose and something approximating a finished manuscript to gain.
The upshot of all this is that I decided to give one of these competitions a punt. Or more accurately, I decided I’d aim to have something readable in time for the deadline, which I could then choose to submit or sit on a bit longer. To be honest, whether I actually enter is of less concern to me than having something in a semi-finished state.
But which competition to aim for? To be honest, this was a bit of a no-brainer – I’ve always wanted to write for children, May’s fantasy book for kids is one of the most complete drafts I have, and only one of these competitions – the Kelpies Prize – is for children’s fiction. That’ll be the one for me, then.
I did consider the Dundee competition seriously as well – not least because the prize is bloody amazing (publication by Cargo and a cool £10k, you have to take such things into consideration!). However, I really don’t feel any of the stuff from last year that I’d deem suitable for this competition is complete enough for me to turn into a finished manuscript in such a short space of time. The trade off from not bullying myself into reaching 50k every month in 2011 is a smaller volume of stuff to work from (although hopefully the writing is slightly higher quality), which necessitates more work at the re-writing/editing stage.
However, one good thing that came from my ruminating on how to come up with something enterable was that I might have quite an interesting darkly comic novel if I combine books 3 (Victor McGlynn) and 6 (Michty) into one novel rather than two. I actually got quite excited about the potential in this, and am definitely going to do it – just not right now.
So, I’ve been working away on my book for the bairns (well, 8-12 year olds) and a first draft of that – as in one I am happy for other humans to read – is nearly complete, which is very exciting. I still don’t know whether I’ll enter the competition with it, though. I think I need other people to read it and tell me whether they think it’s worth it.
On that note, if you aren’t busy over the next few days and fancy a look, please drop me an email! The word count is currently sitting at around 45k, which isn’t very long (well, it is a kid’s book) – and I’m after people to point out any stupid mistakes and also constructive criticism to help me decide whether to trouble the lovely people at Floris Books with a print out or leave them alone!