Amidst all the positive and enthusiastic comment following the York festival, it seems almost peevish, certainly odd, to say that I am sitting here bewildered. But, although I would like to say I emerged clear on my new direction, firm of purpose, the truth is that I emerged blinking into the daylight, wondering where to go next.
I enjoyed every part of it. I learned a huge amount. I met some wonderful people, and I spoke to an agent who not only liked my work – sorry – really liked my work, but also said that she would like to read the rest of the novel.
So that’s easy isn’t it? All I need to do is straighten out a troublesome chapter, one final polish with the adverb-removing-rag, then print it out and send it off.
Who could be bewildered?
The problem is that there were two authors who stood and spoke to the whole festival and both of them said something that rang a huge bell in my head. Jo Jo Moyes and Stuart MacBride both spoke openly about the novels they had written before they wrote something good enough to be published. I think that between them we are looking at six or seven complete novels, all consigned to the attic.
To be clear, I’m not sitting here (in my bewilderment) thinking that a brace of second-rate early novels is a must. I’m also aware that plenty of first novels make it out there, and anyway, I already have an earlier novel sitting in the virtual drawer, gathering pixels. But ‘Dong’ that nagging feeling that won’t go away that there are some big structural issues, and ‘Dong’ the suspicion that ‘one or two’ passages may have been shoe-horned in purely to get the story from A to B, but mainly ‘Dong’ it needs a hell of a lot more work before it ought to go to that agent as a sample of the best I can do. There’s another ‘Dong’ lurking around there too – will it ever be good enough?
It’s not necessarily a bad thing this bewilderment stuff. I’ve told myself for ages that the novel has been tucked away because I needed some distance to get a perspective on it, whereas the truth is that I’ve been having more fun writing the new novel, or collection of short stories, or whatever it ends up as. Since being bewildered isn’t a particularly happy state, I have to do some serious work, and make a difficult decision at the end of it: to send or not to send.
So beware of this York business. It’s fun, but it isn’t always comfortable.