Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When the writing isn't happening take a holiday in your bottom drawer...

So when the writing is slow I find myself drifting back to check out old material. I find myself staring wistfully at things that seemed a lot easier to write way back when (although like one of those perpetual reflections i probably turned away from those stories to stare wistfully at things written even further back in time - like the dark ages). This has the potential to be another unproductive distraction, or, as happened to me last weekend it could be like striking a seam of coal in the depths of a mine. While rootling around for no good reason (apart from the pretence of domestic industry) in some old papers I came across a letter from a publisher, the main thrust of which was to advise me of the illustrator they'd selected for my picture book Clever Moo (Scholastic, 2006). But as I let my eyes trail idly down the page I spied a sentence which referred to another picture book submission I'd made. The story had potential but there were some issues. It was going to be discussed further. A month later I received a form rejection and because I was a bit green back then I let it go. I put the story away. Now, with the benefit of a little experience I would have got back to the author of the original comment and said 'can you tell me what this means' and 'is there anything I can do?' I did do some rewriting and submitting elsewhere to no avail. But last weekend I realised that publisher had seen potential and I would be silly to let the story die quietly in my files. So its gone off to the agent who also thought there was something there. It does need work but its alive again.

I've also resurrected an intermediate level thriller adventure novel. I hadn't realised how much I'd written (around 33 thousand words) and how likeable it was. I'd put it aside because a crucial element at the beginning didn't work throughout the story and needed replacing. The replacement needed to be able to fit with all the other plotting - not an easy task, but after 3 or 4 years I think I now know what might do the trick. And if the fix works I only need about another 5 to 10 thousand words to finish the story (and a bit of spit and polish to tidy things up of course). You never know what you might find when you look at what's in the bottom drawer. Things you'd forgotten about. Little bits of grit which have turned into pearls while your back has been turned and your focus fixed on other things. What were insurmountable obstacles a few years back when you were less experienced can now be seen with an eye and mind that have benefitted from the passing years. Maybe those stories time has come. So sometimes when the writing isn't coming together, when you want to biff the keyboard across the room in frustration and rip Roget in half, take a holiday in the bottom drawer, or under the bed or in the last file pocket of your cabinet. It can be very refreshing.


Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Melinda Szymanik said...

Wow, thanks Susan. Its very exciting to know that people who don't already know me or are genetically related to me are stopping by to read what I write.


Tania Hutley said...

Good advice! I'm hoping I get some time over Christmas to read aome of my old stuff. Who knows, perhaps I'll find a pearl hidden amongst all that oyster s**t.