I submitted my memoir to an agent last week – rushing to do it as I was so excited about finishing it. I did a little editing and shaping of the first three chapters, then did a little more. I put in a prologue, then took it out again, then put it back in. I shifted a few paragraphs around, tightened up some of the prose, and tidied up a couple of ‘holes’ in the sequence and plot. Even though it’s a memoir, I still think it has to have a plot. And it does. It’s very much about cause – effect or antecedent – action – consequence – reaction – resolution. But of course, I can’t get all of that across in the first three chapters. As it was I submitted the three chapters and then re-read the submission information and realised they wanted only up to 10,000 words. The first 3 chapters closed at just over 14,000 words. Oops.
Not my best effort then, especially as after submitting, during my long drive home, when my internal editor (aka higher self) suddenly decided to wake up and provide me with an hour long running critique of everything wrong with the first three chapters, and the book itself, and chastised me for sending it in so hastily. I don’t know why I felt the need to get it in so quickly. I don’t know why my inner editor goes to sleep until I am sitting behind the wheel in interminable traffic, with no access to laptop, or even pen and paper. Of course, all the finer points of the critique had evaporated into the ether by the time I got home and started cleaning the kitchen, ready for the usual Thursday night wine night. Not even an hour of cooking could bring back the particular alpha wave brain state that allows higher self/inner editor to speak freely, although the hummous was very tasty (see other blog!).
So instead of feeling my usual sense of achievement, anticipated and deflation which accompanies a submission, I felt thoroughly disordered and out of sorts. Why, why, why ran through my mind. Most importantly, why didn’t I follow my own advice, and ‘park’ the book for a few days or a week or two, before coming back to it with fresh eyes? I always tell my students to do this, because it really helps with editing. It’s like a close, intimate relationship, writing a book, and sometimes both parties need a bit of space to remember why they love and value each other.
A chaotic disintegration was followed by another writing assignment, for a friend’s pagan magazine, which, on top of the news that I have had another chapter accepted for an edited collection, pushed me over the edge into a paroxysm of excitement and non-thought. There comes a time when my brain simply says, shut up Alys. I guess this was one of those weekends. Even my diary entries were feeble and perfunctory.
But, it’s Monday morning, and the sun is shining, and seagulls are wheeling in the blue sky outside my office window. The morning sun glints off the sea in the distance, and the air is crisp and cool and clean. Like one of my favourite literary charaters says (and forgive the misquote), “tomorrow is another day with no mistakes in it.” So, despite the fact that I can’t find my to do list, and my desk looks like an exposion in a stationery shop, I’m back on track, ready to churn out more wonderful words of wisdom and erudition, and to nail a few writing assignments alongside my daily grind of admin, teaching prep, student support, emails, programme development, networking, research . . . .
You get the picture.