Monday, 8 April 2013

The Art of Beginning Again

That's probably a pretty appropriate title for this post, in the sense that you might have thought that I'd been kidnapped, got seriously ill, become entirely disaffected with this whole writing thing or indeed just died. (Out of interest, I just googled "is B. R. Collins dead?". Happily, I seem, on the whole, not to be.) But in fact it's apropos of something entirely different, namely my new novel.

I had a bit of an arid patch over the summer. (Metaphorically. There was room for a hell of a lot more aridity in the actual weather.) A lot was happening, and my life has undergone a lot of personal changes since then - which I won't go into, but suffice it to say that more of my 2012 New Year's Resolutions were successfully completed - and the writing kind of went on a back-burner. That was OK, until I started to think about having to earn a living, and then I tried to force myself to start something new. It was a struggle. It really was. But then I had this brilliant (no, really!) idea. One of those ideas which remind you why you want to be a writer at all. I didn't really care about selling this book, or winning prizes with it, or even getting it published. I just wanted to write it.


I wrote it. Well, some of it. I sent it to my agent, who really liked the idea. I carried on writing it. She showed it to my publisher. I carried on writing it. I got to 40,000 words of it.

Whereupon my agent got back to me with the news that two books with similar "hooks" were being published next year. This book, she said, is not the one that you should be writing now.


Now. I realise that this is not the end of the world. The book I'll write with Hook A is not the same book you'd write with Hook A. It wouldn't be the same book if I used the same blurb as your book. My book will always be mine. (I was going to say "special"... but it might not be, actually.) There might be a good time for it eventually. If those other books are successful it might be a positive advantage that they have something in common. ("If you liked Hook A, you'll love this...") It's just that right now... well. It's not the book I should be writing.

Why don't you have a think, my agent said, and maybe send me five or six ideas, and we'll talk about which one you should work on...?

Five or six? I said. (Well, no, I didn't. I thought.) Five or six?! If I had five or six ideas I'd be rich by now.

So all was sombre in the Collins household. My beautiful little book was half-formed and not going to be born. The world was a vast wasteland, idealess and unforgiving.

And then... I had another idea.

It happens. Eventually. You batter at yourself and fume and rage and sigh and give up. And then, invariably, you have the idea. They come, not at your bidding, but in their own infuriatingly sweet time.

It took me a long time to turn round, like a battleship. But now I am on a new course, cautiously optimistic, and a Better, Stronger Person.

Well. Optimistic, anyway.