I emailed my First Draft to my editor yesterday and now I have no idea what to do with myself. I’ve been sitting down at my computer at a quarter to eight every morning for ages and pushing on with my novel. Now, suddenly, there’s no novel to work on. Fortunately, I’m contracted to write a sequel but I can’t start on that yet. There has to be a fallow period in between, otherwise you just find yourself writing the first novel all over again.
What I need to do is to lose myself in a good book and I’ve got a stack of those beside my desk. And there’s plenty of domestic administration that needs my attention. But I just keep wanting to write. It’s such a contrary business writing a novel. When you’re doing it, you’re always thinking about getting to the end. Once you’ve got to the end, you miss it terribly.
I remember meeting John Rowe Townsend when I had just started my career as a writer. He was the grand old man of UK children’s writing at that time. ‘What are you working on at the moment?’ he asked. I wasn’t working on anything as a matter of fact and I tried to tell him this but I was rather intimidated because he was a big cheese and I was no kind of cheese at all so I just mumbled incoherently. In return, he smiled knowingly as if he thought I was keeping some astonishingly brilliant idea under wraps. ‘A writer is always working on something,’ he said. And over the years I’ve discovered that he was right because even when you’re convinced you’re not working on something, you are really. It all goes on under the surface.
Last night I dreamed I was in a vast workshop filled with workers industriously damaging goods of every kind. They were tearing the pages of books, scratching the surface of tables, pulling the stitches in clothes. Some of them looked up from their work long enough to give me a hostile glare and I felt terribly guilty, though I had no idea what my crime was. At some point in the dream I became aware that these busy artisans were doing the work of Time. They were aging everything in the world and they resented my presence for I was engaged in the process of trying to salvage something from Time’s degradation.
Not that I really imagine my work will achieve immortality. My first nine books are already out of print and all the rest will no doubt follow in due course. But you still have to try, don’t you? As an author you have to dare to believe you may one day produce a gem that will outlast you.
So, I will make a start on my pile of unread books and I will get on with the tedious domestic stuff but all the while a little part of me that even I am not aware of will be sneaking around Time’s workshop trying to steal bits and pieces from under the noses of the workers. Anything will do. It might be as small as a pair of ladies’ leather gloves or as large as a double-decker bus. Size is not important. Significance is what I’m looking for. If I can just assemble enough significant details, I may find I have the makings of another story.