First blog posts are like first novels. They involve an awful lot of typing what seems like a good sentence and then deleting it, convinced that it is pretentious rot. I can vouch for the truth in that statement as I have just typed this post three times and am also in the latter stages of writing my first story for children, The Darkling Wood.
I started writing it about four years ago when I had to turn up to a university creative writing session with something to read out. The university course didn’t stand the test of time but the book did, and in the autumn of last year I finished the first draft. Then followed a misguided (and I was warned against this…) printing out and distribution to my family at Christmas time. I was met with silence. That did more to dent my confidence than if I’d been met with a resounding cry of its awfulness over the roast potatoes. My mother dutifully read the great doorstep of a manuscript and was encouraging, but by then (some time in mid February) I had lost my faith.
The initial plan of course hadn’t factored in my family’s lack of comment . I had intended to re-draft in the New Year and then send my novel to a Literary Consultancy. For those of you who haven’t heard of such a beast, they are professional editors and writers who for a not insubstantial fee will read your tome and tell you just where it needs improving. It’s like sending your dissertation in to your professor who red- pens large sections and leaves it in your pigeon-hole with a note suggesting you take a week off before rewriting the whole thing. It is not for the faint of heart.
And in February I was just that. As well as finishing the book and handing it out with boxes of flapjacks, I had worked very hard the previous term to earn that fee I mentioned. Every Thursday evening I taught Welsh to a group of adults come rain, hail and more often than not very heavy snow. They did very well. And I got paid. It was just enough to cover the fee. And then I got a nice letter from the Inland Revenue telling me that they really needed me to pay my tax bill.
My mother took my to the garden centre the next week to console me. The money I’d earned paid the bill and I was left with an unfinished, first draft of a novel which desperately needed professional input which I could now no longer afford. I cried into a cup of bitter coffee (which they refilled for free, perhaps because I cut such a tragic figure. Or perhaps because it was before 11:30am). I taught another term of Welsh but apparently me and my husband needed to eat and buy things so I left poor Peter (the boy in my story) languishing in a dusty file.
It was some time in the spring that I decided that I couldn’t cope with abandoning my project like that and so with the help of my constant friend, cheerleader and Peter’s biggest fan, I took another look at the story…