It’s now been a couple of weeks since I put the finishing touches to my latest work in progress. I say ‘finishing touches’ but the process never ends, to be honest, and at some point it will be time to stop fiddling and tweaking and pick-pick-picking. Too many strokes spoil the painting, and all that. At the end of the day, it’s not going to be a comma (misplaced or otherwise) that decides its fate.
This one is quite different to anything else I’ve written in the last few years, being a fantasy story about Scottish clans and past lives. Like many ideas, it was born of two separate half-ideas (one of which first came to me many years ago) clashing and fusing into a whole. And like many ideas, that creative nuclear fusion happened whilst I was sitting on a commuter train trundling through Essex. I don’t do that any more, but fortunately it’s not had a detrimental effect on the flow of fresh ideas so far.
Though this isn’t the first time I’ve headed a blog entry with ‘Work in progress’. Just under a year ago I wrote about finishing another project I felt very happy with. I’m still very happy with it today, but it will never be published. I submitted it to a handful of literary agents and several asked to read it, but ultimately each had a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why they didn’t think it would sell. I couldn’t disagree with the last one, actually, and so didn’t submit it to anyone else afterwards.
So Papercut, the story of the aftermath of a stabbing from the perspective of a teenage boy, becomes the one that got away. But it’s not the only one that did that. Other books (non-fiction about pirates, a general maritime history for kids, and a disgusting food cookbook) have all fallen by the wayside at one stage or another. Yet my page on Amazon makes it look like I write one book a year, and have no trouble getting published, whereas the truth is it’s always an uphill slog, and I have to start from the bottom each time.
It does make me wonder about other authors’ ones-that-got-away, though. And whether the rise in digital self-publishing will change that in future. And whether that would actually be a good thing, anyway.