So I’m halfway through my self imposed writing retreat in Ireland and it’s been both a positive and negative experience. The plan was to come here and finish The Book, also known as the Great Big Albatross Around My Neck. The plan, hastily scribbled in the back of a notebook, was to ‘finish 1st edit of Book’ from April through to May, then work on project B, a zom-com screenplay I’ve had in the works. When that was done, whip up yet another screenplay and settle comfortably back into my fifth module, patting myself on the back for achieving so much by October. Bish bash bosh and the work is done.
Problem was, when I sat down to read the printout version of The Book, it was a lot messier, terrible and what-was-I-thinking? to read than I thought it’d be. I decided to come at it from a different angle. “Let’s make the whole tone a bit more depressing,” I said. “Let’s write it in 1st person because I feel more confident with it and it’ll all go smoothly.”
I wrote a few pages like that, began with a near suicide, tried to make it oh so droll and darkly funny. Gave those pages to my sister (also known as the Great Beta Reader). She killed it. Via Facebook:
“Maybe it’s because it’s unedited but it just wasn’t strong writing. It was a bit cliche. Soz bro, still prefer the original prologue soooo much more.”
So I was stumped. She was right though, I hadn’t even really, if I’m completely honest, enjoyed those pages myself. It had lost the spark and the dry but fun humour I was going for. So I sulked about it for a few days, ate a lot of cake, drank a lot of milk, smoke a lot of cigarettes. Then I realised what to do. I was going to leave it alone. I’d not been able to read the thing before I came because of hundreds of other loose ends that needed to be sorted. And so I had no idea how much work it was going to be. I became disheartened and tried to go off piste without really having the proper materials or experience to back me up and support me. I wasn’t having fun, and that’s a very important part for me.
After taking a step back and telling myself that it was okay to not have a shiny, readable manuscript for people to road test when I got home, I relaxed again. I started working on other stuff on the list, short stories, assignments etc. In between, I hunted down and printed off some worksheets online and went meticulously through The Book’s plot. Now I have a document that can act as a signpost for when I go back home and tackle it. It won’t be perfect, but that’s okay too. It’s all good practise, and I’ve had fun.
On the positive side, Ireland has proved very inspirational and it’s been great just sitting and being. The sun’s even come
out on several occasions, and if you’ve ever visited the Emerald Isle, you’ll know just how rare that is. Good news on the published work side of things: the book GIVE: An Anthology of Anatomical Entries (with my short story Babymaker inside) from When The Dead Books is due for release in May and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy and sending the spare out to Nanaimo, Canada, where my lovely ex-pat friend now calls home.
Interestingly, the very first night I arrived I received a rejection from a pretty big British literary magazine telling me they liked and enjoyed my story but it just wasn’t long enough, along with an invitation to expand on the piece and resubmit. The story is set in West Ireland and I’ve since then managed to piece together an extra 800 words of material by just being here, listening, paying attention to things and stories around me. It still needs a little work, but Great Beta Reader said she enjoyed it a lot, and it’s now her second favourite story (the top spot still being filled by The Club, which was bought by Eldritch Press for their Our World of Horror anthology, release date tbc). The sunshine and flora and fauna have also inspired some back-to-nature type poems too, something I never thought I’d be writing in a million years.
So I’m still here, haven’t gone insane, haven’t turned into the female version of Jack Torrence, despite a number of Shining jokes coming my way. I’ve managed to balance work and play, got some great material and am generally having a grand old time. And that’s the Tesco delivery man knocking on my door, God bless you Tesco man, from all us non-driving hungry people in the world. I salute you.