Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Fall and Rise of Lucy Charlton ( And the Nineteen Rewrites )

Yes, my new book is coming out on February 13th so get your kindles ready to download, dash down to your supermarkets!

I've been thinking lately about how to explain how hard writing is. Sorry to all those of you who are groaning, thinking we have real jobs, she sits at home all day in her pyjamas - I have to say this is true -and thinks up stories and writes them on a lovely Apple Mac. This also is true, I adore my computer.
Many of my writing friends say something like this -

Beginning a book is a bit like looking at the top of Everest and thinking, well, I might as well have a go. The gas bill needs paying and if I don't cover the mortgage I'll be living in a cardboard on the nearest roundabout, so you start off and you get so far and sit down and think, it'll be okay and then you cover about a fifth of it and you start to sweat and think gosh, this is difficult but I have to get there, so you toil endlessly and finally with a burst of energy you get to the top.

Now this where amateurs think it finishes. Kids, this is just the start. Then you look proudly down and you trundle off, thinking you might have a glass of wine when you get to the bottom and then you get there, take the wine out the fridge and then you think I don't think I've quite got it right so you look at Everest again and you think damn it, I'll have to do it again so that's what you do and you trundle all the way to the top and this time it seems easier, you think you're getting somewhere and you reach the top and then you think, well, this is it ,so you trundle back down and open the fridge and this time you don't even get as far as pouring the wine because you realise what a load of unmitigated crap you've just written.
So, well, you know what happens now.You do the ascent again and you're swearing and wishing you had done something easier and by the time you get to the top you know that you're going to have to do this again and again until it begins to feel right.
So, not wanting to bore you, you go up and down maybe ten times and then you think well, this is it so this time you get the bottle out of the fridge and you have a glass of wine in celebration.

And then you send the book to your agent and you wait and wait and every second is like an hour and every time the phone rings you can hardly bear it and only when you go out does she ring so that you have to gird up your loins and ring back and guess what?  Yes you have to make the ascent again. She wants a rewrite.

So, then you send it back to her and she is happy about it and she sends it to your publisher where your lovely editor thinks, my God this is dreadful and she very politely tells you that you have do the ascent again. You do by this time, it's like walking the dog, it's become so ordinary so that although you are permanently exhausted you really don't care.

With a bit of luck your editor might like this version but the chances are that she will want more work doing and then she'll send it off to the other editor who sorts all the problems out and points out that your historical detail is inaccurate, your heroine has been pregnant for two years and your minor characters are completely left out of some chapters.

On top of which every time you alter a detail the whole 130,000 words falls apart and you go through the book again and again to try to tie the threads together and this time when the book goes off you open the fridge and drink every bloody bottle of wine in it because you know that sooner or later the call will come and yes, you'll have do the proofs and by then there will be a whole load of new mistakes which somebody didn't find.

One of my books got to audio before somebody realised that one of the characters had died twice. Get me to the fridge quickly, I need a glass of wine.


  1. And they say "Oh, I'd write a book if I had the time". Huh. Spot on, Elizabeth.

  2. Brilliant post, Liz! Oh god, what other people don't realise.....!

  3. And then.... you have to get on the promo hamster wheel and put yourself about a bit!

  4. Excellent post - so very, very true. Another day, another mountain ...