Friday, 25 April 2008


Well, now I have it. A manuscript. ‘The Seventh’. My novel. Fully complete. Although on two pages per sheet it does feel like it has half the splendour that it should possess. But it is a thing, an object in its own right, instead of a series of icons on my laptop screen, or a set of ideas in my head.

Already I am picking it to pieces when I should be copy-editing. Finding all the things I think are wrong with it. Could I make it more deep, more subtle, more literary? But then it wouldn’t be what it was conceived as – fun. I conceived it as a gallop, a scream around a track on a Motoguzzi or in a Testarossa, something of a diversion, excitement for unexciting lives. Lying in bed last night, I went through all the Issues (note the capital) that I could or should raise in it. But that’s not the point. Yes, it is intended to make one think – to think about whether one would do the same as the hero does – but only that one thought. It is not meant to be an exploration of a prostitute’s existence in the current climate of AIDS and violence. Or an indictment of the Metropolitan Police. Or a metaphor for the subculture of immigration or religious fundamentalism in modern Britain. It’s about gangsta vampires and Glaswegian angels.

Part of this self doubt is engendered by having received my first rejection letter. Actually I am quite proud of it. At the beginning of the year I was too frozen with terror at the thought of putting my work ‘out there’ to imagine myself at this point. Now I feel like I have won the Purple Heart. I have been out there. I have got the scar to prove it, even if the scar is actually a single side of photocopied A4. So it’s fine.

But then, the doubts start creeping in. They read it, they claim, but they didn’t have a place for it. Does this mean it wasn’t good enough, not deep enough, not literary enough? Are the characters too superficial? Should I rewrite? What if no-one accepts it? What if there are too many books in this genre out there already? What if this entire series I have conceived will be a waste of time because it’s too late and too derivative?

On the other hand, my hero, Iain Banks, Gods bless him, wrote half a dozen novels before he got one accepted. This is the rule. I am only on my second – well, third actually, if you count the one I am writing now as a sequel. Chances are, that one will be a damn site better than ‘The Seventh’, just as ‘The Seventh’ is streets better than ‘Woad’, my first.

My rational brain therefore says, bollocks to the doubts, just get on with it. The truth is, I have to keep writing. To do anything else would be to cease existing. And as I practise, so I will improve. I may leave behind me a library full of unpublished novels, but who cares? I have already written two more than most people ever manage.

And so I will fiddle with my manuscript of ‘The Seventh’, dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘t’s , and keep plugging away. I mean, if Dan Brown can get published, why shouldn’t I?

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