My personal life is (finally) great, and after a long time in the wilderness, I have a job that I actually enjoy and that doesn’t expect my soul in return for my payslip every month. The only point of this triangle currently amiss is my writing.
This year started off with promise. I finished Slipwater – a novel I am extremely proud of – and it has been sitting with a number of agents since early February, but since that feeling of accomplishment I have not done much to maintain the momentum. A short story here, a revision or two there, but that’s about it.
Well that stops today.
I received another rejection letter this morning. I’ve been getting them for over half my life now. No big deal: that’s just part of the constant struggle for acceptance… and I don’t only mean acceptance of a particular story, but also the wider definition of every writer’s desire to have his or her words heard, and for them to mean something to someone.
But this rejection is one too many, so I need to pull my fingers out of my ass and put them on the keys again.
You know, obviously I’ll wash them first.
The Girlfriend© was an Illegal Eagles virgin, but I have been to see them somewhere in the region of six or seven times since the turn of the century, so I broke her in gently. Having said that, in a way this was my first time as well, because the guys on stage on Friday night down in Dunfermline were all completely new to me.
A new line-up it may have been, but they were every bit as talented and enthusiastic about the Eagles legacy as I had come to expect. Three of the six on stage were younger than I am, which is simultaneously good to see, but also a little disheartening to be reminded of my advancing years in such an innocuous manner.
The one guy on the entire upper level who decided to stand and shake his tailfeather was right behind me – drunk, and shouting all of the right words, in all of the wrong notes. At one point he slapped me in the back of the head, and I turned around to find out what the hell his problem was, only to find that the staggered seating had me staring directly at his gyrating crotch. I never did ask him, and for what it’s worth he just kept on thrusting.
The Illegal Eagles tripped through all of the hits, plus a few solo tracks (including a mesmerising version of Don Henley’s Heart of the Matter), and managed to embroider the show with some relaxing banter throughout. A near note perfect rendition of Hotel California was the penultimate number, and The Girlfriend© and I both left satisfied: one old fan, and one brand new.
On Friday I went to see Rumours of Fleetwood Mac with The Girlfriend© – the premier Fleetwood Mac tribute band in all the land. Even if this was my first time (and it wasn’t, as I had seen them many years ago with my sister) I would have known I was in for a treat as founding member Mick Fleetwood heartily endorsed them at the start of the show.
The first half of the performance was taken up with a celebration of the Rumours album which is now forty years old. As such, they performed every song, featuring one of my favourite Mac tracks, the Stevie Nicks fronted Gold Dust Woman. It’s no secret that I think Stevie has one of the sexiest vocals in rock music, but Jess Harwood – the girl who embodies her on stage – runs her pretty damn close.
After the intermission the hits kept on coming as ROFM took us through the entire catalogue, from familiar eighties tracks like Little Lies and Gypsy, dating back to their roots in the late sixties with songs like Black Magic Woman and Need Your Love So Bad… the latter of which turned out to be somewhat of an aphrodisiac for The Girlfriend©, so that was an unexpectedly sweet Friday night bonus.
It’s a show I would heartily recommended for both Fleetwood fans and also those who simply appreciate good music. Catch them if you can – they are touring the UK until the end of May.
I got a letter from my dad today, which would not have arrived as such a great surprise had my father not died in 2004… and this letter had been written at least five years before that.
In the two pages of emotive prose, my father apologises, says that he loves me, and basically asks for forgiveness in a way that he would never have been able to do in person. He also left his address and phone number should I ever wish to get back in touch and rebuild a few of the bridges he had spent years burning.
At the end of the letter, in capitals, are the words EDDIE LIVES! It’s a phrase that means nothing unless you’ve seen Eddie & the Cruisers II… something which carries a crazy ironic weight, because that movie was about a famous singer presumed dead only to be discovered alive twenty years later.
Of course, I didn’t get the chance to reconnect because the letter was kept a secret from me for two decades. Maybe I wouldn’t have contacted him at all; or perhaps I would have done so just to tell him to fuck off. The truth is I don’t know how I would have reacted twenty years ago, but the point is, it should have been my decision to make, and not just another skeleton in an already bone-riddled closet.
So, The Girlfriend© is the first person to finish reading the final version of Slipwater, and she says that she likes it a lot, which I do appreciate very much. If her critique is anything to go by, I have managed to produce a cohesive and entertaining page-turner that left her with a lump in her throat by the time it ended. Really, what more can I ask for?
But let’s be honest, that’s a little like showing your mum your homework and having her pat you on the head and say that it’s good… isn’t it? (I’ve heard) that women can fake orgasms, so I’m sure they can feign a little glowing praise in other departments too if required.
Still, it is extremely gratifying for someone to recognise the hard work that has gone into producing it – even if she is just keeping me sweet because Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. There are worse things that she could lie to me about!
I only hope that I find an agent or editor who is as enthusiastic about Slipwater as she has been, because if I do, I’ll be a very happy little writer indeed.
A fast-paced police thriller at its core, with science fiction undertones, Slipwater is above all else, a tale of love lost, and hope regained. It is the story of one man’s blind desire to chase the second chance at the life he saw ripped away, no matter what the cost; and of his best friend’s quest to stop him.
That is part of the synopsis for Slipwater that I have sent off to five agencies over the last few days, along with either the first three chapters or the opening 10,000 words.
Agencies (and publishers, should you choose to go to them directly) dont want the entire manuscript, and that’s fair enough. I’m sure you know if you’re enjoying a book before reaching the end, and similarly, they don’t need to read every word you have written to know if it’s any good. What they ask for does however seem like a narrow window: a lot of stories are only just taking the training wheels off at that point. But, this is not my game, and these are their rules.
The girlfriend is currently reading it as well. She says she is enjoying it, but then again… she has a dog in this race, so it will be difficult for her to be completely blunt and honest. Hopefully there are no glaring plot holes or silly continuity errors that I inexplicably missed in all my edits – and I don’t think there are – but however she responds to it, it will be good to hear the opinion of someone who doesn’t know what is coming next.
87,500 words. And its finished. I don’t even want to look at it again, because i know the moment I do I will find something else to tinker with, and it’s unnecessary.
I could keep going, I know that. I could go through it again, change a few things here and there. Add something. Take something away. And theoretically I could do that for the rest of my life. But eventually you reach the point where the alterations being made are not worth the effort it takes to make them. And I think I have got to that place.
The only reason to keep editing ad infinitum, is fear. Scared of success or failure – maybe both. Once the story is done, it’s done. Let it go and move on, because otherwise the words will remain forever on your laptop or desktop or whatever else you may be using to write that masterpiece of yours.
Now I need to get it off my computer and into the hands of a publisher… and that’s when the hard work really begins.