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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Goodbye to my 'First'

I started writing my first book about five years ago now. When I left full time work to pursue the dream (finish the book, re-draft it – several times, naturally – get an agent, get a publisher, and have it in print) I’d written about 17,000 words. A year and a half, working part-time, coming back into full-time work, a severe edit later, and I now have 23,000 words. For those of you who aren’t great at maths, that’s 6,000 words in a year and a half, averaging out to about 11 words per day. Even now I feel a pain in my chest thinking about it. It’s rather similar to the pain I felt when the lovely Kathryn at work suggested I ditch it in favour of starting something new because progress seemed to be somewhat slow (backwards, practically, I was feeling). Shock. Horror.

One’s presumably heard of the term in regards to writing, ‘Kill your darlings.’ Well this was my ‘darling;’ singular. If I don’t have this, I don’t have anything, literarily speaking anyway. I shook off her uncomfortable advice from my already burdened shoulders and ignored her.

Except they still felt burdened. What was this unhealthy relationship I’d cultivated with my first book? The idea of letting go hadn’t occurred to me until K mentioned it. And then, as with most things in life, the delayed reaction caught up with me and the unthinkable became a possibility. And why shouldn’t it? Don’t most writers have more than one book in them? We’re not all going to be Harper Lee, write one masterpiece and then live happily ever after, basking in its global glory. Still, it hurt, as the end of most things do I suppose. Imagine those years spent tapping out words, creating sentences that made you feel as if you’d broken through some verbal barrier or discovered some profound truth. But sometimes you have to accept defeat – temporarily anyway. As with all firsts, you won’t forget it and maybe you had to have the first in order to get a better second (and third, fourth, fifth, so on.)

Just because you don’t want to do something, doesn’t mean it’s not good for you, even if you did think it was the ‘one’. So my heart is heavy, but my shoulders feel a tad less weighed down. It’s about knowing when to move on, and when to take the advice of someone who knows what they might be talking about (something about professionalism or whatever).

First book, I will learn the art of letting you go, though you will always be the one that’s taught me what I now know, and while you gave me sleepless nights you also gave me my first love. Thanks for that. And one day, maybe when the time is right, I’ll come back to you, or you’ll come back to me and we’ll finish this thing we started; my stepping-stone to whatever is to come.