Monday 15 February 2010

The Mind of a Child

Today I hot footed it into Harrogate with the rest of the family and my eleven year old daughter’s best friend, to watch my first born perform her Michael Jackson number in the dance school’s bi-annual show. Of course I thought she was brilliant. (It’s my baby up there, she could pick her nose and I’d still get tears in my eyes.) But oh yes, the whole show was incredible. Even my husband managed to stay awake for all but the tiniest section of marauding ducks in the Peter and the Wolf ballet.

But what really struck me was not the massive amount of talent amongst the whole cast, not the amount of organisation that goes into ensuring 200 four to 18 year olds arrive on stage on time (with only one casualty, an over-awed sobbing swan who was whisked off stage before the tears had barely plopped onto the lily pad) but the amount of time my daughter was prepared to relinquish to appear in one dance, performed twice over a period of six hours and never again. She likes to dance, she had the chance to be in the show, so she did it. No questions asked about the time commitment, the cost benefit of the time spent practising versus time lost on her roller blades.

Oh to have the Mind of a Child.

For me, as an adult, this show, this dancing lark would become a mathematical equation. It’s the Theory of a Time Line: y=mx+ c where y=worth all the bother, m=hours on stage, x =months (six) of show practice before and c, the enjoyment factor. However life-changing the moment on stage (just another day in the office for my daughter, I have to say), however fulfilling the time spent with friends, I have to admit I’d have backed out months ago. I’d do that big picture thing, my life up there, a long red line with a marker slightly right of centre, saying that I didn’t have the time to commit to it properly.

But then I’d have missed out, wouldn’t I?

I think I’d cope better with this submission thing if I had the Mind of a Child. I submitted my book to agents last March. I cringe now. It wasn’t ready. I’ve cut 30,000 words since then and added another 25,000 back in. But I wanted to get it published. It wasn’t an arrogance or a need even for a ‘tick in the box’ , it was impatience. It was that little voice telling me that the clock’s ticking and I want to be writing another book but I can’t do that until this one’s published (or rather I should say, I can’t justify doing that until this one’s published). If I could merely accept the process like a child; write the letters, accept the weeks of waiting, barely give the process a thought in between (and that means putting a stop to twice-five minutely flicks over to email to see if an agent happens to have got back to me in the last thirty seconds), the outcome wouldn’t be any different but the journey would be a whole lot sweeter.

Mind you, my daughter does have her own driver, bag packer and sustenance provider. Maybe that would help...


  1. Oh Jaxbee - you should be writing book number 2 - think of everything you've learned from the first one! And falling in love with a new book helps take the sting out of the rejections! Very few people sell their first novel! You could be one of them but get on with the next one anyway. And then when a prospective agent asks what else you have in the pipeline you'll have an answer for them. Good luck :-)

  2. Hi Kate, I know, and you're right of course. I have started re-writing my first cermoniously binned novel. I really like the story but hate it in first person so I'm changing it to third which throws up issues I need to sort out. But I'm making slow progress because I'm distracted by author review sites. I really need to wean myself off a certain one which begins with Auth...I don't think I'm going to get any new feedback and it's a time sapper. The third novel, yes, I'm keen to get on with that but somehow it seems so decadent to start on that when I haven't 'sold' this one. But you're right again, that might be the one which 'sells' and brings the other two to people's attention - or not.
    Aaaaargggg. Less thinking, more writing I suspect.
    How are you?

  3. It's also a lot easier to stop panicking about the FIRST novel if there are two or three or however many more in planning or started or done as a rough draft. Takes the pressure off THIS NOVEL being the one that YOU MUST SELL, apart from anything else.

  4. Hi Floot and yes, you and Kate are both right of course, it is very therapeutic to think of something completely different to Glass Houses and concentrating on my first 'novel', Misguidance this week, has stopped me checking my emails every ten seconds... I've already cut 5,000 words and I'm loving hacking at it!

    Once I started reading again I realised that it's quite different to Glass Houses, a much 'lighter' read. I also realise now why I wrote it in first person and may actually leave it as such and instead, drastically cut back one of the subplots and take out a couple of characters as well. It's quite a job but it's good fun!

    How's writing for you this week?

  5. That's good, you're obviously getting a lot out of re-reading it and re-working it :D

    I'm working on a novel I'm planning with the 2YN class on forward motion - it started out with what I imagined as a pretty simple idea and now it seems very complicated, but I'm really enjoying it even if the thought of actually having to WRITE it is overwhelming. (There's actually a very small extract from it on my blog)

    I'm not usually a planner and it's really interesting to see how the story is growing and changing almost without my input - or so it seems - even though I've written what must be less than 10K, and only a couple of thousand words of that is actual prose as opposed to notes and things. I hope that this will help and not hinder the eventual writing process!

  6. Hi Floot
    I'd love to have a look at that! Can you remind me of your blog address please? I tried to 'follow' it earlier but it wasn't having it. I think I've worked it out now so would love to try again.

    And yes, you're doing what I call, 'plotty copy' and I love it, that chucking all your ideas down on paper, writing out some, brainstorming others. My plotty copy for Glass Houses was 17,000 words in the end and I lifted a lot from it and certainly referred to it all the way through that first draft. Good luck!


    I haven't updated much recently (been ill!) so it's still quite close to the top under 'As Yet Unfinished'

    Planning is... interesting. We'll see how it goes!

  8. Excellent, am going over there right now... :-)


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