There’s exciting news at our house this week: my novel His Other House is in the book shops!
Every stage of writing brings its own revelations, I think, whether it be relaxing into the first tentative exploration of an idea or the final letting go of the book when it goes to print.
This is my second novel to be published (there’s also a novel that Al and I tried to co-write but let’s not go there) so while not new at the business, it’s been, I must confess, a long time since my first book was published.
And I was surprised and delighted all over again at how delightful and affirming it is being offered detailed editorial feedback by people who a) really care about the work and b) have heaps of experience in supporting writers to make a book as good as it can be.
Which is not to say all the feedback was easy, in that I had to answer questions about why I’d written some things the way I had. Those tricky questions, of course, helped me gain clarity for the rewrite.
The major change I made was a rewrite of the ending. I find endings tricky. (And I’m already sensing that the ending of my next one is not as straightforward as I might have hoped. Sigh.) The ending is where the writer has a chance to show what the book’s about, where it was leading all along, even if the ending is oblique or very open. The ending is what the reader takes away with them. Will they be satisfied? Will it make the hours they’ve invested in the book worthwhile?
So I did some tinkering with the ending, which was as much about clarifying the characters’ growth (or failure to grow, as the case may be!) but the most work came in the major rewrite before it went to the publisher.
Now I am back at the first draft stage (actually it’s more like second draft for the first section of the novel). I’m back feeling my way in, getting to know characters. But I’m doing things a bit differently this time as you’ll see in my earlier blog post: Planned chaos.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is that no matter how wobbly the first draft feels, I now know that all I need to do is stick at it. I trust now that the characters will get more dimensional and complex and the story’s layers will reveal themselves. I know now that all it takes is dedication and time. And His Other House did take a lot of time to write. About ten years in fact – because some big life upheavals happened in the interim – like divorce and meeting Al and IVF and miscarriage and pregnancy and motherhood. This next book won’t take nearly so long, I am happy to say.
If you do read His Other House, I’d love to hear what you think. And if you are in a book club, there are book club notes that will help spark discussion. I think it would make for an interesting book club debate. It certainly prompted some lively discussions around our place while I was writing it.