On being a writer...

A celebration of the writing process, of being a writer, of all the weird things that pass through a writing brain...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Full Stop

Finishing a book, like all endings, is a very mixed experience. One moment there is this vast, intrusive internal world, the next, it’s gone, or at least, been released. These days, with the click of the Send button, goodbye 18 months of work. All those words, all those fragments converted into paragraphs, pages into chapters, all those notes and anguished planning in the small hours, gone. It’s no longer my world, my book, a great lump of material that I’ve been holding inside me, it’s out there. It’s to be read and commented upon. And no, it’s not like giving birth, in fact it’s the opposite. Giving birth results in a warm, squeaking baby. With a book there’s a kind of sucking away, an acknowledgement that this work is no longer mine, it’s yours.

And I look forward to ending the book so much. I think: After the book is finished I will...sort out the garden, clear my son’s room (he’s not keen on this), read a mountain of novels. I count off the number of pages left to go. I can’t believe there will ever be an ending. I’ve looked out of the window at the garden longingly, at my chair in the shade, and I’ve yearned to sit there, free of the book. And then the book is gone and instead of relieved I feel bereft. Now what? Things that have never irritated me before annoy me. The fridge is filthy, the freezer needs defrosting, the garden is full of weeds. The book has been a juggernaut through all this, a raison d’être.

And then there are doubts... Will they like it? - they being agent and editor. I don’t mind rewriting. In fact I love to rewrite. For me it’s so much more satisfying than the first draft because it’s chipping away at marble to reveal a work of art (in my dreams). The first draft is like spitting out molten rock. But will they like it at all? They’ve not seen any of it. Has it worked? I give a hard copy to my daughter who obligingly romps through it. She likes it! She understands it! She thinks it’s better than The Crimson Rooms. Why? I ask defensively. More to it, she says.

And so I’m grumpy and unsettled. I don’t want to read in the garden. I don’t want to do odd jobs. There’s only one thing that will sort me out. Hey ho, a new book.


  1. This is exactly how I feel after I've finished translating a book. And in the past two years, I've translated two of your novels (The Alchemist's Daughter and The Rose of Sebastopol) :)
    All the best,

  2. Very nice to hear from you Olga - I hope the books stood up well in translation - I wonder into which language!