I have a manuscript… almost

Four obstacles to writing by Tom Gauld

I’ve overcome two of Tom Gauld’s four obstacles to writing (thankfully, I’ve not encountered the other two*) and the next novel is nearly complete.

I have only the final scene of the last chapter to write, and the celebratory table is booked for fizz and red meat on Saturday night at Tarantella, our favourite Cockermouth restaurant.

The story of Grace and Jamie that has been rattling around in my head for so long is out on paper, more or less as I imagined it. The phase of getting as many words down as possible is almost over.

But this is just the beginning for Pressmennan – and the next part will be far harder, as it means taking a huge step back from my baby and thinking about quality rather than quantity.

Once those final paragraphs are written, I have to go back to the beginning and start editing with a highly critical eye. I need to straighten out my facts, tighten up the dialogue, fill in the missing thoughts and descriptions, and tidy up every last detail of spelling, punctuation, grammar – and story.

It’s never easy to do this to your own work, but it’s an essential part of the process of making it publishable. I’ve done it before with Tandem, so I know I can do it again – and if I can share any tips along the way, I will.

* Anyone who knows me may be able to work out which ones I’m referring to. Clue: I’ve never kept a pram in the hall.

The best place in the world to write

Porthdinllaen, on Wales's Llyn Peninsula, is the perfect writer's hideaway

Perfect writer’s hideaway: Porthdinllaen, on Wales’s Llyn Peninsula

Writing a novel is all about balance, and I found more than one kind last week. My husband and I were staying in a little beach-side cottage in Porthdinllaen, on the Llyn Peninsula, in North Wales. He went cycling and I wrote.

Pressmennan, my new novel, grew by almost 6,000 words in a matter of days. For me, with two additional part-time jobs and an otherwise busy life, it was a huge achievement. Especially since there was still time to run and swim, sit on the terrace watching the fishermen, and keep up to date with the Tour de France.

That’s one kind of balance – producing enough words to feel like I’m really making progress without it turning into an all-consuming chore – but there’s another type, which is even more important.

To make any novel a page-turning experience – in other words, publishable – in addition to being well-written, it must be well structured. It needs a satisfying rhythm of dramatic, cliff-hanging episodes and calmer, more reflective passages. And that can only be created with the right balance of action and description, dialogue and flashback.

I think I’m achieving that. Will readers agree? We’ll have to wait and see.

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