Into the slush

The pride I felt just a few weeks ago is still there: I can pick up the sheaf of pages, the product of this year’s labours, and feel the weight of satisfaction. But it is an anxious pride now. The novel is now out of my hands, at least for the time being, as I try to find an agent to represent me, to represent my book. I am unsure whether I am more afraid of being ignored or of being read harshly. I only know that I am nervy.

Comments came back during October from the good, good people I asked to read for me (well, from all but one of them, but he knows who he is…) They were helpful, immensely so. The second draft is in much better shape thanks to their generous expertise and insight: characters are sharper, themes more explicit, language tics moderated and repetitions expunged. It’s not there, still, and I doubt it ever will be, at least to my satisfaction. But, as William Goldman said of writing, “nobody knows anything”: it’s all wrestling in the dark.

So the first three chapters have been sent out, along with a 500 word synopsis that was harder to write than the whole thing. And I wait, hoping that my work will somehow make it out of the slush pile and into a briefcase, to be scanned on a tube train, or a sofa, or wherever it is that agents choose to catch up on the masses of reading that they have to process. Maybe, out there, is one who will be interested enough to want to read the rest.

But I can’t afford to hold my breath. It could be weeks before I hear, if ever, and I am slowly relearning the art of managing hope. With cavalier abandon, I’ve started to sketch out a second novel, building characters and narrative as comprehensively as I can under the shadow of my anxiety. I have no idea if this one will ever be completed – I have to find myself a job, my year off drawing to its close – but I don’t see that as a reason not to start. I had no idea before I started whether the first one would be finished. But it is. It may get no further, but it exists. That flash of pride is there again, pouring a little light the drab November darkness.

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