Never go…back

I have just sent an email to my editor at Hodder, Emily Kitchin. Attached to the email was my completed, copyedited manuscript.

In other words, I have just sent back what should be the final edit. The book is, theoretically, done.

Last night, as soon as I made the last tweak to the MS and closed the Word file I whooped out loud with joy. I immediately sent a text screaming “I’m finished!” to the one person I had to tell. I sipped a G&T. I felt relief, pride, accomplishment and a huge surge of adrenaline.

What a pleasure it would be if that proud state of bliss could reign on.

But I’m a writer and, therefore, cursed/blessed with the same duality of emotions that plague most in the creative industries.

I still feel all of those wonderful things: they are coursing through me at a delightful rate but, alongside them, is another set. A visceral sadness that I have finished. A nostalgia for those characters whose lives I have made up and written down. And an abject terror that I have missed something. That if I gave it one more complete rewrite it would be so much better. If I could just have another six weeks…six months…six years it would be so amazing and oh my goodness it’s not ready. In fact, it’s awful. Just plain awful. I need to rewrite it from scratch.

The feeling is similar, actually, to how I felt when the first twinges of contractions set in before my daughter’s birth. The hallelujah this pregnancy is over and I am finally going to meet my child, blurred somewhat by the feelings of no, no, no, stay inside little one, you’re not, I’m not, the world is not ready quite just yet.

Whereas, my protective nature for my novel is not quite as fierce as that for my children, it is pretty damn close. This novel has seen me through some of the biggest changes in my recent history. Writing it gave me the courage to change my life, I got to know myself and understand myself again. I have many acquaintances who have marvelled at my ability to write a novel when so much in my life was changing. Those closest to me know that it was writing this novel that saw me through some of the toughest few years of my life. It was my crutch, my goal and my future.

And whereas, the writing will always be there, this novel will never be written again. I will be letting it go and that is rather frightening.

In times such as these, I repeat a mantra to myself. It is the same I use when I am nervous about anything. It is simple and to the point and goes something like this: all will be fine.

Take a deep breath, close your eyes and say it to yourself.

All will be fine.

Because, and trust me on this, it will be.


Forgive me, reader, for my many sins.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest: they’re all littered with a particular kind of message that never fails to turn me cold. The kind that is no doubt designed to be read aloud in a boasty sneer and declares: “Those who can’t tell they’re from their from there are disgraceful failures and should be shot.”

If these were acted upon then I would be dead by now.

Very dead.

My corpse would be a pitted cartograph of bullet holes, illustrating the many grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and typos I have made throughout my life. I have an infuriating mixture of failures: a poor eye for detail, combined with a brain that stubbornly refuses to compute grammar no matter how many times I read Lyne Truss.

Whenever the subject of grammar or spelling arises I become a little embarrassed and more than a little ashamed. I’m a writer, after all. I should know this stuff. Worse still, I read literature and linguistics at university. I studied grammar daily, I got a 2:1 for heaven’s sake. Why, oh why, does this knowledge fail to show through?

The reason for this, in my first drafts at least, is simple. This knowledge does not show through in my writing because I am a writer. I have ideas that need to be written down before they bugger off. I write quickly, without consciously thinking of the words I am using as I write them, simply because what I have to say must be written. The compulsion to write overrides the desire to be correct.

The subsequent drafts are for correcting these errors and this is when the embarrassment and shame creep in, where my brain, which can be so clever in many ways, lets me down so horribly. I remember the rules of grammar as just that: a set of rules to be remembered. At no point have these rules burrowed their way into my subconscious and made a nest in my left temporal lobe. Recalling these facts requires conscious effort and even with the greatest effort I still struggle to spot grammatical mistakes. Simply put: grammar does not come naturally to me.

It is odd for many people to discover that I am a writer not because of my grasp on grammar and spelling, but despite of it. I have lost count of the number of times I have found myself apologising for it.

So next time you like a comment that says: “those who mix up their tenses should be exiled”; or “people who say you’re instead of your clearly have no brains” please spare a thought for those like me. We do have brains, they just let us down, frequently.