Not just writing the thing

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A Home from Home by Susan Barrett

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I don’t dare calculate how many hours, days, months I’ve spent through my writing life not on actually WRITING books but doing all the business attached to writing books. The only really satisfactory part, I find, comes about three-quarters of the way through a novel. By that time, I know it’s going to come good by the end. There’s still enough tension left to continue and make sure it does come good. And there’s a big pile of written pages on the desk to reassure me that the bulk is done. Apart from that patch of time, what else? Hours and hours, days and days of checking, re-checking, re-writing, fiddling, printing out, printing out again with alterations. THEN what?
In my early days, how easy it was: living in the Cyclades, far away from distractions and duties, hammering away in the mornings at a portable typewriter (underwater fishing for supper in the afternoons); then parcelling the typescript up and sending it off. With an eye on the title of this piece, I musn’t forget the years between the original writing of the first novel and the eventual publication and sale of film rights thanks to the agent I found through the art director of the Observer who’d liked my cartoons, recommended by our friend (as she still is!) Katharine Whitehorn, the Observer columnist (again, as she still is). I was lucky from then on. I didn’t have to do a thing to aid the publishers; minimal proof checking, no literary festival circuits. Heady days. I could just write. Seven novels followed, with two mis-shots inbetween.
THEN what? Years of writing, years of rejection. I try to think this has been very character-forming, in the way that Robinson Crusoe had a very good character by the time he was rescued. From my desert island of a study, I’ve been sending smoke signals up for longer than I am brave enough to state. Now I’ve freed myself from such a dismal task. It’s fun to get a book onto Createspace (perhaps they should pay me for all the testimonials I’m providing). But it is worrying, too, without a mainstream publisher behind you. The business of checking, re-checking, proofing, re-proofing takes ages. Then there’s all the kerfuffle of finding readers on your own bat. You suddenly have to become someone you are not: a self-publicity virago.
Once I’ve got my two recent novels and The Cousins’ Chronicle out there on Amazon, I will jump back into my burrow and start writing again. Can’t wait.

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