Saturday, January 16, 2010

New year, new work.

The inevitable has happened. My thoughts have turned to what I am going to write next. I have been asked so many times, 'so, what are you working on now?' At which point I usually look at my baby and back to the person asking the question. Alas, he is now five months old and I can no longer use him as an excuse. Even though motherhood is a full time job, there comes a time when your brain starts coming back and you start thinking about what to apply it to.

In some ways it's a lovely feeling - a clean slate, an empty page. Anything is possible. At the same time it is daunting. What if I don't have any good ideas? Actually, I have a notebook full of good ideas for my next grown-up novel, but none of them is calling to me louder than the others. Each one would require exploration to see if it's any good. It is worrying to me, because the last time I was at this stage I spent months on something that just never took flight. I don't want that to happen again but know it inevitably will.

There is pressure, too. Your second novel has its own syndrome, but your third has no excuse. Your third should be perfect. It should have all the strengths of your first two and none of the weaknesses; it should have new and unique properties that demonstrate that you have kept on getting better at this writing lark. It should be deeper and more profound, more controlled and yet more exuberant. Not too much to ask.

In among the new ideas scribbled in my notebook, there is one that has been there the longest. An idea that come to me after my first son was born as I walked around Wellington's wild south coast with a pushchair. At the moment that is the idea that is calling to me the loudest, the one that feels less daunting (and certainly shorter): a children's novel. In some ways pushing everything aside to work on it (I have written the synopsis and the first chapter already) is a delaying tactic, but I also feel that this is a story that can be wonderful in its own right, to sit alongside my adult novels. I also feel that while I work this out of my system, my next adult novel will present itself and can slowly percolate while I write about a 12-year-old boy called Jake.

Whatever happens, I will be happy to be writing again.

As an aside, my dear friend Mary has started a very knowledgeable blog on good things to listen to and read while commuting - Beaut Commute (love the title!). A fabulous idea. Sometimes I wish I was a commuter, instead of working from home.

14 comments:

Gondal-girl said...

glad you are back in the Blog-0-sphere - you have been missed. I think whatever you write, as long as you are writing, it will be wonderful. Starting something is more thrilling than revising something old I think. Jake sounds great - I have started something for children to - it will be nice to know your son will be able to read something of yours sooner don;t you think...?

Rachael King said...

Thanks GG, I've been rather scattered with my blogging and everything else. I have to say that is something that crossed my mind, that my kids will read something of mine in just a few years, and I'm looking forward to dedicating a book to them. I'm enlisting the help of my brainy eight-year-old niece as a first reader too! Perhaps I need to think about publishing it under my married name to keep things separate...

Gondal-girl said...

jeanette winterson writes children's books under her own name...

scattered...that is my middle name...

Rachel Fenton said...

Happy New Year back at you!

Five months has whooshed by...feel like I should have a finished draft already...I think it was at about the four months stage after my son was born when I started to feel my brain getting all antsy again. Had a lot of family visiting for what seemed like half the year and couldn't do anything about my thoughts except jot them in a notebook and think, and think, and think...I think Children's literature is a very interesting direction to move into and should compliment your adult novel writing...view children's lit as the poor relation of novel writing...I wish you the very best of writing experiences with it - the success part's a given!

Donna Hosie said...

Writing for children is an interesting direction to take, Rachael. I often think it is harder to write YA or MG, because there are certain rules and conventions one must adhere to more rigidly. Best of luck with it.

Rachel Fenton said...

I should never comment when I'm tired! That should have read - some view children's literature as the poor relation of adult novel writing but there are many top authors who prove this to be otherwise - you only have to look at Helen Dunmore for an example!

Made a fluff up with your comment on my blog, too, but all sorted now. I need a good night's sleep! Does your baby sleep through? Mine's 16mths and still wakes in the night!

Mary McCallum said...

And I'm writing my children's novel, Rachael, and loving it. It's so freeing and exhilarating ... haven't quite pinned down why yet. Will report when I do... Good luck with yours. X

screamish said...

jeeeez...your son's only five months and already you're back into it! I'm well impressed!

Marianne said...

I know I can't wait to read any children's novel that comes from your exquisite mind. It's an extraordinary gift to be able to give your boys.

Jim Murdoch said...

I never suffered from second novel syndrome. If anything it flowed with greater ease than the first. It was my third that was the real bugger – I had to take a break of two years in the middle of it because I had no idea what to do with it. It was the best thing for it. I returned with a new voice, a new direction and did some of the best writing of my life. The fourth was a fairly straightforward piece but now I’m on my fifth I’m having the same problem as the third, I know where I want to go but I have no idea how to. During the gap in the third book I wrote short stories, this time it’s poetry. Writing is being written, maybe not exactly what I want to write but perhaps what I need to write.

I did write a kid’s book once just after my daughter was born needless to say. She was seventeen before I actually sat down and read it to her. Never been drawn to kids’ literature again. Good luck with your project anyway. It sounds like what you need to be working on so go for it.

Vanda Symon said...

I'm with Jim on the third novel syndrome. I sweated bullets over that one. Now I have to rattle my dags on number four.

Claire Beynon said...

Hi Rachel

Greetings to you and salutations to your new writing endeavours.. Also, in case you haven't seen it, this link to Maggie May's blog where she recommends you and Magpie Hall to her followers...

http://poemsandnovels.blogspot.com/2010/01/january-rain.html

Warmly, Claire

Fifi Colston said...

5 months old- and you can't use him as an excuse? Golly, there are times I still use my 22 and 19 year olds ... 'I can't write whilst you are gossiping to me!/facebooking me/cleaning out my fridge of edible foods/refusing to leave home'
My 4th novel is languishing. Is it because I am malnourished from said pantry thieves? haha.
looking forward to whatever you have next in store for us all Rachael (no pressure...)

Mary McCallum said...

Rachael, Congrats on a great little Q and A in the Sunday Star Times http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/3255193/Q-A-with-author-Rachael-King . I was thrilled beyond measure to see myself there in the list of writers that inspire you - along with the likes of Peter Carey and Anne Enright. Enright's prose is truly a work of art, isn't it? I need to read more of her.... There was also a terrific review on www.scoop.co.nz if you didn't see it....