LET IT GO

Guys, big news. Two years after finishing my first draft and a year after getting a book deal, I just sent the copy-edited The Girl of Ink and Stars (formerly The Cartographer’s Daughter and still titled thus in the US) to my publishing manager. Which means next time I see it, it will be laid out in all its finery, in ACTUAL BOOK LAYOUT.

Ok, so maybe it’s not THE big news i.e. publication, but as the writer it’s possibly the biggest step in this process so far. It’s in essence my final draft. More for my geeky benefit than yours, let me take you through the number of drafts my little story has been through, with word counts and all for extra keenness.

Draft 1: 82,934 words – completed September 2013
Draft 2: 107,379 words – completed December 2013
Draft 3: 68,223 words – completed March 2014 (ms sent to agents and accepted)
Draft 4: 70,530 words – completed May 2014 (ms sent to publishers and accepted)
Draft 5: 55,225 words – completed March 2015
Draft 6: 48,109 words – completed July 2015
Draft 7: 48,590 words – completed September 2015
Draft 8: 47,185 words – completed October 2015
Draft 9: 46,881 words – completed November 2015 (copy-edited version)

As you can see, my ms has never been shorter but it is definitely in the best shape it can be. Being my first ever attempt at writing fiction, let alone a novel, I basically threw everything I had at it – and what I had was an obsession with One Hundred Years of SolitudeThe Northern LightsLighthousekeeping and Skellig. So not the most cohesive of inspirations. I’m lucky to have found an agent, then a publisher, then an editor, then a copy-editor that understood what I was getting at.

In a future blog post, I’ll compare my beginnings because they shifted a lot, as did the number of myths/stories told within the text. I also didn’t start knowing that it would be a book primarily for children, though it quickly became clear that this was what I was subconsciously most interested in. It was a real challenge, as my natural ‘voice’ in poetry – and life – is quite adult in theme and language, but I think restriction can often be where you find the most freedom when writing.

ANYWAY, the point of this blog post is to say: ‘I’ve done it.’ And that it didn’t come out perfect first, second, or even eighth time. But I really think it’s as close to the best it can be now, so it’s time to let it go.

Editing Update

A quick note before I collapse in a pile, but quite a lot to fill you in on!

Firstly, things are happening apace with publicity. The official announcements etc will take place around Frankfurt, along with cover reveal etc! I’ve seen the mood board for the cover and it is S.T.U.N.N.I.N.G.

Secondly title will be changing. There are various reasons, not least that there is a wealth of ‘The…Daughter’ titles and we don’t want Isabella to be defined by her father. This feels like an important moment for the book – I’ve been working on it for a year and it’s a chance to give it a name that works for what it is now. When we’ve decided what it is, I will of course share!

And finally, today I FINISHED my last major edit. My wonderful editor Rachel has brought the manuscript on so far, and I feel incredibly excited about where it’s gone. It’s far more taut, more exciting, and more emotionally connective. So all good things. I’m going to send it to Rachel and Barry tomorrow for final comments, but most of the work is done (apart from copy-edits, proofs etc etc. So not really THAT done.)

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Right, I’m off to the pub to celebrate. Have a lovely week in the sunshine!

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

I just loved that game. I’m still not sure where she is, but I’m here! And I have a lot of catching up to do.

The main reason for the hiatus is five letters long and sounds like my soul dying. Yep, e-d-i-t-s.

I have done two big reworks of THE CARTOGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER since my last post in December – one ironing out plot kinks and pacing, and another making a last minute, massive stylistic change that I will tell you all about when it’s been signed off by my American editor at Knopf. It was a stressful few months, but I really think I’ve ended up with a story that’s tighter, more engaging and just plain better. Line edits up next!

It’s so odd looking at past drafts. The main thing that has improved is the consistency of voice. Before it was a mash up of mannered/poetic/twee/contemporary, and showed clearly I was a first-time novelist learning on the job. I am so grateful that various people saw enough in these drafts to work with me, rather than leaving me to it! Now, edging towards TCD’s final incarnation, I can finally stand back and see it as a story that will exist in book-form, not just a manuscript stitched together by hopes and dreams and bad syntax.

So, apart from editing, what have I been up to?

Poetry things have been going excellently. So far this year, poems have appeared in Room, Shearsman, The Irish Literary Review, Oxford Review and the anthology Raving Beauties (Bloodaxe Books). A couple of those were ‘bucket list’ publications, so it’s great to tick them off. Best of all is to have the affirmation that my new work is…working.

The new work is all poetry in Eurydice’s voice. I mentioned Œ a while back – the retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice in collaboration with the musician Max Barton and artist Tom de Freston. In January, we put on a work-in-progress performance alongside an exhibition, at 47/49 Tanner Street (now Ugly Duck). I found it strangely emotional, inhabiting Eurydice’s skin and story. We got a lovely review in Trebuchet, and here is a trailer of the evening, filmed by Mark Jones:

Πat 47/49 Tanner Street from Unmarked Films on Vimeo.

It’s been incredible working with Max and Tom so far, and we are in the middle of deciding our next steps. Ugly Duck are helping us to find a location suitable for a longer run, so stay tuned!

The three of us are also at the start of a new project in collaboration with a lecturer at Birmingham University and the Other Place at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, I can’t reveal too much about it at this stage, but suffice to say my poetry hat has not been neglected during my editing frenzy. I’m love writing across genres – it keeps me balanced and I’m definitely never bored.

Finally, I turned 25 three days ago. And my cake was epic:

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Who’d’ve thought THE CARTOGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER merchandising could be so delicious?

Time to be an adult I suppose. Must floss teeth, recycle, and update blog more regularly.

 

Writer, Writing

Forgive me blog, for I have sinned. It has been forty-four days since my last confession blog post.

And a lot of things have happened, as things tend to do.

Firstly, I had my first editorial meeting for The Cartographer’s Daughter at Chicken House. My editors are Rachel Leyshon and Barry Cunningham. I’m head-over-heels. I already feel that mix of trust, respect, abject terror and awe that is essential in the writer-editor relationship.

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It was lovely to visit them in Somerset. The company is based in a beautiful old Georgian-style (or maybe even Georgian full stop?) house, all books and high ceilings. They made me flapjacks and I made nervous small talk, but it soon became clear that this is going to be a fun, challenging and exciting experience. We have a more in-depth, all day session coming up in November, once their other projects have come to an end and I have finished my WiP (so very nearly there!) I should be working with my US-based editor at Knopf-Random House by then, too. Hero-agent Hellie is checking in regularly to make sure I’ve not lost it, and I’m so grateful to have her on my side.

I’m slightly less there with BOAT – my erstwhile debut play. The brilliant director/dramaturg Max Barton, whose work I have followed from Cambridge’s ADC to the West End, is guiding/cutting/keeping my feet on the ground. We hope to take it to Edinburgh next year, so I suppose I’d better get on with it! He has asked me to collaborate on a stage adaptation of a film – in fact, one of my favourites – too, but I can’t say which just yet.

Max must be on a mission to infiltrate my writing life, because I am also working on another project with him in his capacity as a musician, and the artist Tom de Freston. I can’t reveal too much right now, but we are converting an ancient myth into a poetry/music/live art performance for 47/49 Tanner Street, and I’ve got a very, very good feeling about it. Hopefully the performance will act as a launch pad for bigger things, and we have an amazing producer on board to help us with promotion and funding. Here is a little taste of one of my Chorus poems for the project:

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Which leads nicely onto one of the most exciting anthologies I have ever contributed to. Published by For Book’s Sake – a premier e-zine of writing ‘for and by independent women’ – Furies consists eighty-one pages of startling, angry, beautiful poetry. Silenced or misunderstood women from history and myth rise from the pages in a cacophony, accompanied by striking line drawings. Other poets include Helen Mort, Rebecca Goss, Malika Booker and Patience Agbabi. It’s a lovely object, but the contents cut like a razor on the tongue. I’m reading at the launch on the 1st October, more details here.


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And lastly, I handed in my MA thesis. I also declined my PhD offer. As well as bringing my twenty years in education to a close, this means that I am now a full-time writer.

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Did you get that? A Full-Time Writer.

Six months ago, that sentence would have evoked a wistful sigh – ‘maybe after the PhD’. A year ago, I was trying to finish my first book. Two years ago, I was wedded to poetry and therefore had no illusions that such a thing may be possible. Three years ago, it was hit-and-miss whether I would feel up to getting out of bed that day. Four years ago, I would have swatted you aside with disdain – because four years ago, I wanted to be a lawyer, and was working (very briefly) for an asset management firm in London.

But now, I’m a writer. I’m paying taxes, filling out scary forms, signing contracts, actually saying what I do for a living to people without hiding behind student status or qualifying it with a self-deprecating quip.

My point is, things happen. My point is, for the first time in my life, I know where I want to be in a year, two years, four years’ time – writing, in whatever genre will have me.

And hopefully, remembering to update my blog more often.

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