"So how's the book going?" friends ask when I emerge from my study, and I'm never sure how much they really want to know. They probably could do without the re-enactment of the knotty plot crisis in section two, which involved pacing up and down the kitchen while stabbing a biro into my own head. An account of 'flu survival while being unable to work for two weeks will probably suffice. They can be spared details of the cold sweats and near delirium after the phone call from my editor in New York who only asked some basic, logical questions.
But one of the attractions of writers' blogs, whether reading or writing them, is that there is a core of honesty. Otherwise, why would you bother doing either, right? I find it interesting to know how the process works for other writers, how fast they work, what interventions and constraints there are in producing a new novel. Sometimes, there's an element of reassurance. There's a useful sense of how long it takes from first idea to finished book.
So, for those who are interested in such matters, here's how it's going. I had an end of March deadline to deliver the first draft of the book I've been writing since September, incorporating a novella I wrote earlier in the year - delivery to my literary agents in the first instance; delivery to publishers was fixed for the end of June. I am extremely lucky to have two literary agents these days, one in New York and one in London. It's quite the dream team.
I sent the manuscript in mid-March and enjoyed my freedom, not expecting to hear anything until a few weeks after Easter. Over lunch in London in mid-April with both my agents Stephanie and Araminta (who are great friends and colleagues) I was given the great news that they thought the first draft was good enough to go straight to the publishers on both sides of the Atlantic. Hurray, champagne all round - we were ahead of schedule by two and a half months!
Perhaps it was partly relief after all the intense work that brought me down with the 'flu, perhaps it was the busy social time the following week. At any rate, I was knocked out for a fortnight and came round to find that editorial work was already starting. When the call came from my editor at HarperCollins in New York, my brain was so foggy I couldn't even remember the names of my own characters. A few days of panic ensued, during which I had to take a long hard look at the nuts of bolts of my plot - marvelling at my editor's laser focus on the crucial issues. (It's astonishing how the asking of a very simple question can open up weaknesses.)
I'm feeling much better now, in all senses. The editorial process has begun, while waiting for more notes from the UK publishers, Orion. I'll keep you posted.