I am about to post an excerpt of my book on the internet.
*curls into fetal position*
I’ve spent about 2 hours writing this post, and as usually happens, I have found through the process of writing it that what I really want to say is something totally different to what I started off with. For instance, this post started off with me going back through my archives to see all of the lessons and experiences I’d recorded from my experience of writing a novel, trying to find some inspiration to get me started revising Tallulah today. Along the way I found that, honestly, I didn’t want the inspiration. I didn’t want to write Tallulah at all. But then I realised that there was a reason for it besides burnout: I didn’t like where I was going with my revision.
There are a few reasons for this, all of which I only got clear on through writing about them – using writing to solve your writing problems really, really does work guys – such as:
- Breaking from the revision plan I’d made by getting distracted with the idea of making this new revision more “light-hearted” and “humourous”
- Realising that I’d distracted myself not just from my revision plan, but the reason I made that plan in the first place
- Realising that it all came down to what I set up with the first chapter, and the fact that even after revising it to emphasise the most important part, only now realising just how incredibly important that important part is
I also found that, since I am paranoid about spoilers, a lot of the things I’ve written on this blog aren’t actually very helpful to me in terms of learning from my past mistakes and realisations, because there are only vague indications of what any of them are in reference to.
So fuck it. Let’s give some spoilers. I hope you guys get something out of it – I’m still very much in the stages of writing and re-writing, even after three years, so I hope you’re not expecting the most dazzling prose you’ve ever read in your life, but this is the first time I’ve ever actually shared any of my book with anybody outside of my circle of friends and family. And it is, as I have realised today, the most important part of my story, one that I wish I’d realised three years ago. But that’s learning for you. And for me, this blog can be more than just a place I go to vent; it can also be a place I return to to learn from my past. Which means that I need to record it, instead of just allude to it. Maybe that’s not a great idea for a blog because it’s public and therefore vulnerable to exploitation – but at the same time, it being public is part of what makes it appealing: I am writing this blog for myself, yes, but not only for myself. And if I want to put my stories out into the world, and given that my last post was all about how I want to share my stories more and feel less insular in the way that I tell stories, I guess I could do worse than to test-drive the experience and get a feel for what it’s like to actually put my work out there.
Here is the (current) first chapter, in its entirety, of my novel-in-progress: Tallulah. (And if anybody tries to steal it: I have it written down – I have this entire story written down, and have had it written down for over two years – which means it is copyrighted to me. My paranoia is assuaged, or as assuaged as it will ever be.)
Tallulah heard two voices raised in contest as she came down the stairs, stopping one step from the bottom to hear. One was her father Jacob’s; the other belonged to a woman.
She knew that woman’s voice. Her heart started to sink and her stomach to clench. It couldn’t be anyone else. But maybe …
‘… pop up whenever you feel like it; she doesn’t want to see you!’ Jacob sounded angrier than she could ever remember.
‘I’m not here to wait out your tantrums, Jacob. I’m here to see Tallulah. If she –’
‘You are not talking to her, Sinead. Leave.’
A pause. Tallulah thought of switching her phone to silent, just in case it rang and gave her away.
‘Tallulah and I need to talk; she deserves to –’
‘You have nothing, your fucking nerve – you get back in your goddamn car and run the fuck away, that’s what you’re good at! Not talking! Not listening! Not explaining a goddamn thing, or holding up your end of –’
‘Don’t. You. Dare talk to me about not listening. Or not explaining. I fucking explained myself to you, for all the good it did me. I’m not here to pick up that load again, not for you; I’m not here for you, I’m here to see her! It has nothing to do with you!’
By this point, Tallulah had retreated back up the stairs as quietly as possible. Once she reached the landing she slowly, silently turned the doorknob to her room, slowly and silently shut it behind her, and sat down on her bed to wait out the argument.
But she couldn’t help peering out the window that sat over her bed, down to the gravel driveway where a pristine red Mini was parked. Sinead must have been making decent money.
What was she doing here?
The fight rose up above the floorboards. Sinead’s voice was bitter.
‘How do you do it, Jacob? How the fuck do you do it?’
‘I remember. I make some fucking effort. Do you not remember the last time you were here or something? Did you not hear what she said to you? No, what I had to say to you for her? Because of how you made her feel? Do you remember that? That she couldn’t even fucking tell you –’
‘YES I REMEMBER!’
‘And you’re still standing here, talking about how you’re here for her? You’re a real piece of work, Sinead; that’s some impressive self-delusion.’
Swallowing, Tallulah looked up above the red Mini and the gravel driveway, above the grassy lip of the cliff that her house sat at the top of, out over the doglegged wooden walkway that led down to the beach, the huge, twisted logs of driftwood that lay on the shore, glittering under the white sun of the clear morning sky. A comforting chill rippled through her at the sight. She couldn’t hear the waves rustling ashore, but she could feel a pull like the ebb and flow of the tide, and without noticing her body began to gently rock back and forth.
‘I’m not playing around: come near my house or my child again, and you will regret it.’
‘She’s my child, too!’
‘FOR THE LAST SEVEN YEARS SHE’S BEEN MY CHILD; YOU LEFT HER HERE TO BE MY CHILD; YOU LEFT HER HERE ALONE WITH ME, RAN OFF WITHOUT A SECOND THOUGHT ABOUT HER, ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN YOURSELF AND YOUR GODDAMN PITY-PARTY, SO NOW YOU CAN FUCKING DEAL WITH IT! GET OUT!’
The sound of gravel crunching underfoot drew her gaze back to the driveway, and now she knew what was coming: if she kept looking she would see Sinead for the first time in seven years, and Sinead might look up and see her, too. But there was still time to look away, or lie down flat on the bed and just let her go, unseen and unseeing –
Her hair was still long and thick and wavy, the same as Tallulah’s, though brown rather than black. Her skin had darkened; she’d been living her new life somewhere in the sun, and with sudden, unexpected anger Tallulah felt a tiny electric snap against her stomach like a shock of static electricity, a split-second before Sinead spun on the spot and looked right up at her, as though she’d known her daughter had been watching.
Tallulah’s breath caught in her throat, and the explosion of warmth behind her eyes mortified her. She was trapped; Sinead had seen her.
A terrific crash rent the air as the barbed head of Jacob’s whaling harpoon slammed down onto the bonnet of the Mini; both Tallulah and Sinead jumped in shock, and then as Jacob advanced with a furious roar Sinead somehow snatched the wooden shaft of the harpoon just behind the head, tugged it out of Jacob’s hands and tossed it over the roof of her car, over the lip of the cliff to clatter to a stop on the wooden walkway.
Tallulah was breathing again now, shallow and fast, watching as Sinead got into her car and reversed out of the driveway, Jacob frozen in place, probably stunned by Sinead’s burst of strength that Tallulah couldn’t account for, couldn’t think about right now; she wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her jumper and slid off her bed, crossing her room to the far window that looked out over the top of the driveway that led out to the road, which wound down a hill between a row of trees planted at the edge of a meadow on the left, and another row of shorter trees on the other side that led down to the beach.
She watched the red Mini as Sinead spun it around and pulled forward onto the road, down the hill and out of sight. She remained at the window staring after her mother, even though by now she had completely disappeared.
Okay seriously did I just publish the first chapter of my unfinished book on the internet what the hell is wrong with me what have I done can I have a time-turner or something I am freaking the fuck out omigodomigodomigod AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
… so yeah, that’s the first chapter. Reading it now, it’s obvious how important that scene is, and it’s becoming obvious where it could take this story, which is something I owe it to myself to explore. Maybe it is actually time to completely start over from scratch – barring this chapter – and accept the fact that all the writing and planning I’ve done for the past three years may only ever amount to a lesson in what not to do – for this story. On the other hand, it may be that in exploring where this story needs to go and forgoing my attempts to recycle as much of my manuscript as possible, I’ll find new and better ways to do exactly that. It’s not like I’m deleting anything. Never delete anything. That is one lesson about writing I have managed to remember and live by ever since I learnt it, some fifteen years ago.
And now I need to see what I can learn from this chapter, from what it’s telling me, and what I was telling myself by rewriting it to look like this in the first place. This chapter was originally much longer, and to its detriment: a bunch of other stuff happened before this fight, and what I realised late last year was that it all just got in the way. I still wanted to use it – I still do – but not here. This is the start of everything that is to come, and it needs to be as clean and as focused as it possibly can be, nothing but the essentials. And I don’t think this will be how this chapter looks by the time I’m ready to submit for publishing. But there was a reason I cut out the stuff that happened before this dramatic reunion; there was a reason that I decided to open my story with this particular event, and I forgot that I ever realised it. Well, I remember now, and am much more motivated to actually follow through with this whole revision thing.
By the way: not looking for feedback on this chapter, as the entire book is very much still in-progress. But feel free to leave comments, as always. I may share more excerpts in future. This is an experiment, and in a way this was the safest chapter to share online as it really doesn’t give very much away in terms of what happens in the rest of the story. I might also put out the call to any of you who want to be beta readers when the time comes. All things to consider.
And now, having taken a risk in my year of risk-taking and feeling very uncertain yet, honestly, quite excited …
Time for some revision? I guess?
SERIOUSLY THOUGH I AM FREAKING THE FUCK OUT NOWWHAT HAVE I DONE