For some time now, I’ve had the notion that I want to finish my Early Writing Influences poetry sequence before I move onto Novel Number Two (NNT). This isn’t a denial of or a distraction from the work required before I begin NNT’s narrative. It’s about completion, of bringing a project full-circle from first thoughts to final drafts.
Before Book One, I’d only ever finished a few things: several poems (a few of which I’ve tweaked in later years), various stories written at school, and a kind of novella when I was 10 years old (though I no longer have it, as I got ‘serious’ about my work when I was 18 and chucked out all the early stuff I didn’t – at that time! – rate).
The recovery time after Book One was rather arduous, to say the least; I went from believing in my book to hating it, mainly because I’d lived with it too intensely for too long. It was all I’d thought about, all I’d written, for about 5 years; I’d become consumed by it. Chewed up and spat out by the time it was rejected several times, though I stuck it out and reworked the beginning...but never tested it. Book One had become an acquired taste, one I needed to live without for a while.
A couple of years down the road now and I feel better about it. Yes, I worked damn hard on it. For 5 years. Yes, I redrafted and edited it chapter-by-chapter more times than you can count, and then did the whole-novel-edit thing a couple of times. But yes, it is still way too long. Yes, bits of it are good, both in terms of the writing and the messages it gives. I really believe that. But yes, some bits are pedestrian and over-described and need to be cut. Yes, it deserves to be edited and tried out in the big wide world once again. But yes, it’s still too soon.
And the biggest yes yet – I learned so much about the process of writing, about constructing a narrative and peopling it with characters that can stand the scope of a novel, that I want to do those lessons justice. I want NNT to be fresh and sparky and real; I want the process of writing it to be creative and challenging and fun. I want to start it, work through it and complete it. I want to write it well, write it good – and a way to do that is to write other things alongside.
And so the tandem of these poems has given me faith.
What’s interesting about these two poems, ‘A Piece of History’ (about a character I created in a school story and the encouraging response from my teacher that buoyed my writing career) and ‘The Almost-Pirate’ (about my easily-impressed young self copying down phrases I liked from books, then realising that to use them in my writing would not be right; it would not be my work), is that they’re both about the same time in my life: my teens. While about different experiences, they’re both about seeking and gaining reassurance, affirmation – as most of our teenage years are.
I’m pleased with how both poems have turned out, and have a sense that one written without the other would have made a lesser poem of both – and so they will be tandem’ed together in the sequence line-up...though I’m not sure which will come first!
There are only two more poems left to write – perhaps another tandem? Who knows – I’m open to the duality of the writing process now that I have experienced it.
Vive la creation! Vive la tandem...though you’ll never see me on a bike!