Difficult second

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.

— George Orwell


I swear I’ve spent the last few weeks in a constant state of risk aversion, fretting that if I died or mangled myself I wouldn’t finish the new novel; and worse, that someone would come along and take it all the wrong way. To be honest I got so worked up about this I’ve now deleted all the writing I can find from 2011 backwards.

It’s a good feeling, then, to know you’ve finally hammered out a first draft. All told it’s taken about 18 months, and clocks in at 101,000 words – almost twice as long as THE FOLDED MAN, and well beyond where I’d originally pegged it. It’s more a companion than a direct sequel, and is probably the last thing I’ll set in Manchester for a while. (It doesn’t actually have a publisher yet, either.)

I could go on about how writing it felt like a bastard. That difficult second album. But in perspective, factoring in the hardships of our neighbours at home and fellow humans around the world, it was actually fine, maybe even frivolous. When you’re sitting there in your pants, unshowered, wallowing in the word-hole, binge-eating cheese and chocolate and cashew nuts, it’s easy to forget that writing will be first out the window when the end times come. And that a load of vitamin-D deficient, weak-limbed writers will be no good to anyone in the post-apocalyptic wastelands.

Still. I worked steadily and methodically, on buses and trains, in the gaps between the dayjob and sleep, until this weekend something crawled out into the light, shapeless and bending in all the wrong places, to croak: ‘Edit me. Please edit me.’

So that’s why I’ll be doing for the next month or so (unless I die sooner.) Then it’ll go to my first readers — always the worst bit — before Mr Agent and the wider world beyond (unless the feedback makes me kill myself).


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