Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thrills and stresses

I had a lovely surprise yesterday afternoon: a story I had entered for the Bristol Short Story Prize had made it to the longlist. I was amazed, as I had rather forgotten about it, having a lot else on my mind, with the novel I'm working on. Strangely enough, I had only just been reading Adam Marek's piece on the Short Story Page, Five Mistakes I Made While Trying to Get Published, in which he says:
Don’t dwell on your submissions. Send them off and forget about them. You should push them from your mind so strongly that when you get accepted, you can barely remember submitting them in the first place.
Good advice, because, as he says, success is best of all when it comes out of the blue.

And then I had a really lovely little Amazon review for Too Many Magpies, which is short enough to replicate here in full:
Too Many Magpies is a fantastic short novel, full of mystery, humanity and depth. It is extraordinarily well written - in beautiful prose - and the question at the heart of it kept me hooked till the end. Very enjoyable and highly recommended by this lover of quality literary fiction. Baines deserves a wide readership & critical acclaim.
Not only that, but yesterday I reached a point in my current novel which allowed me finally to feel I was truly on the right track. As well as re-jigging the whole structure, I've been working on a new voice, and wasn't sure until yesterday that it was going to work, so up until now the process hasn't been without stress. And I'm finding once more how all-consuming working on a novel is for me: although I've already got a version on my computer and a printout sitting on my desk, I am still ending up writing the whole thing out, because the new voice is giving me new rhythms and tone, and too much reference to the old version destroys the sound of it in my head. And I still need, I find, to write by hand, which I'm not sure I'll ever get away from now: there's just something about that hand-brain connection and the flow of ink from my fountain pen. It's as though I'm painting the words and the scenes, and as with painting a lot of the emotion of the novel seems tied up in the curving movements of my wrist and hand. Which means that, having written all morning I'm having to type up in the afternoons. And since yesterday I was rather stopped in my tracks by the mid-afternoon news of the longlist, once I started again I was working until six, and then still had to go to the shops for something to eat and see to the washing...

But it damn well beats the times when you're blocked and not writing at all..


Sarah Hilary said...

Congratulations on the longlisting, Elizabeth! It was a thrill to see so many names I know on the list (and me amongst them). I agree 100% with you and Adam re the 'forgetting about the subs' approach; added to which, I find it never works if I wish too hard for anything. Much better to be surprised out of the blue, as you say. Congrats on the great review, also.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Congratulations, Sarah! It's great that they've published a long list, I feel - publicity even for those of us who don't get into very top final few!

Sarah Hilary said...

Absolutely, Elizabeth. I wish more contests took this approach.

Group 8 said...

Wow, I so admire your work ethic, Elizabeth. (Am also a bit jealous of your time, trapped as I am at the mo with a small baby...) I also admire your thoughtfulness about writing and I think the hand-brain thing is definitely important.
I wish you luck with the Bristol and nice review :)! - well deserved.
Isn't it great when all is well with one's writing world? I feel it on the horizon for myself (baby to a creche soon, PG) and I am so excited about getting stuck into substantial work.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Nuala, I felt SO frustrated when I had babies (and so guilty about feeling frustrated), and it's so great isn't it, when they get to creche?

But I think you're really impressive, the amount you get done with a small baby.

And re my work ethic: I felt so worn out today, I have decided to cut my writing hours in the day - I just don't think I can keep it up otherwise for the length of this novel!

Thanks for the Bristol wishes. I'm just really pleased to be on the longlist.

Rachel Fenton said...

Congratulations on the longlist, Elizabeth, well done!

Great review, too.

It's always interesting to know how other writers get to the business of putting words together to make something magical. Good to hear you've made a break through with your current novel. Best of luck with it here on in.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Thanks, Rachel! I'm sure there will be rough patches, but it's all part of the process, eh?