What do you do when you’ve finished the second draft of your novel?
Well, first of all, you fend off the inevitable queries of ‘Does this mean it’s going to get published now?’ Then, if you’re like me, you send it out to one or two choice readers for some honest, critical feedback. And whilst you are awaiting said feedback, you put the novel away somewhere. Put it away and try to forget about it.
It’s not easy to do this. You’re so close to it, you don’t want to let it go. You fear losing touch and losing momentum, which, of course, is precisely the point; the idea being that when you do go back to it, you’ll be able to approach it with fresh eyes, more like a regular reader, than someone obsessed with word order and foreshadowing and narrative arcs.
So, what should you do in the meantime while you’re waiting? Personally, I have chosen to turn my attention to domestic affairs and, quite literally, to put my house in order. Wow. My house. Is this really where I live?
It’s like when you return home from holiday and you suddenly notice all those areas of neglect you’d grown so accustomed to they’d ceased to register. Suddenly, I was struck by the affronts to common order and decency I had wilfully ignored in order to get my novel written. Things like the venetian blind in the kitchen caked in grease and grime; the guest room full of stuff I couldn’t be arsed to put away (photos, school reports, kitchen knives); relics of plastic furniture in the garden and patio stones fifty shades too grey.
But worst of all was the room in the midst of which I had been creating. My sanctuary, my haven. My study. I am somewhat proud of how concentrated I must have been in order to keep on writing in this environment. The dog chewed sofa bed. The bookshelves in disarray. The spaghetti junction of dust encrusted wires behind the desk. The cupboard full of bubble wrap and the drawers full of old bank statements and TV licences. The multiple copies of my work in progress strewn about, bound in elastic bands, with no clue as to their place in the novel’s evolution.
The result of this domestic epiphany has been a period of intense productivity. I’ve thrown out the desk I’ve owned for twenty years and always, always hated. I’ve taken a sledgehammer to the dog chewed sofa bed that nobody wanted. I’ve been to the tip too many times to count. I’ve commissioned some new bookshelves. I’ve cleared and re-decorated the guest room. I’ve bleached and scrubbed the kitchen blind.
And yet, for all this activity, I have felt empty and redundant. What am I without my writing? The attainment of domestic equilibrium is, by comparison, deeply unfulfilling. And now a new horror has taken me over. What if, when I return to my novel with fresh eyes, I am suddenly struck by glaring faults which, like the state of my house, I’d been blinded to before?
Well, I suppose, if that’s the case, I’ll just have to settle down in my lovely new study and set about refurbishing my novel. And let the process of domestic decay begin all over again.