First novel thoughts

Young Lady in Clinging Dress and Hat, by Georges de Feure (stained glass)
Young Lady in Clinging Dress and Hat, by Georges de Feure (stained glass)

I recently finished editing the manuscript of my first novel, which I started writing about 10 years ago. At this moment in time, my greatest feeling is that of relief. Yes, the MS needs to be given to my favourite editor (aka my wonderful husband) for feedback and, no doubt, it will need further editing if I want to get it ‘out there’ (whatever ‘out there’ is right for me at that time). Or perhaps it will be relegated to a drawer. I don’t know. But at the moment I am simply savouring a wonderful feeling of closure.

I’m really glad I stuck with my book. Whatever happens to it, I do feel a sense of pride for staying the course and going through a kind of ‘writing apprenticeship’ with it.

The last edit I did wasn’t too onerous in the end, though at the start I was loath to do it because the book had various continuity/timing issues and I found it difficult to envisage the novel as a whole when working on a computer. I find it much easier to see timing errors when the novel is a physical, tangible thing, in real, actual paper. But I also couldn’t face/justify printing out another 200 pages. Anyway, in the end, minimizing the size of the pages in Word (and so having more of the novel in front of me) helped me to ‘see’ the issues and get them sorted.

My last edit was no doubt a little complicated by me doing it while reading two fantastic books — Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I knew from experience that after reading such beautifully-written books, editing my own would be a rather disheartening experience. Thankfully, though, I’m much more philosophical about this now, compared to when I was younger. (I grew up on the classics of Dostoevsky, Forster, Bronte, Austen etc. and it seemed futile then to even bother writing my own book when there were so many books by those great authors to savour again and again).

Young lady in hat by Marija Smits
Young lady in hat (graphite), based on art by Georges de Feure, by Marija Smits

But… being older and wiser now (I hope!) I have realized that we do all have our own stories to tell and each writer’s book is as valid as the next. Rather like painting though, it is the level of skill and the strength of the mysterious invisible connection (or engagement) between the painting/book and its beholder/reader that will ultimately take the book to a whole other level of popularity/success/longevity.

Another bonus of finishing the editing is that I feel the time is right to shift my focus onto my YA fantasy book (I wrote about 8000 words of that a while ago and then it came to a standstill as I became busy with work, wrote some short stories and poetry, and spent some time on reworking the first novel). Anyway, I’m looking forward to re-entering that world, when I get the chance.

Young lady in hat (coloured pencils) by Marija Smits
Young lady in hat (coloured pencils), based on art by Georges de Feure,  by Marija Smits

I know that my husband is sometimes frustrated by the eclectic nature of my work. Both of us are well aware that concentrating solely on one genre and/or age range has many advantages but, again, I’m philosophical about this. All the writing that I do — from copywriting, blogging, writing for children, writing poetry, writing short stories etc. — is useful, and helps to inform and improve my writing skills (although it inevitably means that progress in any one area seems slow). I know that my art has benefitted hugely from working on one subject but in different media.

Young lady in hat (watercolours) by Marija Smits
Young lady in hat (watercolours), based on art by Georges de Feure, by Marija Smits

Anyway, I’m glad I’ve had a chance to document where I am right now on my writing journey; no doubt years later I will look back on this, and think What?! You thought your apprenticeship was done after 10 years and one book? You have to be joking! Ah, the folly of youth….


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16 thoughts on “First novel thoughts”

  1. This was really interesting to read, particularly as I am late to this writing lark and very much still finding my voice, and my feet! I loved reading about your journey (and the illustrations you included) x

    1. I’m glad it was of interest. I’m sure it takes most writers quite a long time to find their own unique voice, and just when they *think* they’re getting there then no doubt it all goes awry…! Wishing you all the best for your journey too. And I’m glad you like my illustrations 🙂

    1. Thank you Janey for stopping by and commenting – it’s great to see you here again! I’ve been rather absent from my blog lately… work and the novel (and my little ones) have kept me very busy. Anyway, I hope you are doing okay. Take care xx

  2. Congratulations. I know what you mean about the first novel being your writing apprenticeship. And what do you do, think of it only as that, or try to get it published all the same? Your illustrations are beautiful.

    1. Thank you Nikki. And yes, it is a difficult question to answer. Right now I don’t know what’s going to happen to my novel but, no doubt, the answer will come in its own time… Glad to know my illustrations are beautiful to you. Makes me happy!

  3. Hi Marija. I loved the illustrations too, the second is my favourite. And I too loved Never Let Me Go. Such beautiful writing. It’s reassuring to know you started your book ten years ago, gives me hope that I will (first get back to! and then..) finish mine eventually. Congratulations on finishing yours!

    1. Thanks for your kind words re: my illustrations. If you mean the coloured pencil drawing, I think I like that one best too.

      It’s funny, isn’t it? When I mentioned on my personal Facebook page how much I loved Never Let Me Go lots of people agreed with me. I loved getting a conversation going about it.

      And I’m very glad to have been able to give hope to you too re: your book. You CAN finish it. It is DEFINITELY possible! Go for it!

      And many thanks for your congratulations and for stopping by 🙂

  4. Well done on reaching this milestone! And I love your illustrations too. I know what you mean about reading brilliant books and worryingly incessantly your own writing isn’t up to it. Over the years I’ve had moments where I’ve stopped writing for this reason. But you find your own voice eventually and it’s important to have confidence in your ability. It will be interesting to find out what your editor thinks! ; )

    1. Thank you Emily 🙂 And I’m sure that all writers go through this ‘what’s the point when there are so many great authors and great books around’ thing… but it’s all part of the journey of finding one’s own voice. Life’s rich pageant and all that 😉

      And yes, I’ll be interested to hear what my editor thinks. He’s gotta love it, right? Right?! 😉

  5. maddy@writingbubble

    Your illustrations are fabulous! I especially love the second one (in pink) – her eyes are so alive. I’ve been toying with the idea of exploring my artistic side again – I did an art foundation year 12 or 13 years ago and I loved it. But I’m trying to put all my spare time into writing and I don’t feel I have nearly enough time for that! I’m so impressed that you can draw and write so well!

    Congratulations on finishing your MS, that must be a wonderful feeling. I can’t wait to get to that stage with my novel and the fact it’s taken you ten years is actually really reassuring and inspiring. I think doing all those different types of writing is a great way to improve in all areas. It takes you on more of a creative journey than just focussing on one writing project (or that’s what I tell myself when I’m bobbing around between projects anyway!). Thanks for linking to #whatImWriting, I really enjoyed this post.

    1. Thanks for your kind words re: my illustrations – much appreciated 🙂

      It’s really interesting that you did an art foundation year, and I’m not surprised you loved it. You’re probably far more skilled than I am then, because I’m self-taught and could probably really do with a helpful teacher…

      I know that feeling of being torn between writing and art – and family and work – and it’s just so tough, isn’t it? There really isn’t enough time… So ‘little and as often as possible’ is my motto.

      You’re welcome re: the link up and I’m glad you really enjoyed the post 🙂

  6. You are an extremely talented artist. Well done on the edits. I struggle with editing and then give up, so well done for getting through it. I get disheartened reading books by peers, so no doubt one of the greats would possibly stop me writing anything ever again! Even reading blog posts intimidates me sometimes. x

    1. Thanks for your kind words Chrissie re: my art. Yes, I know that feeling of editing being a struggle. It’s rather like a dreaded exercise regime isn’t it? No one really relishes the prospect of the exercise (editing) but most feel much better for having done it. I hope you can find a way through that feeling of ‘dread’ and push on through. Best wishes x

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