I am coming back to a novel I wrote in 2002. I'm calling it 'Remembering Me.'
Back then two of my kids were still at primary school. I still did the school run every day – only in my case it was rather a brisk walk (I was always a teeny bit late.) My older sons were at secondary school and my house was awash with damp rugby kit and lost exercise books, ballet bags, grubby school sweat shirts, crumpled reminders about head lice and mud. There was always a lot of mud and noise: sauce pans clattering, singing, shouting, TV, radio and argument.
There’s no sign of any of that in this book, though in my clumsy rendition of the main character I can see that I still lived with the grunting masculinity of early adolescence. I guess that in this story I was trying to leave the chaos of domesticity behind. It is set on an isolated beach and no one talks much: it’s an oddly silent book. I wrote about solitude and the sea and I wonder why I thought any child would want to read it.
This isn’t my first novel, but there is something very amateurish about it. I wanted to write ‘proper prose’ and the result is awkward, like a gawky girl pretending to be a grown up.
I am pleased that reading it now has me reaching for my red pen. For a long time I thought it was rather brilliant. My poor agent tried to sell it a few times but, unsurprisingly, no one was interested.
I have tried to revise it before and that attempt is also a bit self conscious, a bit try-hard and it peters out after five chapters, as if the weight of all those wrong words was too much for me. If I were a gardener I’d say it was like trying to impose order on something wildly overgrown. The garden plan had merit (insofar as there was one,) but there are too many weeds and the few trees that thrive are planted in the wrong place. I’m worried that if I try to dig them up they’ll die.
It would be so much easier to begin something new and yet I’d like to think that I’ve learned something in all those interim years. Now, finally, I can see what is wrong, so surely I can fix it?
My little girl with the ballet bag is at university, the boys grown up. I don’t need to write silence into my novels: the house is quiet. I’m taking a deep breath and I’m going back. Wish me luck.