I’ve been feeling very guilty because I needed a lot of help with this book. Editors, agents, husband, secret weapon Sally Gardner, and anyone else I’ve been able to rope in to tell me which bits still…aren’t…quite….working.
It just hasn’t wanted to come right. For one thing, it’s structurally more complex than my previous books. But I’m not sure that’s the whole problem.
When I wrote Just In Case, I discovered that it’s much more difficult to write a book based on an idea (“What if Fate were out to get you?” or in this case, “What if God were a teenage boy?”) than to write a book based on an emotional journey.
A journey, by definition, has a beginning, middle and end, while an idea just squats there staring at you, like a toad. I started There Is No Dog with a hopeful heart, fingers crossed, eyes closed, praying that if I started at the beginning and wrote through to the end, it would somehow look like a book when I stopped.
But it didn’t, really. Or, it looked like a book, but not a very coherent one.
So, I changed the plot, the characters, the ending…..at one point, I even pulled the entire central arc of the book out, watched it collapse like a tent, and then built a new arc inside what I’d already written.
The basic idea hasn’t changed. But just about everything else has.
I had lunch with the indomitable KM Peyton (of Flambards fame) last week, and asked whether the blood sweat and tears of writing a particularly difficult book inevitably communicates itself to the reader. I had visions of my poor readers trudging up Everest with pianos lashed to their backs, which vaguely approximates the process of writing this book.
She thought for a minute. “No,” she said at last. “I don’t think there’s any particular correlation.”
I hope to Dog she’s right.