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.

5

7 thoughts on “Help! My book is a toad.

  1. raych 6 years ago

    I await this book on tenterhooks. No pressure.

  2. Meg 6 years ago

    None taken. Ribbit.

    1. raych 6 years ago

      Better a ribbit than a croak, yo.

  3. jackie morris 6 years ago

    So, some days when I do a painting I get part way through and then it all sort of collapses in on itself. And some days I then attack it with a stanley knife. Other days I put it to one side and start again and then go back and see what went wrong. ~Every now and then someone will say, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I know. I know that what I have painted is UGLY. Is that how it is with words?

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Yes, but the parallel is more about composition. I nearly always trust the words, but find structure a real bitch. I want this whole book to feel like, ladida, ladida, and then CLICK together like magic on the last page…the best example I can think of is Let The Right One In, where for me, the whole film suddenly leapt into focus five minutes after it ended. Eureka! MAGIC. Easier said than done, sadly.

  4. kokorako 6 years ago

    Isn’t there some strange tale about how if you lick a cane toad (ozzie version) it makes you high. I am sure your toad despair is only seconds away from toad elation. As my midwife said to me “just take good advice” – sounds like your’s should come from your mate Sally G and then all will be well. (So long as I don’t think about climate change too much it’s easy to see everything as if the glass is half full…). Good luck.

  5. Vivian Oldaker 6 years ago

    Thinking about this, and staying on the aquatic theme; I often find m’work-in-progress is like an Octopus – tentacles of plot flailing madly everywhere with no sign of a sensible, settled, state. Then, just when I think it’s anchored itself to some sort of rock, the blessed thing scuttles off to hide in a cave.
    Good luck with yours, Meg – can’t wait to read it.

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