Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Remembering Me: N M Browne

And breathe.
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.

9 comments:

Jan Needle said...

Interesting stuff, NM. But who's your little friend Albert!

JO said...

Brave, going back to something written that long ago. There must be something in it that resonate with you now, to make you want to do that. (Most of my old stuff is so shamefully dreadful I cringe just to think about it!)

Umberto Tosi said...

My older stuff usually makes me cringe, but occasionally, I read a passage and wonder who wrote it. I remind myself of what another writer friend once told me - that I am a different person every time I sit down to write. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

Bill Kirton said...

As Umberto says, thought-provoking. If asked for advice by newbies, one thing I always say is 'Trust your own voice'. By that, I mean they shouldn't think that 'WRITING' has to be posh, flowery, etc. The external examiner liked my PhD thesis but thought it contained too many 'coups de trompette', i.e flowery excrescences. I find nowadays that I'm using more and more dialogue in my novels (reverting to my origins as a playwright, maybe). It curbs the temptation of pretentiousness. I'm completely with you on the idea that the 'me' of now is a different 'me'from the one who wrote the originals.

Dennis Hamley said...

Being an independent author lets you do this and it's a huge freedom. After all these years I have a lot of rightly abandoned or simply failed efforts knocking around. And some have been good ideas ineptly carried out, I've had no compunction about going back and seeing if I can rescue them. Some are beyond it, but just a few have turned into swans, or at least, not entirely geese. and it's actually very satisfying when it works, though fairly depressing when it won't.

Sandra Horn said...

I love the sound of it and I'm sure that there's something amazing under the weeds! Please go on!

Lydia Bennet said...

Some stories take many years to grow and need a period of hibernation! Good luck with the new book.

Enid Richemont said...

My first adult novel was written over twenty-five years ago. It wasn't written for publication, although finally it nearly made it - it was written because it had to be written, and in a kind of trance (wish I could achieve that desirable state now).

Several months ago, I was talked into having it converted to Word (it was originally written on a typewriter), and I've spent the early part of this year editing it. It's currently with my agent, who's due to get back to me next week. It's been a very strange and emotional experience. NB I do re-write my unpublished children's books, continually.

Jan Needle said...

When I wrote my comment about Albert, I knew what I meant. I don't now. Can anyone remind me, please?