Beth Miller

Writing and tea


If you unravel a jumper, do you still have a jumper?

Posted on August 4, 2014 at 4:45 PM

I finished the first draft of my difficult second novel, and showed it to my esteemed agent. The novel has three main characters. Let's call them A, B and C (it's that kind of experimental novel, where people are just, like, not bogged down with the baggage of names). Well, said my esteemed agent, I think Character B is upsetting the focus of the book and it would be better if he wasn't in it at all. Even as I started to protest, I knew she was right. That's why she is esteemed. We talked some more, and I went away feeling that junking Character B would be little harder than pulling out a long piece of bindweed that has tangled itself round a sunflower. Get me with the gardening metaphor. Anyway, you know how bindweed looks like it's going to be impossible to get out but it gives itself up surprisingly easily, leaving the plant intact, if a little gasping for breath? Well that completely isn't how it was with the excision of Character B. It was considerably more like unravelling a large knitted jumper from neck to hem, and then being surprised to see a muddle of tangled wool instead of an intact jumper.


Character B has now exited the book. But does a book still remain? I'm not sure yet.


In happier news, a large box arrived for me the other day. The only delivery I was expecting was two packs of 50 C5 envelopes, so I went into a lengthy yet, I believe, entertaining, rant about the sheer over-packaging of the modern world. My husband cut across me with the characteristic respect we show each other by saying, 'Be quiet you silly moo, it's probably your book.' Much squeaking and ripping of cardboard followed. He was right. Since the age of seven I have wanted to have a book published. So to finally hold it in my hands was. It was. I don't know what it was. My overwhelming feeling was gladness. I was very very glad to hold that book.

Categories: Difficult second novel, Agents