Clearing the decks: time for a new project

So, they’ve gone. My literary novel for 9-12s about lemons (see previous post) and my Big Collaborative Project that involves Superheroes – they are OUT. Poof! Into the ether that is SUBMISSION SPACE!

In other words, I now have two BIG books doing the rounds with publishers, as well as an early reader. That’s more than I’ve had ‘out’ for…ooh…um…two years? That’s a scary thought.

However, I do feel a huge sense of relief that at last the projects I’ve been working on almost simultaneously have GONE from my desk (or, more accurately, my computer). It’s very liberating. But, to stop myself going mad wondering if anyone is going to like ANY of my submissions, I have to occupy myself.

So what next? Well, my desk needs a thorough de-clutter. Really. I’ve been piling stuff up on it for months. You know the kind of thing: leaflets, magazines, articles torn out from stuff, terrible but sweet drawings from my kids, addresses and phone numbers on scraps of paper that need transferring into my address book, Christmas letters that I’ve been planning to reply to (oh dear. It’s August. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?)…

BUT. After, or alongside, the de-cluttering, I need a project. A new one. A brand-new, shiny idea that fires me up with excitement.

To be fair, I do actually have three other books in early and not-so-early stages. One of them I think could be a real possibility in the future. I’m just not sure that now is the right time. And when I went on my Charney retreat a few weeks ago, I made a collage. The lovely Jenny Alexander ran a session about using the subconscious. You have a big piece of blank paper. You have a pile of magazines and a glue stick. For ten minutes, you rifle through the magazines, tearing out any words or pictures that jump out at you. You’re not supposed to think about this too carefully. When your ten minutes are up, you have another ten minutes to arrange and stick down your pictures and words onto your blank piece of paper. Then you stand back and take a good look at it.

It’s a wonderful activity, and it’s astonishing just how much you can learn from it. You can do it with a particular project in mind (it worked wonders for me seven years ago when I was trying to fix a novel that wouldn’t work. It gave me the key to the whole thing!) or you can just be open to whatever comes.

This year, I thought I would try to remain open, to see what might inspire me for a future book. And THIS was the result:

collage from Charney 2014

It’s given me a lot of food for thought. And I think I have the glimmer of an idea. A really exciting idea. An idea that requires a big commitment, because it would be a big book. Possibly bigger than anything I’ve written before. But I feel that now might be the time for a new challenge. So I’m nurturing the idea, cosseting and coaxing it, until it’s ready to form itself into words. I see power, I see women, and I see conflict.

What do you see?

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