Writer’s Digest 2007 Annual Competition winner Alegra Clarke has been updating us on her progress to get her novel published. Here are photos of our trip to New York. And here is her last post about her trip to New York to meet with agents.
Alegra’s latest entry:
Before I went to NYC the inevitable question, ‘So, what do you write?’ resulted in one of my best ‘Wow! Great day we are having!’ smiles and an under-the-breath answer of, ‘Oh, you know, I mostly like to write words, I aim for complete sentences, and I really like paragraphs…’
I had not found the genre for the novel and its absence made me feel unsettled, as if any moment my writer status was going to be revoked. During this time my husband tried to reassure me by saying, ‘just the fact that you think like this is proof that you are hardwired to be a writer.’ I think he was insinuating something about me having ‘a tendency towards anxiety’ or an ‘overactive imagination.’ But it wasn’t either of these things (really it wasn’t!), it was because I understood what having a genre or a solid ‘elevator pitch’ meant. It meant I had a solid grip on the story.
I have spent the last two months since the NYC trip plotting, testing my plot, researching, plotting again, sending my ideas to Joel Gotler, whose patience and generosity with me is enormous, until finally I could feel it and see it; the plot, the story I wanted to tell. With this came the knowledge of genre. I can now confidently say, ‘I am writing a psychological thriller.’ And believe me, for the last few weeks I have rolled the words around with obnoxious glee, harassing my friends with, ‘Ask me what I write…go on, I dare you!’
It has been a wild journey and I think it is only about to get wilder. In fact, I am depending on it. The original novel I wrote I can now see as a passionate and sincere effort at beating around the bush. That manuscript has become a fertile pile of compost for growing short stories. It might even be gestating a novel or two. But it isn’t the novel I am now writing. What I have now is the storyline the other draft was circling around. The learning process has been so accelerated that at times it is unnerving. I look back at something I wrote even five months ago and think, ‘How could I have not missed that fatal flaw? Why did I not get something so simple and obvious?’ All I can do is reassure myself that this is proof that I am improving and keep on with keeping on.
I am now in the last few months of research and plotting before I dive into the actual writing. I am doing things very differently this time by plotting in advance. I have always admired writers who can sit down with an idea or a question and pour out a novel in one draft, revise it and then be done. I am not that kind of writer – at least not at this stage. And if I had a penny for every edit I did I would be one wealthy woman.
I personally don’t believe a dark story can be told halfway, it is a world that must be entered into completely. I have been organizing things in preparation for diving into the writing of this novel as opposed to my first attempt that was often written with one or both of my children hanging off of me like a jungle gym or engaging me in a chorus line of “No! Don’t touch that electrical socket! No! Don’t put your sister in the toilet!”
The last few months since NYC have felt like preparing for an extended journey. I was recently stunned by watching Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight because of how he intensely embodied some of the qualities of ‘evil’ I am hoping to explore in writing. I have always been fascinated by what it takes for an actor to take on a disturbing role and now I am about to embark on finding out what it will take for me as a writer. I think the most obvious answer is, “Lots of chocolate and coffee.” But I might be oversimplifying things.
Alegra will be updating us on her quest to get her novel published so stay tuned for more.