Saturday 7 March 2015

A scary prospect: A rewrite and a change of title.

I recently had a brilliant session with editor Gillian Stern as my prize from Finchley Lit Fest's Dragons' Pen. I had printed and packaged my novel and delivered it some time before and now was the christening. The baptism by fire - we're talking dragons here. People often talk about novels being babies but mine is actually more of a young adult who should be leaving home but won't budge.

And there is the problem. I knew in my heart that this would be an issue and it was the first point Gillian made.

It's a novel about contemporary life but I began writing it nine years ago and life has moved on. 2006 had a different feel to 2015 especially when it comes to technology. My character is divorced, 50 and has a daughter of 20. To make her 50 in 2015 I would have to completely re-invent her backstory. And I'm not sure I can write with the same authenticity the very essence of somebody born in the mid 60s rather than the mid 50s.

The answer is of course to make her 60. I can do that. But her daughter will be 30 - a big difference. And the issues at 60 are not necessarily those at 50 - or are they?

After all, women hitting 60 today aren't retiring with cosy slippers and some knitting - they'll be about 108 before they get their state pension. Some have taken retirement from one job but are embarking on another, or are setting up a business. Some still have teenagers at home. Some even decide, God forbid, to have a baby. They travel, they study for degrees, they enter marathons. Yes, some do. They really do. Yes, some also look after grandchildren, have knee replacements, need several trips to the loo at night, but who says these are incompatible with dipping a toe in the dating game?

So I am embarking on a huge rewrite...

Another helpful piece of advice? Gillian suggested I go to a speed-dating event. Purely in the name of research of course. Why the hell did I have that as a scene in the novel? Why couldn't my character just go somewhere exciting like New York? Oh, wait, she does.