‘Expect the unexpected’ is a truism. Like most truisms, it seems banal until it has meaning for you, the individual, or me, the other individual.
My life looks very weird from where I am now. To start with, I am a contracted writer. Oh yes! Of course, I need to say immediately that being a contracted writer is a nice long stride towards being a published one, but it’s wise not to cheer until you land on the other side of that particular hurdle. Publishers do reject books they’ve contracted for, or require massive, time-consuming rewrites of same. They do (rarely) ask for writers to return advances, and I am hearing that this rare occurrence is becoming slightly more common, a bit like some exotic equatorial bird being found wintering on our shores, it’s the heat that makes it happen, but in this case it’s the heat caused by the pace of economic descent that’s causing the friction around the advance.
So … caveats and all that. I am still contracted. But not for what I thought I would be. I had assumed I knew the trajectory pretty well:
1. Spend years writing a novel
2. Get an agent
3. Rewrite novel to please agent
4. Get rejections via agent while writing second novel
5. Get acceptance of novel
6. Get advance
7. Rewrite to please publisher
8. Get published
9. Get excited
10. Work like stink to promote novel while rewriting second novel to please agent
Repeat from 3 to end of life.
But no. I am contracted to write a work of non-fiction, which means that my NaNoWriMo training is coming in very useful, because instead of having a finished work to faff with, I have a lot of new words to write between now and my deadline. Some of those words are recipes which I need to road-test for publication because I have never bothered to write down all the steps that are in my head that turn X raw ingredients into Y dish. So it’s a twin track approach of bake and write, write and bake, while worrying about imminence of deadline and being discovered to be a total fraud.
Best friend advises me that I am not a total fraud and that having spent twenty years doing the thing I am writing about, and thirty years cooking from scratch, is qualification enough. I am not entirely convinced about this.
They do things differently here … and I am frightened and exhilarated to be doing them too.