Okay, its two years since the first novel came out,
so the second one should be just about ready to roll through the printing press. Except it isn’t. It currently stands at thirty-two thousand words, or to put it another way, it’s half-a-novel. It’s a hovel. It’s a house without a roof.
Writing sucks. The first thing you ever do might be the best thing you ever did; just ask Flaubert and Kerouac. You spend years of your life carving a story out of a giant block of solid misery. You chisel off the rough corners and polish it until it sparkles like a ten-carat diamond. You give it to your agent, and the agent gives it to three differ publishers.
And the three publishers say the exact same thing: “Oh. It’s different. It’s not like the last one. We were hoping it would be just like the last one, but with less anger.”
“A stronger feminine presence.”
“More colourful Irish characters.”
“A contemporary message.”
On that point, they all agree; a bit “less You” and it might find its niche in the market.
“Could you make it more about Them?”
“Who are ‘They’?”
“They’re a young couple in a Volvo SUV.”
“With a sunroof.”
“And a rack for a kayak.”
So, you revise your novel and try to make it a bit more Volvo. You add some tepid workplace chagrin, a confrontation with a dishonest nanny and an entire chapter of mild S&M. The agent re-sends it to the publishers and the publishers, who have their fingers on the weak pulse of the Irish middle-class, all come to the same conclusion.
“You need to make it a bit more Range Rover.”
“How do I do that?”
“Just change the S&M for rugby.”