The end of the Isles

With 96 days to go to publication and some eight months after I commenced writing, Isles at the Edge of the Sea is, at long last, completed. I sent the manuscript – all 71,000 words of it – to my publisher, Sandstone Press, today.

It has been a labour of love, but not always – at times it has been frustrating and fraught with confidence-crumbling moments. The writing process is inescapable. It is always there, at the back of your mind, a nagging knowledge that work, a gigantic amount of work, needs to be done – and done well.

For so long, the script has been my personal possession. Of course, I always knew that the whole point of writing was for public consumption, but that moment of handing it over – opening it up for mainstream scrutiny – is a fearful one.

My mother called earlier, in tears, after reading the last three chapters. Good tears, I hasten to add. She liked it, I like it; I just hope others do too. 

25,000 words

Another milestone – 25,000 words written, about a third of the way towards my target, and the book is beginning to take shape. Sandstone Press, my publisher, has put this on their website, which makes it all seem very real. Let’s hope I can live up to my billing of bringing ‘wit and intelligence’ to the page.

Frustratingly, the book remains untitled. I’ve got more than 20 ideas written down, but none of them quite fit the bill. The title needs to eloquently sum up the various themes – the outdoors, travel, adventure, and ideally have the words island/islands or Hebrides in there. Any ideas very gratefully received.

The writing

The journey over, the writing has started, and I have churned out almost 14,000 words in 10 days. It has been a long, time-hungry process. Constantly, as I read and re-read my words, I ask the same questions. Is it any good?  Will anyone want to read this? Will anyone actually pay good money for this? It can be a demoralising process. To avoid further demoralisation, I avoid non-fiction like the plague, particularly anything Britain-related. Exposing myself to such things fosters self-doubt. My book will never be as good as this, that sort of thing. They are silly thoughts, but why court them in the first place? Hence I’m reading Shakespeare, literature as far removed from mine as possible.

Length is another concern (it always is with men). My running total of 14,000 words seems a lot – but it’s barely a fifth of the entire book. A figure of say 70-80,000 words is incredibly daunting. And then there is the start and the end, always the trickiest parts. What may have seemed like a grand idea on Coll, Colonsay or Harris does not seem so clever in the harsh, black and white reality of a Word document.

Some writers will craft a sentence or paragraph for an inordinate length of time, seeking perfection. I prefer to throw all my thoughts down as quickly as possible, then literally start again: tidying up, cutting, adding, altering, basically re-writing the lot. I’m not at that stage yet. For now, I keep on, setting myself word limits each day, treasuring those moments when I read something I’ve written and think, I like that, I think other people will too.