Written your book? Need a new home? Here’s what (not) to do…
One sage piece of advice handed down through generations is ‘Never move house while you’re pregnant.’ Really, it’s only common sense. I avoided it myself both times. From start to finish a removal takes months, and uses around five thousand per cent more energy than you’d need under normal circumstances – just what you don’t want when you’re growing a baby.
No-one says, however, ‘Never move house in the run-up to having a book published’. Well – they should. The two events have been running parallel in my life for the past several months as my two sons and I downsized into a flat… and in case you’re ever in the same situation, here’s (some of) what you can expect:
Stage 1 You decide it’s time to a) look for a publisher and b) sell your house
So first of all you have to go through your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb and total concentration, whilst simultaneously decluttering your home and insisting your kids remove ALL the dead kebabs, solidified half-eaten yoghurts, and last summer’s socks from under their beds. You then put your submission package for the publisher together, and interview a couple of horrendously expensive estate agents. Fortunately, a friend’s boss takes on this job.
Stage 2 You send out your novel and dispose of half your furniture
As soon as you hit ‘send’ and your submission package vanishes into cyberspace, you have a brilliant idea for the start of chapter two. You find a misplaced comma on the fourth page of your novel and despair. Your friend’s boss shakes you out of your depression – apparently prospective buyers need s p a c e to view houses, so you take a few loads of small tables etc to the junk shop, and start a pile in a corner of the garage for the skip you’ll have later.
Stage 3 You find a (magnificent) publisher and show 27,000 people round your home.
The publisher is the fun bit. They are enthusiastic and complimentary and make seriously helpful suggestions to improve your manuscript. You love them all on sight. The 27,000, on the other hand, use up every last nerve in your body as they peer disdainfully at your cherished collection of pottery sheep and drop their toddler’s (full) juice beaker on your newly-cleaned stair carpet. The skip pile in the garage is growing daily now, and you congratulate yourself on having a very small car.
Stage 4 The line-by-line edit and setting up the house sale
During the edit you are amazed at the transformation of your manuscript, but you do find yourself wishing it was just a little shorter. You go cross-eyed pondering the position of each full stop. This incredibly intense feeling pales into insignificance when your friend’s boss blithely requests that you produce bills/receipts – ‘for ALL the home improvements you’ve made over the last ten years’. Numbered, in chronological order. This is for tax purposes and is VERY IMPORTANT. Yeah. Good.
Stage 5 The final text and negotiating with the buyers
Your editor emails the final text and you are completely overwhelmed to see your novel in book format, but terrified you might have a brilliant idea for chapter fourteen now that it’s too late. You re-read the text until you can recite the first hundred pages by heart. Your buyers, a lovely young couple with two babies (not the juice beaker people), want to take over all the workshop fittings. They are ridiculously generous with their hard-earned cash and you spend a long time arguing about who is allowed to pay for what.
Stage 6 The book goes to print and you pack Every. Single. Thing.
This is where doubts and fears keep you awake at night. Was it really a good idea to change the original cat family into a single dog in your book? Should you have extended the role of the doctor in chapter six? But at least you can pack while you’re worrying. You buy twenty-five removal boxes to add to the fifteen you already own. Then you borrow another ten. The skip pile in your garage is now so big you have to park on the street.
Stage 7 Your book is a book!!! and you unpack Every. Single. Thing.
One evening soon after the removal, you realise you haven’t had a brilliant idea for your book all day. Somehow, your brain has assimilated the fact that change is no longer an option, and you start looking forward to meeting the new addition to the family. The number of half-empty boxes lying around your new home decreases every day, and all at once you realise – you’re a writer who lives in a flat!
Was it worth it? Well – the book parts were. Every time. The rest? Hm. The jury’s still out on that one.