Some people spend years working on their first novel. They can’t leave it alone, and it won’t leave them alone; it drags them down, and it stops them sleeping. But these people keep up the pretence of a normal life until, a decade or so later, they just might have something approximating a novel. And they might even get published.
But others take another approach. They put their lives on hold and dive into their novel as if nothing else mattered. And Anna Hayward is most definitely in the latter camp. She’d allowed herself a break from her professional life and had everything in place to make a go of this more creative one. She’d been handpicked as one of the NWS10, a small and very select group supported by New Writing South. And she had won herself an Arts Council grant to support herself through the process.
Over the last six months or so I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring Anna, again through New Writing South. We started working together last September, with a strict timetable in place propelling us from a half-finished first draft to where we are now – an almost fully fledged second draft with all those things you want a good novel to have: deeply sympathetic characters, a clever, sophisticated plot, and sentences that feel just right. And now it’s off on the next stage of its journey – to The Literary Consultancy for another round of scrutiny and another polish.
So my job is almost done, but I’ll still be cheering from the sidelines. When you like a novel, it’s hard to let it go completely.