Friday, 22 October 2010

Hello Goodbye*

It’s been a whole month, a lot of words, a few extremely late nights, a complete career change for my hero but quite a lot of writing pleasure since I last blogged. Sorry for the long silence – this has been one of those books that has really absorbed me and made me feel like I’m living a parallel life - in a hulking great castle on the Northumberland coast, which is no bad thing (except for where real life is concerned, where it's resulted in a distinct falling off of domestic efficiency. Oops)

I haven’t exactly finished and sent the book off yet. It’s due in in the first week in November, but the daughters break up for half term today and we’re going away tomorrow, so I needed to get to a place where the end was not just in sight, but in touching distance. I always want finishing a book to be like the scene at the beginning of Romancing the Stone when Kathleen Turner sits at her desk, tears streaming down her face as she types faster and faster until she gets to The End. There have been a couple of books when it has been a bit like that for me, but mostly the way I work is a lot more messy and less organized. I write in a big surge of energy and focus, faster and faster without reading back over anything, until I get to the last chapter. And then I grind to a complete halt because I can’t go on to the grand finale until I know everything else is all in place, so I have to go right back to the start to do a thorough revision job before I write the ending. That’s the stage I’m at now – the reading-back, tidying-up, weeping-with-horror-at-the-holes-and-glaring-inconsistencies and wondering-if-there's-time-to-write-a-completely-new-book-in-a-week stage. Lovely.

Anyway, I can do all that on my printed-out ms while we’re away at the Cottage in the Middle Of Nowhere again this half term. I am so ready for a week without screens (apart from the TV variety, albeit with only 4 channels and a slightly grainy picture) and as I’ve been stuck inside for weeks, haven’t got round to getting the chimney swept and haven’t cooked anything decent for the last month – I'm also ready for lots of walking, open fires and proper food. And reading. And getting up in the morning (not with an alarm and not at a time that begins with 5, obv) to a house that doesn’t look like the ‘before’ sequence in ‘Grimefighters’. I shall try very hard to ignore the fact that I’m only going to come back to all that at the end of the week and hope that by then I will be so much restored in body and spirit by all the wholesome fresh air, exercise, red wine, time with my family that I will be able to face it with serenity. It is just my process. I must learn to love it. (Though if it was anything else I'd be taking it back to the shop and asking for an exchange to a more efficient model.)

So, before I go what I need to know is, what’s your process and have you learned to accept it?

* (To rather appropriately quote The Beatles, who have had a couple of random mentions in the book. Who knows why?)


Joanna St. James said...

With regards to your house, the elves might come and fix it while you are away (hopefully).
I dont have a deadline (except for my self imposed ones)so what has not been working is to write really fast, edit while typng it out and send it out because I am too giddy with my work.
On my current manuscript I have written a partial and I am letting it rest for 2 weeks before I re-edit and fix the holes.
I get 3 nights in Nice this November away from everyone so I am really excited about that.

India said...

That would be brilliant - if you know any elves would you put a good word in for me? My mum will come round to talk to the cat and poke lettuce through the bars of the rabbit hutch, and sometimes she gets to work on the ironing basket too (lovely, lovely mum xxx) but it would be nice to have elves cleaning the bathroom and mopping the kitchen floor too...

I think the 'letting it rest' rule is a brilliant one. The key is to not stop thinking about it though - make sure you keep the story and the characters alive and in your head, and it's amazing what bolts of inspiration strike. And three nights in Nice - in November?! You LUCKY girl. There'll be inspiration overload there!

India said...
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ros said...

That sounds like a perfect holiday!

I'm not sure I exactly have a process, but since I am rubbish at outlining and planning, I do always end up doing very serious editing in the second draft. And those moments when you just can't get the words down on the page quickly enough are amazing. I find they come more often near the beginning of the story when it's all new and exciting than near the end when I know what's got to happen.

India said...

(I'm posting comments twice to make myself look more popular, see?)

Ros, I'm SO envious that you get the 'words coming too fast' moments at the start at the book. For me, that's when it flows like concrete and I feel so stressed by the idea of going in the wrong direction that I can't get going at all. The end is where it goes quickly for me - up until the point where it suddenly stops altogether.

Where are you up to in yours now?

ros said...

I have four and a half chapters and various bits of other scenes. But I have signed up for NaNoWriMo which I'm hoping will get me to the end of the first draft by the end of the month. My plan is to have time to revise it in December and be ready to submit it in the new year.

Jane said...

Have fun at the Cottage and good luck finishing the book.

India said...

Ros, that's so cool that you have a plan. Deadlines are such a massive part of the writer's job so it's extremely wise to incorporate them into the job for the beginning (yes, self, I'm talking to you too here.) You 'oop our way at Christmas at all?

Thanks Jane - I love the week we have in this place. I'm only a bit joking about coming back all serene!

CCMacKenzie said...

Hello India

I met you at the workshop in Nantwich! Lovely cakes btw.

I've learned the hardway to learn to love an outline. I know, it doesn't come naturally.

The trick is to try and stick with the outline once the muse has me by the throat. I, too, go crazy at the beginning with all sorts of stuff in my head begging to be heard.

Trouble is, half way through, I begin to question what I'm doing and where I'm going. Now I have an outline, this helps me to stay on track. At least, that's the plan - just need to finish it now.

Good luck with the book India.

Christine Carmichael

ros said...

Yes, I'll definitely be home for a couple of weeks at Christmas and it would be lovely to see you if you're free at all.

Kate Hewitt said...

India, your holiday sounds fabulous. Can I come? I'd like a break from everything right about now... very interesting idea about whether you accept your process or not! I've come to recognize my process, but as for accepting it... it still seems to involve a lot of pain, misery, anxiety and self-doubt so whether that is part of it or simply because I haven't accepted it yet I don't know! I'd love to just sit down, write a book, and be done with it, easy peasy. That, I can tell you, is NOT my process! Enjoy your time away xo

Catherine J said...

Hope you get some sunny days in the Middle of Nowhere. It sounds like a great place to be.

Courtney Fox said...

Hi India - Jeanne's cousin again. Just wanted to let you know that I finally came across one of your books and picked it up! I haven't read it yet, but am certainly looking forward to it. All the best,

India said...

Hi Christine - lovely to see you here! (And really lovely to talk to you at the workshop) I alternately love and loathe outlines, but I totally agree that they are necessary. In the beginning I feel like my daughters used to when they were just gaining confidence as swimmers and didn't want to be hampered with babyish armbands, but then suddenly got out of their depth and were very glad of them. Some kind of outline is really important to fix an initial impression of your intentions for the book, I think. More often than not I stray from those and the path I go down is better, but occasionally I'm VERY glad of the original map. (Is that enough mixed-up metaphors for now?!) Anyway, good luck with yours and KEEP GOING!

Ros- good news. Let me know when.

Kate, I know, there's a big difference between acknowledgement and acceptance. The question, I suppose, is if you don't accept it can you change it? I think I try to, every time. No success yet.

Catherine, it was lovely. Not sunny like last year, but lovely. Sigh. Next time I think I might book a year instead of a week. (Wouldn't work though would it?) Will email you - we owe ourselves a meet up!

Hey Courtney - thanks for that! And say hi to Jeanne when you speak to her next. The other day I went for lunch in the bookshop cafe where we used to meet up, and it made me miss her...