Last week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of lovely days with Adorable Abby Green. She came to stay en route to a family wedding and we did some shopping, a lot of talking, some drinking wine at lunchtime (and at dinnertime, and for quite a long time before and after dinner, too), eating Irish smoked salmon and watching James D'Arcy in W.E. At one point, when enough Prosecco had been consumed to make such comments acceptable, she said to me WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST UPDATE YOUR BLOG?
Now Abby Green is a wise and wonderful woman, and I never heard her give a piece of bad advice (except for 'I really think we should get another bottle'), so here I am, after almost two months, updating my blog. TWO MONTHS? How in the name of Cadburys did that happen? The last time I posted I was full of good intentions about nipping back within a couple of days with details of some of the cool stuff we got up to over Easter, and signed off promising to return 'once I've got some momentum going on the book...' (or words to that foolhardy effect).
At that point my manuscript word count was standing at about 60 thousand words, many of which I knew were neither perfect nor in the right place in the narrative, but I planned to carry on writing until I reached The End before going back and rearranging them all until they resembled A Book. Head down, absorbed in the vivid story in my mind, I felt that this was a reasonably achievable goal. And then I stopped for almost two weeks over Easter (and actually left the house and talked to real people which, with hindsight, was obviously asking for trouble) and when I sat back down and opened the document I discovered that the beautiful, intricately-constructed story I'd left was actually the longest and most tediously dull prologue in the history of writing and that NOTHING INTERESTING HAD ACTUALLY HAPPENED. In 60 thousand words. Gah! WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME?
OK, I thought, prowling around the house frantically searching for any stray mini-creme eggs the children might have missed on the Easter egg hunt; no problem, I'll just do some cutting. I can usually reduce my word count by a third just by curbing my adjective gluttony, so I figured it shouldn't be too hard to prune my rambling set-up and get down to some action. Except when I got back to my desk I discovered it wasn't quite that simple, and actually the whole story needed re-structuring. Worse than that, it desperately needed PLANNING.
I'm a well-documented, dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying pantster, but once this fact had occurred to me there was no way of making it un-occur. So, first of all I retreated to bed for an hour and lay beneath the duvet shivering, then I got up, armed myself with a large pad of A4 paper, some different coloured pens (which served no practical purpose whatsoever but cheered me up a bit) and planned. Minutely. For about two and a half weeks.
It was all most dispiriting. After weeks of noting down my daily word count in a tiny silver diary bought specially for the purpose, it felt like failure not to be able to watch the total creep up any more. The pay-off was knowing for certain that the book will be about a squillion times better (ahem... once it's written) and that writing it should be a bit easier with some kind of map to follow.
That's the theory, anyway. Better get on with testing it out.