Monday, 18 June 2012

A post in which I use a lot of CAPITALS

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).

 Ah.

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.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lovely to see you back, I practically cheered in the office! Only joking, lovely to read your blog again, we've all missed you and eager to learn a little about your next book.

xx Karen

India said...

HI KAREN! (waving like a loon) I've missed you too. Hope all is well with you and you haven't been washed away in all this rain. Safest just to stay indoors with a good book, I reckon.

I promise I will blog about the book one day soon. Or at least some of the things that are inspiring me. There's been a real dearth of good looking men on this blog of late.

Rachael Thomas said...

Hi India,
I hope the planning (and coloured pens) have done the trick and that the word count is rising. Can't wait the hear more about it.

Abby Green said...

Did someone mention 'Adorable Abby Green' ?! I had SO much fun seeing you honey - as usual. I want to move into your house permanently :)
xx Abby

Maisey said...

I just wish I could have been with the two of you. ;) I love your blogs India, they're always so lovely and I have every confidence your book will be even more lovely. They always are!!

India said...

Sadly Rachael, most of the coloured pens seem to have wandered away from my desk now, but the word count is slowly creeping up (and down again, as the rule appears to be that I have to write something wrongly to know how to do it right - how annoying is that?)

Abby, am now hatching an evil plan to kidnap you and keep you in my attic forever, in the style of Kathy Bates in 'Misery', writing books for my entertainment only. In fact, writing my books only. Genius, eh?

Ah Maisey, you're a sweetie - thank you. There's plenty of room on the sofa for another one, so next time you have to come too, OK?

Gina Rossi said...

Oh but this awesome post strikes a golden note - BONG - with me. Covered in multi-coloured post-its as we speak...(coloured pens ran out)

India said...

Gina, sorry to hear you're going through the planning trauma too, but strangely (selfishly) comforted that I'm not alone! Hope it's fruitful and you're back on track very soon. Keep us posted...

(hahaha - posted! Geddit?) (sorry)

Sophie Pembroke said...

Coloured pens make all things feel better. I have a full pot of them right next to me now while I wait for manuscript feedback, just in case...

So glad you're back, and I hope to book starts behaving soon.

Sophie x

Michelle Styles said...

Sometimes you have to write it wrong in order to get it right.
It will get there.

Am jealous of the good time you and the Adorable had. I think Abby should be known as the Adorable from now on or perhaps AAG for short.

India said...

Ooh Sophie - waiting for feedback is torment. (Though actually having a finished book to await feedback on seems like a distant dream to me at the moment.) Arrange your pens in rainbow order, that should help pass the time... (and GOOD LUCK!)

I think you're right Michelle - on both counts. I should be resigned to having to write it wrong first, but it still stings. Better just try to accept it. (And The Adorable it is. I think it could catch on!)

Sharon Kendrick said...

But the most important question of all is: DID YOU FIND ANY STRAY MINI-CREME EGGS?

Jane said...

Hi India,
I love James, too, but I can't bring myself to watch W.E. Did you like the movie?

India said...

Sharon - of course! You don't think I'd be daft enough hide them all in places where the kids could find them do you?!

Jane, Abby and I came to the conclusion that it was a triumph of style over substance. It was visually gorgeous (thanks James) but there was a bit of a vacuum at the heart of it, and no real sense of passion or great emotional tension. (In fact, I may or may not have fallen asleep for a moment or two.) I'd still recommend you watch it sometime - and the music is lovely.

wannabe a writer said...

Hi India

Welcome back. I'm sorry you have been struggling with this book but I'm sure this will just make in even more brilliant.

I read Emily's Innocence on my hols at Easter - you never disappoint - I just loved it. I've reviewed it on my blog.

Linda

Brigitte said...

Your friend Abby is One Wise Lady, reminding you to update your blog; *waves to Abby with gratitude*. Thought you had gone AWOL or been eaten - or worse? - by The Big Bad Wolf?! Or was it Swept Away by the Torrential Rains??
Good to see you're back with us. Will you be staying longer in Blogland, this time?
Hope your ideas have "unjumbled" (Is that even a word?!!) since; I'm sure your book is coming along nicely now. I know you always win the battle with words in the end. :)

India said...

Sorry for further radio silence from this end, ladies - life is never simple! Linda, thank you so much for that lovely comment about Emily's Innocence, and for reviewing it. It's cheered me right up!

Brigitte, I have a whole collection of posts written in my head, but the tricky part is grabbing the time to commit them to blogger! Similarly with the words on the manuscript. This week has been one of those where Real Life really does its best to get between me and the keyboard. The book is unstuck, but I'm scared that all those newly released ideas are going to be trickling away like sand through fingers as I sort out a whole lot of other stuff. Could do with a convincing clone of myself to get on with that while I lock myself away and write!

(More torrential rain on the way too, apparently. More reason to stay inside and write!)

Eldeco said...
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