For no other reason than I love this picture and don’t want to publish this blog without including something pretty to look at, here’s a snap I took in November while on an Arvon writing retreat at Lumb Bank
By ‘eck, I’ve been working hard these last two weeks. Not that I don’t always work hard, you understand, but now I’m talking back-aching, neck and shoulder-aching, brain-hurting sort of hard. It’s structure, you see. I keep thinking I’ve got it nailed, then as I start to write, I realise, Oh, that can’t go there, because that hasn’t happened yet and it’ll give away that other thing … Or something along those lines. This has happened several times over the last couple of weeks, and I really feel as though I’m taking two steps forward and one and a half back; maybe one, if I’m being optimistic.
The main problem is, I think, that I have two viewpoint characters, one whose head we’re in both in the present and in the past, and the other who we only see from the first character’s viewpoint in the present, but into whose head we go in the past. So I’m basically juggling Character A present, Character A past (both from her viewpoint), Character B present (from character A’s viewpoint) and Character B past, from her own viewpoint. With me so far? Thought not. If anyone knows any novels where something similar happens, pleeeeeease let me know!
Anyway, in my last post, I mentioned having cut more than half my original draft. It was scary, but necessary. I had lots of lovely supportive comments both on Twitter, and on the post itself. My thanks particularly to Rachael Dunlop who said that she’d had a similar experience, but rather than cutting, she put the original MS aside and started again from the beginning, because, she says, “at least this means the word count goes up and not down.” This is good psychology! I’ve now done the same thing, starting with 15,000 words (all completely new or significantly rewritten). I still have all the original scenes on my desktop for when I need to refer to them, but so much has changed that there’s very little, if anything, that I can simply paste into the new draft.
Because of the structural issues, there is a great deal of thinking to do, and while I’m normally in favour of taking a break now and again to let my subconscious do some of the work, I spent one day away from it last week and found that it set me back considerably because I lost the train of thought I’d been following with a particular problem. Having said that, it’s not good to have no breaks at all, so the best solution I can think of for now is to make sure I look at the work every day, just so that I stay familiar with it, and also to keep a large notepad beside me so I can write down every idea/possible solution as it comes to me. Then I just need to cross it out if I decide not to use it.
The current new word count is 23,760, so I’m not quite making my target of 5000 words a week, but then I know it’ll be much higher some weeks because it’ll simply be a question of rewriting, rather than completely rethinking. So, I’m plodding on, slowly but surely.
I’m trying to stay positive and optimistic, and it really helps that spring is on the way – here’s another lovely picture to prove it:
And just to round off, I’d like to share a couple of nice things that have happened since my last post: I’ve been invited to speak at the Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch on 26th March, which I’m looking forward to immensely, and also, I’ve had another one of those rather special reader emails. It’s always lovely to hear from readers (and I always reply), and I particularly like the emails where they include something about themselves, or why the book had particular resonance for them. Just after my last blogpost, I received an email from a reader who said that, due to family/work circumstances, she’d got out of the habit of reading and hadn’t read much at all for the last twelve years. My books, she said, had ‘reignited’ her love of reading. How lovely is that?
This is the second time a reader has told me that one or both of my books have started them reading again after a long break. I can’t think of many things you could say to an author that would be more pleasing than this. And as always, I’m immensely touched when a reader takes the time to write and let me know that they’ve enjoyed my books. In fact, even as I’m typing this, I’m smiling!
And on that note, I’ll sign off and see you in two weeks time with another update!