Friday, 1 March 2013

The Writer's Year

This week I am going to give trees a miss because there is something else I want to talk about. The headline is misleading: since this is from my own observations it must be specific to Marcia's year and it is wrong to suggest that all novelists work the same way and, indeed, I am sure that they don't.

The year starts with a vague idea, a shadow usually of a character but sometimes of a place. Obviously there is nothing for me to do regarding the characters. Marcia, and Marcia alone, will be the one talking to them and listening to their replies – sometimes to the puzzlement and amusement of passers who, at that time, Marcia will not even see. No, it is finding the places that is my part of the deal.

I get helpful hints such as, “I think there is a biggish house with a small one alongside, probably a converted stable or something. There's a stream and behind the hill climbs up and is wooded.” From that I am supposed to be able to take Marcia to a location so that she can say, “Yes, that's it”. Those who have read my (I fear at times somewhat pithy) comments on this procedure will know that “marital bliss” can be under considerable strain.

Anyway, we have that idea, that comment breathed into the receptive ear and Marcia begins to become more alive. Then other bits get added and this is one of the most exciting times in the year as the shape of the next story reveals itself.

The excitement continues for the first few chapters of the book until she hits the twenty thousand word count or thereabouts. Then the panics start and she finds the next few week a real problem. By now she is convinced that (a) the book is rubbish, (b) even if the book isn't rubbish it will be far too short, (c) even if the book isn't absolute rubbish and it has the required number of words her agent won't like it and (d) even if the book isn't absolute rubbish and it has the required number of words and her agent likes it her editor won't like it. Probably my most important role during this period is keeping her spirits up and that is where all of you come in too. You can have absolutely no idea of how incredibly important your emails, comments on this blog and letters are both to Marcia and to me.

Then, suddenly, that middle bit of the book is written – that desert has been crossed – and there ahead in clear sight is the finishing post. Suddenly Marcia starts to work for far too many hours in the day: one is reminded of greyhounds coming out of the trap as the hare races by. This creates other problems – RSI in wrist and shoulder and headaches.

It is no good my trying to slow her down as she just isn't listening. Anyway, I was delighted when yesterday she announced that there were a few things we needed to check up on Dartmoor as that meant she would spend the day away from the computer which would do her the world of good. As we came down off the moor these two were perched on top of adjacent telegraph poles: an alert looking crow and a buzzard seeking a late luncheon.

Then the book will be finished and the year will begin all over again. I understand that she already has the opening sentence of the next book but who will be in it or where it will be set is a complete mystery.

This is the Large White Butterfly Pieris brassicae. As its name suggests, it is famous for laying its eggs on brassica so that its caterpillars can destroy the gardeners crops. Here he (or, of course, she) is having a quick snack on the buddleia.

The Blog Dog of the week is called Jasper.