In the interests of honesty, the following quotation isn’t one I ‘randomly’ came upon during my morning dip into Mrs Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary. I deliberately searched for it. I know the book well enough to roughly recall where to look for what I need when it’s specific.
Two chapters away from finishing my fourth novel, Only May, I’m acutely aware of how I need to take it slowly and get it right. This is the shortest book I’ve written, the most compact in terms of scale. It takes place over the course of the month of May. Four weeks to tell a story doesn’t afford a lot of leeway to create a viable plot. It’s easy to obsess over the minutiae, at the expense of moving the story on. And because it’s a little lighter, wordwise, the temptation to rush is ever present.
“I shall solve it somehow, I suppose. Then I must go on to the question of quality. I think I may run too fast and free and so be rather thin.“
What with one lockdown and another, I’ve found it easy to stick to a writing schedule. In fact, I’ve been up with birds these past few weeks, eager to see what my feathered friends have left for me. They haven’t disappointed.
The best thing about writing a novel is the way, in spite of the fear, there comes a point when you allow yourself to believe it might be working. For a while, when I hit the halfway mark I’d convinced myself I was kidding myself. And it was a character who saved me – one who I had initially introduced simply as a convenient hook to hang my central character’s dawning realisation on: her conviction that things were not as they seemed. She has developed into a crucial reality and a woman of solid substance.
The fear by the way is real. I’ve scribbled about it before. How sneaky it is, how insidious. And yet how necessary. Once we begin believing, because we’ve had three books (pick a number) published, we might be a legend in our own lunchtime, we’ve lost our way.
Which bring me neatly to ‘the question of quality‘ Mrs W refers to. She means editing. She means structure and shape and how the thing sits on the page. Wordcount notwithstanding, once I have these final chapters down, I shall have to mess it up. (Technical publishing term – honestly.)
May is my new favourite (sorry Other Characters) largely because she has challenged me. For a while I wasn’t sure where we were going. She did. I’m so pleased I trusted her.