I think last time I wrote here I was procrastinating and feeling blue and generally faffing about with a few different ideas.
Well, I made a decision to work on a new standalone that – once I’d done some cursory research to confirm the basic premise was physically possible in the real world - made me exited.
My friend Neil Broadfoot is a genuine Pantser. You know: one of those people who has an idea and just runs with it. I’m awestruck how he manages to not only come up with such Byzantine plots and twists but manages, always, to tie everything up neatly. His latest “No place to die” is a masterpiece of plotting, with not a single loose (or even slightly threadbare) end unresolved, and yet he’s open about having Pantsed the whole thing.
I’ve always been a plotter, someone who – before writing a word of the book proper – usually has about ten to fifteen thousand words of notes sketched and arranged in chronological order so that some chapters are basically cut n paste the notes then expand on what you’d already decided.
So I started working on thestandalone, and realised very quickly that because so much of the story relies on the repercussions of things that happened two (or more) decades ago I’d have to sketch the back story first and make sure I had that locked down.
So I did.
Then I went to Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I can not recommend this highly enough: If you’re a lover of theatre, of comedy, of music, of people and random strangers chatting to you at the bar, of a quick Scotch turning into a taxi ride across town to see a show that you ‘Just have to see,’ then this is the festival for you and the fact that this was the first time I had ever gone is to my deepest shame.
Then I came back to London and got sucked into various dayjob shenanigans.
Last Tuesday I was sitting at my desk paying as little attention to a phone meeting when I suddenly realised the back of my head felt wrong.
And as I moved my hand to it and tilted my head a millimeter backwards the hurt exploded into agony and spread like wildfire up the back of my head and across the top, seeming to bloom inside my head at the same time.
I grunted in pain and closed my eyes, opening them as I continued to tilt my head backwards in agony. Panic set in when I realised that my vision wasn’t moving in the same direction as my eyes, which is to say it clearly was but something in my brain was telling me that I was tilting my head forward even though I knew it was going backwards.
The fireworks lasted a few seconds and then something not-quite-agony settled in.
Frightened, and assuming it was a migraine (I had to assume as I’ve never had one before but it scared the living shit out of me and hurt like nothing I’d experienced before) I scuttled home, alternately sweating profusely and shivering wildly, crawled into bed and passed out.
When I awoke a few hours later the pain was almost completely gone, though an occasional twinge has served, since, to remind me of what was a truly disturbing event.
I’m seeing the doc on Friday and getting various tests to check that it wasn’t anything more serious.
Last Friday would have been my mother’s 76th Birthday, if she hadn’t died four years ago. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, and the grief which almost consumed me before and after her death is less likely to drag me under these days, though the waves are capable of moving from millpond flickers to Tsunami at little to no notice and for really odd reasons.
I thought I was fine at the prospect of her birthday approaching, but maybe I wasn’t.
Maybe the migraine was my body’s way of reminding me how much pain I was really in.
Maybe it was reminding me that the anniversary of 9/11 – a date that changed my life so much I still think of things pre- and post- that date – was looming.
Either way, I spent the weekend chatting to family and hanging with family friends and loved ones. I went to a local music festival and did what my mother often did when she felt discombobulated: I cleaned house.
Months of ‘Mail I’ll get to next weekend,’ receipts I was going to file and check off, flyers for sales that have been and gone, statements I need to review and file were scattered all around my writing space.
I knew I needed to get on with writing that new book.
I hadn’t, remember, written a word of the actual book, only a bunch of scene-setting.
But my brain was in a place where what I needed to do was tidy. It felt like making the place where I work ‘new’ again would be totemic, and clearing all the physical clutter might help clear some of the mental clutter too.
Plus, as I suspect I may have said before: I am the Emperor of the small island of Procrastinatia.
So I tidied, and I did my accounting and I got the shit together to do my Tax return; and I decided that I’d do that next weekend (See: Procrastinatia rules!).
And finally, last night, I sat down and opened the word document and realised two things:
I hadn’t written a word of it since 17th August (which has to be the longestI have gone without writing fiction in years), and I hadn’t quite finished the back story.
So I brought the backstory right up to the moment where the book starts, and I added down the few scenes I had already envisioned in the book proper.
And by then it was bed time. But guess what? I went to bed HAPPY. I got through the past week. I can get through this week.
And the book is not going to be as tightly plotted as my others because I don’t want it to be. I know where it needs to go so I’m going to take a leaf from my friend Neil and start writing it.
And that’s what I did today, and it flowed.
Oh I’m not kidding myself that I’m not going to reach a point where I go “How the fuck do I get out of this?” But it doesn’t matter.
I’m writing again.
I may be winging it (and who doesn’t from time to time), but I’m writing.
So I’m calling that a victory!