Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 30 January 2011

It's finished

 

I’m finished. Nearly finished, if I can misquote Beckett, but I imagine he’s used to that. Anyway I’m finished. I finished my fifth novel, Left, at six minutes past three on 20th January 2011. The oldest copy of the text I can find on my machine is dated 19th August 2006. That was the second version of the book and the one that formed the basis of the text I’ve just finished. There was, however, another original version before that – about 10,000 words – which I completely abandoned. It’ll be kicking around somewhere. Suffice to say it’s taken me five years to finish this novel. That’s a while.

I started writing my first novel in about August 1993. Eighteen years, five novels, just over three years a novel, but if you deduct the two years in the middle of the third novel and the three years in the middle of the fifth then that’s thirteen years so that’s not too bad. When I first got the idea to write Left I was expecting it would take me three years and had I not fallen ill that would have been a realistic figure. And if I ever write another book (although at the moment nothing could be further from my mind) that’s the amount of time I would be looking at. It’s like a prison sentence isn’t it?

Of course being in prison changes you. I’m not talking about a weekend’s lie over for being drunk and disorderly. I’m talking about a proper sentence like three years and even then I’m talking about three years after time off for good behaviour. On the surface imprisonment isn’t such a bad punishment. It beats being stoned to death hands down. Although I suppose much depends on who you’re dubbed up with. After spending three years with the cellmate-from-hell you might wish you’d been stoned or hung or something. And it changes you. It can change you.

Because that’s where I’ve been for the past five years, locked up inside my own head with little chance of parole. If I’m making novel writing sound unpleasant then good, because it is in many ways. Then why do it? It’s not a matter of choice. I never set out to write that first novel. I got an idea, or rather it got a grip of me, and once I’d managed to shake it off I’d written two books actually. And with surprising ease. So when it came to attempting a third I hoped it might be another piece of cake. Only it wasn’t. But once you’ve let an idea in it’s not so easy to dismiss it, especially if it’s a good idea.

If people ask me what I am these days I tell them I’m a writer. Really in my heart of hearts I’m a poet who happens to do other stuff and none of the other stuff matters as much as the poetry. If I never wrote another book I could die happy but if I never wrote another poem between now and then it would be a miserable life getting there and as far as I’m concerned you can just shoot me now. I still find calling myself a novelist difficult, uncomfortable, a bad fit.

I read blogs all the time listening to other writers talking about how they write. One of the words they use has always puzzled me: ‘draft’. It’s a word I steer clear of normally because I don’t write drafts, at least I don’t think of them as drafts. I start a book, I write until I get to the end and I try to get to the end as quickly as possible. I think of it as the ‘thin version’ of the novel, its skeleton. While I’m doing that I start ‘grafting in’ bits, fleshing out the text. Usually I do this by writing things that interest me and then seeing where they might fit into the book. Sometimes it’s only a sentence or a short paragraph. After a few of these are inserted I’ll go back and begin reading from the start and ‘smooth out’ the wrinkles as I come across them. This often means nothing more than tidying up sentence structure but it also involves expanding bits that are unclear. And I continue until I reach the end of the text and I’ll write a bit more. Then we go back to the grafting in and smoothing out and we keep doing that until the book flows like one long sentence from beginning to end. At least that’s the plan.

I remember being at a book event where Jeanette Winterson was reading and answering questions and I asked her about her process. It’s very different to mine. She starts out with a huge amount of material and chips away at it until she reveals the book within. So we’re talking sculpture. I also sculpt but I relate more to clay rather than stone. I slap on bits and shape them, cut other bits out, move them around, take them back off if I don’t like the look of them. At the heart is a wire frame, the ‘skeleton’ of the piece. This last book has been a bit different to the others in that I completely scrapped my first attempt at it. All I retained was the concept. Later, after about 23,000 words, I completely rewrote the piece changing the tense from third person to first. For me these are major changes. I still shy away from the word ‘draft’ because I’ve always felt I was working on the finished product, just not the complete finished product, if that makes sense.

The file I saved on 20th January is named Left v5.58.doc. On the 7th of May 2010 I saved Left v5.01.doc. So between those two dates I saved 58 different files on two different computers plus a copy online. The version number is not a draft. It simply indicates that a substantial amount of time separates the last v4 file, about a year. It was in May that I felt well enough to do some serious work on the book again and over that time period I’ve written about 20,000 words bringing the total length to about 53,000 which is about par for the course for me. Only one novel is longer, the mammoth (for me) The More Things Change which clocks in at 90,000 words – I still can’t believe I managed to write that many.

So where did the idea come from for the book?

the body artistIn The More Things Change I wrote this line – “Writers don’t have real lives, they have ongoing research.” Basically what I mean by that is that everything is fodder. I might not use an idea today or tomorrow but they all get chucked into the mix and tried out every now and then. It’s like colour matching only with ideas. But the core idea for the book occurred to me after I read The Body Artist by Don DeLillo:

The body artist of the title is Lauren Hartke, who does conceptual performance art pieces in which she systematically transforms her body on stage in various ways. She's suddenly lost her husband, a self-invented Spanish film director named Rey Robles. In a short, lovely opening set piece, DeLillo presents us with a moment-by-moment account of their final morning together: She can't stop sniffing the box of soy granules, trying to figure out what they smell like, as he half-answers her questions and they share the newspaper and turn the radio on and off.

We soon learn of Rey's death by reading his obituary, and the rest of the novel scrutinizes Lauren's inner world during the first few months of her grief. She discovers that a mysterious, childlike, half-insane homeless man has been living in the ramshackle seaside house the couple has been renting, and he freaks her out by repeating snatches of her conversations with Rey over the past months. As she holes up in the house, avoiding answering the phone and trying to figure out how to relate to the strange little man, it's almost, but of course not really, as if Rey is still there with her. – Maria Russo, The Body Artist by Don DeLillo’, The Salon, 21st February 2001

This book captivated me. I’ve read it three times now. The publisher included part of a quote on the cover from The Observer, which reads: 'A novel that is both slight and profound, a distilled meditation on perception and loss, and a poised, individual ghost story for the twenty-first century.'

What struck me about the situation Lauren finds herself in is that she has been afforded an extension, access to a part of her husband after his death. When people die one of the things so many of us say is that we wished we had had more time or that we wished our last conversation had gone better. What the homeless man, whom she calls Mr Tuttle, provides is an opportunity but she’s not exactly sure what this is an opportunity for.

I’ve not written much about the death of my parents, a handful of poems and that’s it. I have wondered about my concept of grief for a long time. I remember a funeral I went to once, and watching the people there, members of the same congregation, some of whom were in quite a state and this puzzled me. I was well aware of 1st Thessalonians 4:13 which says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep [in death], or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope,” and I couldn’t understand why these people who must also have known this scripture (it may well have been quoted during the service even) were acting so. Death was not the end, only an end. Anyway I’ve always felt a little guilty for not grieving “like the rest of men” since I no longer have the “hope” the scripture talks of, the hope that I will see my parents again. I decided it was time I explored the nature of loss and indeed my initial concept was intended to be a fairly serious bit of philosophy masquerading as a novel.

imagesI started off with a female protagonist. From the very start this felt right. I think I wanted to make her female to distance myself from her but also, perhaps, because I have a daughter and I have to wonder how she might react to my death. So I had a thirty-year-old daughter and a fifty-year-old father. Have any of you ever seen a show called Raines? It was a short-lived TV series starring Jeff Goldblum:

Los Angeles. Present day. Michael Raines, an eccentric but brilliant cop, solves murders in a very unusual way – he turns the victims into his partners. These visions are figments of Raines' imagination, and he knows it, but when he can't make the dead disappear, he works with them to find the killer. Through his discussions, along with the evidence, Raines' image of the victim changes until he has a clear picture of what really happened. Only when the case is closed do the visions end. Other detectives question Raines' sanity, and occasionally so does he. However, as long as his unique methods are helping catch criminals, Raines imagines he'll be just fine. – plot summary, IMDB

This show went out in 2007 and so I saw it after I’d already abandoned my first attempt at the book but the concept is the same, the daughter in my book returned home to clear out her father’s flat and while she is doing so she has an ongoing conversation not with his ghost but with an imaginary dad who, of course, cannot tell her any more that what she already knows which is the problem Raines encounters and I’m rather sorry that the show was cancelled but don’t get me started on all the great shows that bite the dust.

The problem I found was that because I had made the daughter the same age as my own daughter I started writing her as if she was my daughter and I was the dead dad and this began to take me into areas I didn’t want to go. I’m perfectly happy to discuss my relationship with my daughter with her, both its strengths and its weaknesses, but I wasn’t keen to make it the basis for a novel. So I decided to start afresh and base both characters, the father and the daughter, on me, the me-I-am-just-now and the me-I-might-have-become by the time I drop dead on a No.9 bus when I’m seventy. Of course there are things that my daughter will be able to relate to – we don’t see each other nearly as much as we used to do ever since she started doing her Open University degree (not because she’s moved to Liverpool) – and I did retain that from the first draft not because it’s a big issue for me but because I needed a daughter who did not know her father well and having her in another country helped.

Since I decided to abandon the father-in-her-head trope I had to figure out to whom to give the voice. The solution was to create a third character, someone who knew the father but not the daughter, someone the daughter did not even know existed until after her father’s death. The idea from this came from a film I saw years ago about a woman who discovers her husband had been having an affair and after his death she and the other woman comfort each other since they are all that is left of three_colors_bluethe man they both loved. The two actually become lovers. I can’t find the name of the film – it’s probably quite an old one, maybe even a TV movie – but we have a similar situation in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours: Blue where a widow develops a friendship with a woman who is pregnant with her husband’s child. The important thing was to explore how we extract comfort from whatever sources are available.

Neither of my parents could be called a materialist; in fact when my mother died (my father passed away first) she had already pretty much emptied the house of everything bar the essentials for living handing most of the stuff into charity shops to which she was addicted. I was struck by how little of them was left in the house. All that was left was us three kids and what we don’t know now we’ll never know. And since my siblings and I are estranged what they know that I don’t is now lost to me. I should have asked my questions the last time I saw them because it seems unlikely now I’ll have another chance.

The first half of the book focuses on the daughter arriving to clear out her dad’s house. The story is told in the past tense by her and she addresses this to a third party in fact the whole book is a letter addressed to that party but I don’t reveal who this is until halfway through the book. This idea came late in the day and I have to thank Antonio Tabucchi for giving me this idea. In his novel Pereira Maintains the whole book is read by someone on behalf of Pereira; it’s not a letter but it is a written statement.

The final key to the puzzle I owe to Ruth Dugdall. Her novel The Woman Before Me is effectively a mystery but the difference is not working out who is guilty but whether the guilty party is remorseful and deserving of parole when she maintains that she is innocent of the crime for which she has been convicted; the whole notion of what a mystery is gets turned on its head and it was reading that book that made me realise that what I had been writing was a mystery novel, albeit a most unconventional one. Having that in place, all that remained was to fill in the blanks.

There is one other book to which I owe thanks: Arrival and Departure by Arthur Koestler. His book is in five parts:

Arrival

The Present

The Past

The Future

Departure

and I initially intended the book opening with the daughter arriving at Glasgow Airport and imagined ending with her there too after her encounter with whatever exactly she was going to encounter. I even took Koestler’s open line, “Here we go,” and made it my opening line. Only I added “again” to it. I intended to do the same with the Departure section of the book. That all got dropped but the basic concept was retained: a woman arrives, faces certain truths, is affected by them and leaves a new woman. So rather than the book being about the father the focus became more and more about the daughter.

I had a discussion online recently about the need for change in novels. It was suggested to me that it’s an essential but I’m not entirely convinced. A catalyst causes a chemical reaction but it itself is unchanged. In my novel The More Things Change the whole point is the fact that things change but the protagonist doesn’t, not fundamentally; he undergoes experiences but who is in his life and where he is in it do not change. I think much the same is true for the protagonist in this new novel. She becomes more aware of herself and is provided with opportunities to . . . revel is as good a word as any . . . to revel in herself but I don’t think she changes. We’ll have to see what Carrie thinks when she’s finished it.

There is a point in every book, at least every book I have written so far, where I can’t for the life of me figure out how I’m going to finish it. This even goes for the first two because even through I had the basic stories written in a matter of a few short weeks they weren’t really novels for a long time after that and I wondered more than once whether I was kidding myself thinking I could make them into more than just a couple of funny stories. The third book was really my ‘difficult second album’ and it was. The thing I’ve learned is that, for me, the gestation process cannot be rushed. This has meant that everything I’ve written has morphed as it’s been written and has taken on a life of its own. Left is not the book I set out to write. I can tell you that here and now. The real question that needs answering is: Is the book I ended up writing worth the effort? That’s a hard one because, and I’ve said this about my poetry, the novel is what gets discarded at the end of the process. The writing of the novel is what was important to me and that was what it was. No one else will experience my novel that way and there is more of the book in my head than ever ended up on the page.

So is it really finished? No. Carrie will read it, give me her impression, answer my questions and add some of her own, and that will either mean a bit of editing or some clarification. Or curling up in a ball and sobbing. Just now I’m wondering if I specifically mentioned my protagonist putting the phone back on the hook. She leaves the phone off the hook so as not to be disturbed at one point but does she even put the receiver back in its cradle? Is that an issue? There’s a lot I don’t mention. So why is that bothering me? Don’t know. At the very least there will be a lot of proofreading to be done but that requires other skills and will probably not even be attempted for a few months until I can approach the book from a distance. And maybe then I’ll be looking for a volunteer to read the thing but don’t all rush at once. That’ll be a while yet.

But for now I’m finished, done in, knackered and with a ton of reading to catch up on.

26 comments:

the half-life of linoleum said...

First - congratulations - what a great accomplishment. I am so glad that the book is 'done.' Second - what a great introduction to the book and introduction to your writing process in this posting. I can't wait to buy the book.

Thanks so much for such an interesting, behind-the-scenes view.

Elisabeth said...

You did it again, Jim and now it's time for the accolades.

I enjoyed reading about your process. Yours and Winterson's are different again from my process, but I'm not a fiction writer so it stands to reason my process would have to be different.

When I think of the writing of novels, I think of a word I read somewhere, the word 'cantilever'. The idea is that during the process the writer cantilevers everything on that initial inspiration and builds it up, ever aware that like a pack of cards it might at any moment fall.

I printed out my first almost complete thesis draft this weekend, and although it's not at all the same type of writing, the sense of completion, even before it's fully complete is wonderful. Now I have something to really work with.

I wonder when Left is completely finalised whether you will fall in a heap or start another?

As you say, it's too much to contemplate now, but it helps to have a project on the boil- keeps the idea of death away from the door - at least it does for me.

Thanks, Jim

Jennifer said...

Congratulations. Like thlol, I enjoyed reading about your writing process as well getting a synopsis of the book and your issues and influences in writing it.

I'd say my writing process is more like yours, though my pieces are so much shorter and I've left several half-complete skeletons out there.

Marion McCready said...

Congratulations! Now go and treat yourself :)

SY said...

Congratulations...
writing is a bitter sweet profession. it's takes so much of you and of your life..

I find your writing method very cool.. the thin version.. nicely said

- SY

Rachel Cotterill said...

Congratulations! :D

Your method of writing sounds quite like mine - I'm about 80,000 words into my current WIP and you could understand it by reading those 80k, it's just that there's a lot of detail missing. My first novel took two years from beginning to end, with a few minor edits (typos, mostly) over the following six months. Hoping to get this one finished faster... :)

Poet Hound said...

Jim,
I wish you congratulations as well! I also agree with you on disliking the word "draft." Even with poems I feel like I just graft in or shift things around.
As for my attempts at novel writing for the first time, it's still similar to yours. I wrote 70 pages of "ideas" then began to shape it into a book, there aren't really any "drafts" per se.
Let me know when Left is available for purchase!
Sincerely,
Paula

Jim Murdoch said...

Glad you appreciated the intro, Koe. It doesn’t really cover everything for example the imaginary father thing wouldn’t let me go and came in handy later in a most unexpected way. Carrie finished reading the thing yesterday and several times she’s commented about where the ideas (to her at least) obviously came from including one of hers that she wants back.

If there’s one thing that I wish a lot of newbie writers would realise, Lis, is that there is no right way to write anything. What you have to do is find an approach that suits you and go from there. Of course with what will very likely be a one-off, a thesis, things are a bit different because you’re not going to get a second chance but having now written five novels (God, that still sounds weird) the thought of writing a sixth no longer intimidates me. I find the idea exhausting because I know what it will involve but if I get a good idea tomorrow I will run with it. I started Left quite soon after I’d completed Milligan and Murphy and a part of me rather regretted that because I was already exhausted because of my job but you gotta do what you gotta do.

I like the idea of the cantilever but really what happened with this book was the fulcrum shifted, its focus changed and it’s most definitely not about what I started writing about in the first place. I can see that that’s something that might also panic newbie writers, the thought that they were no longer in control of their own book, but ‘you’ is a big place and all that’s happened is that different aspects of who you are have asserted themselves during the writing process. Left is still all me.

Thank you, Jennifer, but I’ve still not provided anything like a synopsis of the book here. That’s something else I need to work on and a part of writing that I absolutely hate, reducing 50,000 words to a couple of hundred. If this was a children’s book it would feature a character called ‘Miss Left’ wandering around looking for her ‘Mr Right’ but unable to find a perfect match she changes her name and lives happily ever after.

As for your skeletons, they need to be completed, from the ankle-bone right up to the head-bone, and that, for me anyway, is the hardest part; I positively hate getting my characters from A to B but once I have that thin version done grafting in pieces after that is great fun but not a process to be rushed. I’ve not really enjoyed being in the public gaze while writing this one and I don’t think I’m going to say very much in the future about what I’m working on.

Jim Murdoch said...

Not my style, Marion. The next day or two I moped about the flat, not quite sure what to do with myself but then I picked up the next book that needed to be reviewed and started writing this blog. I’ve basically done nothing bar work on this book for the past couple of months and my stockpile of articles is well down and the only way to get back into my comfort zone is to graft. I wrote about 4000 words yesterday but I can’t keep up that pace every day because I read no blogs, made no comments and answered no e-mails and now I have that too to catch up on. And of course the downpour that is Facebook never stops. I’ll be keeping my blog posts at one a week for the next few weeks to give me time to work on other things – I’ve not sent out any submissions in months and I need to get better at sending out one as soon as a response comes back from another. The stories especially. I’ve hardly had any short stories published but the fault is entirely mine.

Thank you, too, Sy. Yes, ‘bittersweet’ is a good word for it. There is something anticlimactic about finishing a book.

Rachel, in real terms – in terms of actual writing – this book also only took two years but I’m certainly making no plans to have another done and dusted by 2013. 80,000 words seems such a lot though. I know it’s not but I seem to be able to say everything I need to say in about 50,000. In this particular book I’ve really indulged myself though. I’ve stripped all my descriptions down to the bare minimum. There’s no padding and a huge chunk of the book is nothing but dialogue so it feels like quite a fast read in fact that was Carrie’s main criticism that it ended too soon, not that I had anything more to say, she just wanted it to keep going a bit longer.

I expect it’ll be a while before I’ll be thinking about publishing this one, Paula. It’s the first book that I’ve written that I feel might be commercial but the idea of chasing down a publisher doesn’t appeal at all. I’m in no rush. I still have another two novels to do something with plus a collection of stories so who knows what the future will bring?

And just to let everyone know, when I asked Carrie, “WELL?” she said it was, “good … very good” which is high praise indeed. It needs editing and, what she calls, “embroidering” – some details clarified – but no major rewrites. She says the characters are all well developed apart from the father and daughter but as they probably have three pages between them that’s neither here nor there. In some places the characters lapse into Jimmyspeak and they’ll need to be tweaked plus there are a few procedural things she wants to check or fix, e.g. there is a short scene in a solicitor’s that she says I’ve not got right but as she used to work in one I know she’ll sort out the details there.

Man of la Books said...

Congratulations on finishing your book and on writing a fantastic post.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thank you Man of La Books. I'd love to say I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs just now but far from it although just the idea of just jumping into another makes me feel ill.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Congrats. It's an awesome feeling when you can finally say done.

As for drafts, it's a loose term, meaning mostly for me a saved version that has changes over the previous version. So maybe drafts wouldn't be the right word, maybe revision would be. I hate the thought of cutting something and then wanting to add it back it later, so I save a different file after each revision. First draft being the very lean bones of the novella.

And I don't mind you making writing sound miserable. It is at times, and at other times, its just wonderfully fulfilling.

McGuire said...

Hello Jim,

A 5th novel. Alleluia, that requires some stamina, and dedication. I can barely write one poem I'm happy with. Or I'm happy with it but know in face of great words it's nothing. And I have a pile of short stories half baked, undercooked, rough attempts.

One day I'll need to read your books. Put me down for reading the new one. I'm still working on your review by the way. I've been having too much sex, and teaching folk here and there, writing but just not getting the time. Which is evil. But it will change. I will change it.

Have you sent your novels to publishers? Will you? Any reaction?

Keep up the hard work.
Colin.

Jim Murdoch said...

I see where you’re coming from, Cheryl, but since I edit as I go anyway the thing is under constant revision. It’s things like this that make me feel as if I’m not a real writer because I don’t use the jargon. It’s like those first 10,000 words. I don’t see them as a draft, I see them as a false start, a failed attempt. The next time I put pen to paper I was writing what would become the finished novel. I just kept slapping bits of text on, smoothing them in and then tidying them up. I’m not much of a cutter I have to say. I suppose if I wrote longer works with loads of descriptions there might be a lot of padding that needs to get trimmed back but I write lean in fact as I was saying to Rachel earlier I really have indulged myself with this one and kept the descriptive passages to the bare minimum. I’ve just finished reading a novel where the author insists on describing everything in detail and it really slows the book down. I can’t be jugged with it.

And, McGuire, not quite sure stamina is the right word. Bloody-mindedness is probably closer to it. I’ve had this idea running around my head for five years and there was no way I was going to let it beat me. That’s why I need to watch what I decide to tackle for my next book because I’ll be living/fighting with it for a long time. As far as your own life goes all I can say is that living a life beats writing about life hands down. So go for it. You’ll have plenty of time to be miserable later and if you don’t then is that such a bad thing?

Not sure what I’ll do with the book. It’s certainly the most commercial thing I’ve written but I’m not sure the general public will necessarily appreciate what I’ve done to the mystery format. Basically she starts out knowing nothing and ends up knowing next to nothing but that’s life. When my mum died that was it. We kids had no one left to answer any of the questions we never got round to asking when she was alive. Sure there were bits and bobs that each of us knew that the others didn’t but we’re not talking ‘big picture’ stuff, just the odd scrap here and there. Most mysteries rely on the existence of some clue or witness filling in the blanks but what do the rest of us do?

word fencer said...

I came to your blog from Ash Joie Lee's Meet n Greet. Congrats on finishing your fifth novel! Wow, I don't know how you novelists do it.

I'm interested by the fact that you don't call your early versions of novels "drafts". I also liked your approach that your writing is clay sculpture, as opposed to stone sculpture.

JW

Jim Murdoch said...

I don’t think we can underestimate the value of metaphor in life, JW. I often fall back on an image rather than use even a simple word like ‘draft’ in case I get it wrong. Mostly I don’t use words at all in fact it’s only when I find myself having explain my process to other people that I realise that I don’t have the words to adequately explain what I do. No one taught me to write. I felt my way, did what came naturally and just kept at it until I got half-decent at it. The reason I like clay as a metaphor is because you need to get your hands dirty working with clay. Personally I hate getting my hands dirty but as a metaphor it works. With stone you’re always a bit distanced from the work and there’s also no room for mistakes – once Venus’s arms were off they were off – and I don’t see writing like that. You add commas in and you take them out again and you can do that over and over again until you’re happy with what you’ve got.

patteran said...

Very, very interesting, Jim - all of it, but particularly your reflections on the work. I have considered releasing the novel within many times, but indolence and distraction have got in the way. Now I can add deep reluctance in contemplation of the self-imposed sentence!

Anyway, many congratulations on at least getting to a point where there is no more to be composed. I hope very much that you will write about the next stages and keep us apprised of developments.

Kass said...

I think writing a novel must require a certain kind of madness. I can be obsessive/compulsive about a lot of tasks, but I can't even imagine writing and finishing a novel. And 5 novels?!! My hat is off and will hang in mid-air for some time.

I enjoyed reading about your process. I hope to read this new novel.

Jim Murdoch said...

Having only written poetry for twenty years, Dick, it came as a great surprise to me when I found myself writing novels and I still feel like this isn’t really me, it’s something I do to keep me occupied while my poems are gestating. I kinda thought I had it licked after the fourth one, the writing of which went quite smoothly, but every one is a different experience and there’s no way I can predict what might happen if I start a sixth. At the moment simply thinking about that makes me feel tired.

The bottom line is that the book was actually written very quickly. What took so long was thinking about the ruddy thing because for all I was sick and couldn’t write to save myself I never stopped thinking about my book for a day. Perhaps that’s why the last 20,000 words came so easily because I’d pretty much got them worked out in my head already. Who knows?

The next stage really isn’t very exciting. Carrie will go through the book with her editor’s hat on and note all the things I need to tweak. Like the scene in the solicitors. I will defer to her experience. But all we’re talking about is procedure, who does what and when. There are also a few continuity tweaks like the one I mentioned where a phone receiver isn’t replaced, nothing that will affect the actual story. And then there’s the language. One of the characters may be an American and so it’s not enough that I use American spellings when she writes but I need to use American phraseology and Carrie can fix those for me. Then there’s normal editing stuff, checking sentence structure, spellings, grammar, punctuation. Everything will be gone over with a fine toothcomb. Then and only then will I get my beta readers involved. So it’ll be a while before the world gets to see it.

Oh, I’m as nutty as a fruitcake, Kass, which is a direct quote from the book actually; crazy aunts are always fun to write. And I know! Five novels! Why am I not more excited? And I’m really not kidding you when I say I’m not. All I can think of just now is, Great, I can get on with stocking up on blogs. I’ve got three books out of the road and that leaves me with just one more big one and then I can start looking at writing a few more personal pieces. Carrie will get to the edits when she gets to them – there’s no rush and she has other things to attend to. She doesn’t keep well as you know and I can’t rush her. I’d like to release another book late in the year but it won’t be Left – we’ll just have to see how the time goes because it slips by so quickly these days.

McGuire said...

Life hasn't taken over. I still write all the time. Just not throwing it up (literally, throwing up) onto the blog. I realise everything on my blog is infact all the unedited material, all the material I will use for the future.

I used to think putting it up here was some kind of testament to it being complete, but that is far from true.

I should put less of my writing online, and perhaps more reviews or writers I know of (yourself, Claire A etc. etc.) I am going to post less on the blog, simply because, if I want to get the word down, I don't to get side tracked by thinking the blog is the central thing. The writing is!

In all seriousness, I would love a copy of your new book, if possible. Wait till I get your poetry review up. But, do consider me.

McGuire.

Jim Murdoch said...

I will be looking for a couple of beta readers some time in the future, McGuire, and I will keep you in mind. I don’t rush bringing out books. The polishing process is an important one and I’ll be touching up this thing for a while. At the moment I’m just churning out blogs as fast as I can write ‘em to get my stockpile back up to a level where I can breathe again. I’ve written five in the last week plus read two books and I’ve a way to go yet which is all good because it means I’m not thinking about the book and I’m not rushing Carrie to do her edits either because she’s only just read it besides I need her to do other stuff and she does have her own things too which sometimes I forget.

The great thing about the RSS feeds is that I don’t need to check on you every five minutes to see if you’ve written anything. I get a note and that’s just great, computers doing what they’re supposed to do for once and actually saving us time.

Koala Bear Writer said...

Congratulations on finishing! That's quite an accomplishment. I like how you describe your process as "grafting." Very neat image. I never wrote drafts either - I just wrote novels. Now I want to go back and revise them, realizing that I've learned a lot since first writing them... but still, they are complete novels in my mind, not a draft.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for that, Bonnie. I think we can get pulled down by terminology as if, if we’re not doing drafts and rewrites and have alpha and beta readers, we’re not doing it right. The Australian writer Gerald Murnane writes for an hour a day every day, usually finishing about three sentences in that time (some of which can be very long and involved); he begins with his opening sentence and writes until he stops and then his book’s done. I’m always suspicious of anyone who says there’s a ‘right way’ to do anything. In fact it’s in my nature to try and prove someone like that wrong.

who said...

it sounds like an awesome book.

It sounds like a book I would read.

the fourth chapter of Thessalonians is short ans sweet. Probably the best cliff notes or abridged version of the entire text when a person has a strong grip on knowing right from wrong.

I could be wrong, but you have hope. If not by now, you will soon realize that it is someone else's confused definition of hope that you think you don't have.

we are not alone in death, nor after it. What the 13th verse says is not talking an end. It only mentions the end (this chapter like a very undetailed outline) your parents experienced an end, when you die it will be an end. You will be able to do what you did not, if you have regrets, because your parents death was not the end (theirs is a temporary death, one life in their lives) and I could be wrong but because this life you are living is not the last of your lives, with your physical body wears out it will only be an end for you as well and NOT the end. And the main reason this life's ending will not be the end is because you are not hopeless.

it is people like Manson who have reached a point where this world cannot help teach to heal and has no more lessons.

I think the majority of us currently living are either close to the good end (the beginning or garduation) or else very close to graduation after a few more quick lessons.

Most of those who this world cannot teach already suffered the end. Most of us left (you, your readers, your parents and any other loved one who is part of the living family, but you saw a life of theirs come to an end) are still family. They are resting, temporarily sleeping in peace. They will eventually "wake up" and literally feel like "a new person"

when everybody agrees to the terms of a final sale, we won't have to keep negotiating new leases that always have an end

who said...

a sixth? from you? as it stands I thought Elisabeth had dibs

Jim Murdoch said...

Well, who, I’m glad it appeals to you. Don’t expect to see it for a while though. I have two other novels ahead of it and a collection of short stories so, maybe, 2014. And God alone knows when I’ll have my sixth one finished. It’s not worth even thinking about.

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