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In earnest

Posted Jan 03 2013 2:42am

Yesterday, at 9am, I took a cup of coffee to my lovely warm studio – I’d popped down and put the heater on ten minutes before – and I started work on ‘Breaking Bread’, the second Throckton novel.

No, don’t flick back through the blog; you’re not imagining things; I have said this before. I’ve written the best part of 10,000 words before. Then I got a bit stuck. This happens to me, often, with writing: I go the wrong way, but in going the wrong way I discover what the right way is. (So I don’t even think of it as being the wrong way, really; it’s part of the process, because without it, I wouldn’t know what shape the true book was.) Then, in December, I wrote another 2,000 words, off on another sidetrack.

The funny thing is, that I knew as I wrote I was only really playing at writing. I gave characters silly names, I wrote some in-jokes that only about 5 people out of what I hope will be an eventual readership of a lot more than five would get. Unsure of what the plot was going to do, I put in enough possible strands to make a maypole dancer dizzy. And that was fine; fun; good; necessary.

But now, it’s different. ‘Breaking Bread’ has had enough time on the back brain to have gained a shape and substance I can see, taste, feel. The characters have started talking to themselves, and me, and each other. I don’t know what the full story is, but I see the shape of it, and it’s a clean line, arcing and true. It’s a line I want to follow.

So yesterday, the real work began. I wrote just over 3,000 words, and they feel like the right words; they feel like words that have enough weight and substance to be the beginning of a story, grounded and real, rather than words that a writer is playing with, making patterns in the air. For the next few months I’ll be doing very little apart from writing this book, and training.

It won’t surprise you if I say I believe that the right words come to us when we need them. (Or maybe what I believe is that there’s some deeper, or higher, part of us that makes us hear the right thing when we need to.) And, along with Winston Churchill’s words, the other new addition to the board in front of my desk, is a sentence that got lodged in my head after I heard Edmund de Waal say it on ‘Desert Island Discs’ a while ago:

I love the special effort that is writing. Of course, it’s the readers who decide what is a special thing; but over the next few months, I’ll be keeping my side of the bargain.

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