WRITING TOWARDS A NEW YEAR
It is almost yearís end and I am busy housekeeping. On the domestic front, it
is all about shopping lists, menus, preparations for the festive season; on the
writing side, itís about making time every day, come what may, to push on
towards a full first draft of my new novel.
It is not always easy to write steadily at this time of year. December seems
to be a wedge-shaped month, in which we move under an ever-increasing pressure
of expectation until, like a shaken magnum of Champagne, we explode in a froth
of brightly coloured tissue, stars and baubles, scents of brandy-flavoured
custard and slices of plum pudding, on the 25th of December. The Christmas
season is lovely, but it is a relief when it is over and January, with its
atmosphere of austerity and resolve, looms on the horizon.
January is also wedge-shaped, but it begins at the pointy end and expands to
infinity. It is easier to write well in January, and I look forward to the
novel having a growth spurt then, although that doesnít mean I can afford to
fritter any part of December. Novels grow on the 'little and often' principle,
and that means adding to the word count every single day if I am to meet my
self-imposed deadlines. To choose when and how you will work is one of the
advantages of being a writer, but freedom has its drawbacks. With nobody to
supervise your hours, or your daily output, setting goals and deadlines is an
The truth is that not all parts of the novel-writing process are equally
enjoyable. There is the honeymoon period at the beginning when you are in love
with your idea, your story, your characters, and you gather material in a mood
of optimism and anticipation. But writing the first draft is a slog, until
somewhere past the halfway point. After that, what you have seems substantial
enough to survive - for by then you have created the world of the novel and are
bringing everything together towards the end. With a full draft, the real work
of re-writing can begin, and from talking to other writers I know that I am not
alone in finding this the most exciting part of the creative process.
So I am pushing on through December and aiming for a full draft in early
January. In the meantime, I wish writers everywhere the very best of luck for
the New Year, and I will leave you with a quote from a recent speech by Irish
writer, Colm Toibin, on the role of writers and writing.
"Our duty is to make good sentences, and that is our responsibility too. Beyond
that, nothing much. But maybe good sentences stand for other things that are
good, or might be improved; maybe the rhythms of words used well might matter
in ways which are unexpected in a dark time."
Other musings on the Writing Life ...