Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Writing the next novel...

Jonathan Morris said about writing a screenplay, There are three stages of writing a script: being unable to start it, being stuck in the middle, and being unable to finish it. Just like novels, then. It's a wonder so many get written.

One of my favourite quotes is Lynne Truss's, concerning well-meaning friends who enquire how you are getting on with your book. "It was peculiar," they say to one another, when I pop out of the room. "All I said was, 'How's the novel?' and look, she bit my hand." I know from personal experience this also applies to silversmithing, and no doubt all other fields of creative endeavour. Stick to asking where your friend is going on holiday is my advice.

How terrible life must have been for Harper Lee after she had written her one and only hugely successful novel. To Kill a Mockingbird is a hard act to follow. She worked on another book, called The Long Goodbye, but eventually put it away unfinished. During her long life, how many kindly people have asked her what she is writing now? Ditto Margaret Mitchell, after Gone With the Wind won a Pulitzer Prize.

And I bet JK Rowling, in spite of all her riches and success, is currently fretting about her next novel, or lack of such. Just don't ask her when it'll be out.


  1. I'll just say I look forward to reading it then and make no query as to when...

    Keep up the good work.


  2. Will do. Shan't ask how yours is going, either.

    Mark you, have you noticed, when you have some triumph you DO want to talk about, no one asks you? Meh.

  3. So when is your next book out then...?

    Sorry, couldn't resist ;)

  4. I'm glad you asked me that, Caroline...oh look, a squirrel!

  5. So, where are you going on holiday then?

    (You have no idea how much self-restraint that took!)

  6. Erm - I don't do holidays. This is turning into a really sticky conversation...

  7. No holidays? But Arizona is such a warm place to visit nowadays.

    When people ask me how the current WIP is progressing I say "Not bad, but every single time I'm sure I'm on the verge of making that final step somebody interrupts and throws me completely off track. How are you?"

  8. Erm... so how's the silversmithing going!?!?


    For me, I suffer when I have one tiny story published somewhere obscure, crow about it to all and sunder (cos I'm so darned chuffed LOL!) and suffer all and sunder's constant "so how's the story writing going?" and "anymore published stories?" infinitum. So depressing! Oh but I never learn of course! LOL!

    Take care

  9. Kitty, you are right, it's not failure, it's when you have a bit of success it all gets worse (do I mean that?)

    The silversmithing is going just fine - ooh, look, the squirrel's come back!

    Alan, Arizona is seriously a long way away. You are talking to a woman who thinks twice about cycling to Oxford Street.

  10. I don't think Alan was expecting you to cycle to Arizona. Were you Alan?

  11. Actually I did have a question about silversmithing....

  12. I think we should ease Lexi into the concept of there being other modes of transportation. No sudden mention of British Airways non-stop flights to Phoenix, for instance.

    Oh, I do apologize, but rodgriff had a question about silversmithing.

    Go right ahead, rodgriff. But be sure not to say anything about steam locomotives. Not that anyone would when discussing silversmithing.

  13. But we do all agree biking is best, right? Because not only does it get you there, and make you fit, but all those impatient drivers provide a free daily assertiveness course.

    What was your silversmithing question, Rod? Sorry, I missed it.

  14. Fear and success go hand in hand, just don't let them sleep together, they produce ulgy children.
    Enjoy always, T

  15. Tricia, that is a gnomic remark after my own heart.

    Just one thing, how do I stop fear and success sleeping together?

  16. Whenever I meet up with a particular old friend, I always greet him with "Have you solved it yet?"
    He always replies with "I'm homing in"

    He works on quantum chaos and his world is full of strange attractors and weird phase space orbits.

    He likes to remind me that Einstein was working on the 'unified field theory' right up untill his death. Often within his sights but elusive to the end ..... Physicists are still looking for the solution!

    I guess some writers will have similar life trajectories. That elusive Magnum Opus always seems reachable but as you home in, like a mirage in the desert, it tantalisingly moves out of reach.

    As long as each successive novel is better than the last you can feel that you are homing in.

    Lexi, its my impression that your writing is definitely converging on that elusive goal.

    More power to your pen! *smile*

  17. Perhaps Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell knew they had achieved their magnum opuses (opi?)

    I'm just making it up as I go along. Your friend's job sounds romantic and full of strange glamour - but then people think that about jewellers...

  18. To use a mountaineering analogy, when you reach the summit, the only way forwards is down hill.

    So yes, perhaps Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell liked the view from the top and didn't want to go lower. *grin*

    When/If I'm next in London, I will take a peek in your jewellers shop to see some of this strange and romantic glamour.

    I have always been fascinated by diamonds.... Much more glamorous than 'strange attractors' IMHO!

  19. Q, I don't have a shop, only a workshop, and alas, no diamonds.

    Jewellery making is generally as little understood as physics. There's a jeweller in one of Iris Murdoch's novels, and my mother once said she never realized how unrealistic he was until I became a professional jeweller.

  20. Don't even get me started on the subject of 'writing the next novel'...!

    Plural of opus is opera - ie magna opera (benefits of a classical education).


  21. Guy, speaking as one whose education was middling, I envy you.

    The next time I find myself in elevated circles I shall drag magna opera into the conversation and hope to impress :o)

  22. I'd much rather have a drawer full of manuscripts I can't sell (yet), than one best seller and everybody asking about a manuscript I can't write.

    Thanks a bunch for the shout-out in the Guardian comments thread on that whiny article on the state of publishing--and for taking the time to make the link live. What's happening in publishing is only depressing if you're the CEO of an international publishing conglomerate.

    There's never been a more exiting time to be a writer!

  23. That's such a good article of yours it should be compulsory reading for everyone connected with publishing.

    Exciting times indeed.

    Yeeha and woohoo!

  24. Haha, I'm usually good if I can get to writing THE END on the rough draft. Then I can rouse the interest to go back and edit. But it can be tough sticking with a story long enough to get to that point. I really have to love my characters to want to spend 100,000 words with them (more if there are sequels!). :)

  25. Ahhhhh, yes! I've been writing a new novel (science fiction) for years, and am determined to finish the final rewrite within the next few months. Grrrrr. Grrrrr. Grrrrrrr.

  26. Lindsay, my problem is the opposite - I get so involved with my characters I don't want to leave the book, and enjoy proofreading and formatting as I get to spend extra time with them. Sad, I know.

    Marilyn, to be so nearly there after years of toil is great - not long to the finishing line! You can start thinking about covers, always a fun part.