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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Stepping forward, with caution

For two weeks I have written only in my head. Not by choice. For the first time since I began writing, I found myself restless at my desk, needing to let the characters for my next novel emerge without words. So I have walked around the village, letting them in.

Here is Woolley cantering towards me to bring back down to earth, carrots being more substantial than thoughts.

Where are my carrots?

At first I panicked, but it seems the words will arrive late to the party. For now, the whole book is an all-consuming abstract, the excitement growing as it takes on a shape. The process is beginning to produce the same - if slightly more unnerving - thrill.

I never make a plan and this is not what I'm doing now. Nothing is outlined, nothing moulded. There are no pre-cast sections or defined set-pieces. But there is a vague structure going up, a growing tension, a sense of pace. There are characters with faces and voices. There is the all-important theme, in this case the desire to protect your loved ones at all costs, which will gather the different elements together, the way a magnet attracts scattered iron filings.

Not sitting down and committing it to the screen is frustrating for someone who is criminally impatient and usually chooses to type from dawn to dusk, but I believe I understand the reason why I can't take it to the desk yet. It is because my recently completed novel was such a joy to write. Words cascaded like juice from a cut grapefruit and the entire story simply pooled together by itself. This is the encapsulated theme:

Desperate to tell those we love the truth, how many lies do we tell ourselves?

Even if it never sees the light of day, it will have been worth writing, purely for the wonder of watching it burst into life. There was not a single moment when it didn't bring pleasure to sit down and work on it. And I want so much to have the same experience this time.

These fifty-one steps lead from the village wells to the church and I only ever climb up.  Descending makes me think I will fall.

Treading with care and taking my time might not, ultimately, put me on the right path, but for now, it is the only way forward.

13 comments:

  1. Wishing you all the very best with both novels! Hope I don't have to wait too long to read them! Please send my love to Woolley - what a beautiful horse - or an extra carrot at least.

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    1. Thank you so much, Lindsay. Fingers crossed! I gave Woolley extra carrots while he had his hooves trimmed and he was very grateful! xxx

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  2. Woolley looks lovely! I love the photo of the steps.
    I think it's just wonderful how much you enjoyed writing your latest book - and I can't wait to read it. And your new idea too sounds like a winner. I think you're right as to why you're not sitting down to write it just yet xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Teresa. I'm really glad you agree with staying away from the desk until the time is right. It feels strange sometimes, as if I'm just procrastinating, so it helps to know you think it's the right thing to do. Thank you! xxx

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  3. Walks and thoughts are probably every bit as important to you just now, Joanna, and no doubt the right words will come when they are ready. How lovely to hear of your joy in writing the novel now submitted - that sounds like a winner so all the best with it!

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    1. Thank you very much, Rosemary. It really is good to know that. I hope so much that the submitted novel will work out and really appreciate your kind words. They really help! xxx

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  4. I think this way of writing is sensible. Sometimes if I sit at my computer it put such constraints on my creativity. Most of my stories are written in my head as I walk the dog.

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    1. Thank you so much, Wendy, and apologies for the late reply. We've been away for a few days. You're so right about the constraints. Walking is such a wonderful way of allowing thoughts to enter your head naturally and take shape in their own time. It's all too tempting to believe the work process can only take place at the desk, when in fact that is simply where all the creative thoughts are transferred from the mind. xxx

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  5. Our words are like wine that must be allowed to breathe. I often write and edit in my head, and then the piece arrives fully formed on the paper. Here's to autumn.

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Julia. To have a piece arrive fully formed on the paper is indeed blissful. Wishing you the very best and most fruitful autumn writing. xxx

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  6. I can't wait to hear more about the novel that's with your editor. It must be a winner if you enjoyed writing it so much - that will truly shine through to your reader. Being at one with nature rather than technology will do you the world of good, I'm sure, Joanna. Best wishes, as always.

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    1. Thank you so much, Nicola. I really hope this novel will win through. I can feel that the break from the desk is doing me good. We spent a few days in Bavaria, where the beautiful mountains, lakes and clean air were so helpful. I tried to think about writing while I was walking and sightseeing, but then just let go and drank it all in. Now, at home again, the ideas are starting to jostle for attention and next week I should be ready to make a start. Sending you warmest wishes too, Nicola, for an autumn of wonderful writing, both at and away from the desk. xxx

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  7. I'm struck by your comment that you usually write from dawn to dusk, Joanna. I've just committed myself to doing NaNoWriMo but as I'm a short story writer and not a novelist, I'm just wondering how on earth I'm going to manage to write that many words. Or manage to stay glued to my desk for that many hours. I've rather rashly agreed to be sponsored, too, so any hints you have for survival would be very very welcome!!

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