I finally finished it on Friday, the book.
It was an odd experience, writing a story that hasn’t finished happening yet – a bit like directing a thriller without knowing what the twist at the end will turn out to be.
But it was also exciting and – like school, I can say this only after the fact – thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve always subscribed to the Peter De Vries school of writing: “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork”, an attitude only exacerbated by my inherent laziness.
Every day I’d wake up at 9am; raring to go and – after breakfast, a walk to Tesco, a cup of tea, a quick catchup with mail, the Daily Politics, the Channel 5 movie and Diagnosis Murder, lunch and another cup of tea – go straight to my desk to start writing. A quick Facebook status update to get me in the mood, and perhaps a short blog post and a move or two on Scrabulous (five games on the go) and the first word hit Word by about six. Ten hours later and I was done for the day.
I’m extremely lucky that I write fast – or more accurately, I think fast and type adequately – so I was still able to put down between 6,000 and 8,000 words on a decent day. Maybe 2,000 of them were binned the next day, or heavily edited, but it was still sound progress. But I couldn’t help but wonder how much I could do on a day without distractions? If I could actually focus without my mind wandering? Perhaps 10,000? Perhaps none. Perhaps while I’m distracting myself, there’s some part of my brain queuing up the words. I dunno.
All I know is that the way I write allows me to watch Diagnosis Murder, update my Facebook status five times a day, lose a couple of games of Scrabble and still put away 6,000 words. I don’t think I’d swap that for being someone who can go to their desk at 9am and get cracking straight away.
Worse still being someone who claims to really enjoy the process of writing. (These are usually the same people who always make a point of staying through the credits at the end of films.) It’s a horrible task – thinking is fun, having a finished manuscript is one of the most glorious feelings on earth, but the bit in between is pure hell. To imagine that hell without Peter Falk or Scrabulous sends a shudder through me.
So, yes, the manuscript is done and is with my editor. Nothing I can do now but wait. Meantime, I’ve got three other writing projects hovering around – at least one of which I’ll probably do. Like eating in a Wimpy or (I’m told) childbirth, it’s amazing how quickly you forget the pain of the actual experience and start yearning to go through it again. I’m Patty Hearst and Microsoft Word is my Stockholm Syndrome.
One last thing: lots of people have very generously offered to read through the m/s and give me their verdict. Others have been more open in wanting to know what / if I’ve written about them. The truth is, I’m as keen as anyone would be to know what the verdict is. I honestly have no idea whether it’s a sack of shit, or whether it’s struggle-through-able. I never know. But I’m going to wait until Orion’s editors and lawyers are done with it before showing anyone. At least that by that point there won’t be any typos or other indicators of how bad I am at the process.
Ok, now I’ve got to get back to work – I spent most of Saturday and all day Sunday tidying my flat for the first time all year and now I’m opening a fortnight’s worth of mail. The pile mentally marked ‘bills’ is already making me feel sick.
Oh! Just one more thing ma’am: on Saturday night I celebrated finishing the book by going to see Charlie Wilson’s War. It was rather wonderful – best thing I’ve seen in months – a true story; screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and packed to the rafters with Sorkin signatures (a broken window – two broken windows!) and lines like “You know you’ve reached rock bottom when you’re told you have character flaws by a man who hanged his predecessor in a military coup.” It’s also proper laugh out loud funny and was robbed at ‘
The A Golden Globes’ list night. Go see.
Right – to work.
What the hell am I going to do with T, O, E, U, A, I and A?