As Kiefer Sutherland would say: “Previously, on ‘The December Book’…”
“On Saturday 4th, whatever else I’m writing stops, and a new novel starts…”
“I’ve a passing familiarity with the streets of Edinburgh, particularly the Old Town where the novel takes place, but I want to step back almost two hundred years, and that’s meant research…”
“The first chapter is going to be a particularly sharp challenge…”
“Writing has happened, but by all the gods, it was brutal. A full day, yet just over half a chapter complete…”
“I may have to scrap it completely…”
“It’s important to know when to stop researching…”
“Key players are meeting for the first time…”
“Hitler… probably wouldn’t have described himself on the ‘About Me’ section of his Facebook profile as a racist, genocidal, megalomaniacal dictator, and neither would his mum…”
“Too often, I’m finding myself writing characters who are watching what’s going on around them without interacting with it…”
“To make a good story that will grab people, you don’t just have to kill your babies. You have to slaughter them by the dozen…”
Consider yourself duly caught up. When last we spoke, I was trapped in the middle of an endless chapter, which was going nowhere, doing nothing. I was getting increasingly frustrated, even angry, that I couldn’t seem to bully it into meaning anything. Because the chapter had stalled, so had the novel. Nothing was happening. My teeth were long since ground to the pulpy nerves within. Things were not, you can safely assume, going very well.
Unfortunately, at least for the longevity of this entry, the revelation that helped the chapter to finally breathe occurred in a very dull fashion. There was no serendipitous meeting of strange coincidences, presented almost movie-montage style, leading to a singular and breathtaking eureka moment. I don’t even remember what I was doing when it popped into my head.
In the end, all I needed to do to fix the chapter was allow the character it revolves around to feel all of my frustration and anger that things weren’t happening quickly enough. Should you ever get to read the book, you’ll know the exactly chapter I mean. The action hasn’t changed, just the character’s reaction to it. It’s added remarkable energy to the scene, as he paces around like a caged tiger.
In fact, that energy has thrown me into and through the next chapter too, and there’s no sign of it letting up. I’m familiar with this from previous novels. First, there’s the struggle to start. Secondly, there’s the impetus I feel as the world I’m building starts to solidify around me. I know it now, like a real place, and can operate in it without the constant aching struggle to imagine and visualise that I previously felt. Later, I expect the feeling of walking through treacle I have previously experienced when trying to tie everything together into a cohesive conclusion, but that’s a way off yet, and I have a new tide of energy to ride until I get there.
For now, the sun is shining, and I am making hay.