Writing has happened, but by all the gods, it was brutal. A full day, yet just over half a chapter complete. I said yesterday that the first chapter was going to be tough, but in practice, it’s a bit of a nightmare.
Part of the problem is the riot. The novel kicks off properly during the infamous riot of 1826, on the evening of Sunday 17th September. I can’t tell you what the riot finally came to be known as – the name rather gives the game away (you can give Google a try if you like, but as I’ve made the whole thing up and inserted it into the timeline, I don’t expect you to have much luck). The bird’s eye perspective in this chapter spirals through Edinburgh’s Old Town, from the panic at the castle as refugees are ushered through the gate to safety, down the Royal Mile and fleeing masses, to the fire and smoke and havoc in the Grassmarket. Along the way, that bird’s eye view drops in on characters who will appear later, in some cases much later, in the book, placing them and establishing how each experienced the chaos. At the same time as establishing the geography of the city, which I hope will showcase its own personality in the book, I’m zooming in and out on various people, trying to sum them up quickly and efficiently, as well as demonstrating their own reactions to a traumatic backdrop.
Keeping everything clear and in place is a struggle, and I’m not happy with how it sits on the page. Eventually, I suspect I’ll come back to this chapter, rip it up, and have a second run. I’m particularly keen to do so after I’ve spent a bit more quality time with the characters, so that I can identify what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ about how I’m pitching them here. It needs to be an elegant, fast moving chapter, but while there are some good notes, it mostly falls short. For now though, it’s a case of struggling through it so I have something on the page, and moving on.
On the plus side, I’ve discovered the soundtrack to the novel. It used to be the soundtrack to The Village, scored by James Newton Howard, but now it’s the aural world of the December Book, an audio shortcut that can get me back into that world quickly and easily.
Tomorrow, more bullying of words awaits, but the end of this chapter is in sight, and then things really kick off.