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Monday, 29 July 2013

So, how DID your zucchini sleep?


‘Going to see that your courgettes slept well?’ Yes, okay. Fair point. I seem to be making three or four visits a day to the allotment and every one takes me past the guy’s garden gate. This was my early morning trip, to open the poly-tunnel. Later there would be a second to do any weeding or general checking up (after a very welcome inch of rain overnight some of the brassicas were leaning over and needed to be tethered to stakes); add a third to pick the day's raspberries and maybe a lettuce, a fourth as the sun goes down to close said poly-tunnel, and you have an idea of how my day shapes up. In between times I crank out chunks of writing and count the words on a regular basis until I’ve got my day’s quota done. I reached 12,001 before shutting up shop on Friday, so I shall take aim at the 20,000 mark early next week. At 20,000 words, in my experience, you start to believe that you really will write a book-length piece. At 30,000 you're approaching the halfway mark. Thereafter it seems as if you're about to start coasting down a long slow gradient.

This, of course, is a very new venture for me. I have written in excess of twenty books now, but have never tried to invent a pure fiction, from scratch. I have always written factually, or autobiographically. Making up stories has never interested me. Yes, there are two or three full-length manuscripts in the drawer which I call novels, but I’m not kidding anyone: they’re all about me and my life and the places I've been - with a few names and places changed, the odd embellishment added.

This, then, the sci-fi novel, is a totally new departure, and guess what? I am rather enjoying it – especially since Sunday morning when A., having volunteered to read what I’ve done so far, pronounced it ‘fine’ and even ‘good’, and added that she wanted to know what happens next.  Yes, good point. What happens next. I feel as if I’m playing that game with myself that the writers of radio soaps used to play, back in the 1940s and `50s. Each writer would end his episode with the hero in an impossible fix and leave it to the next to extricate him. What I’m doing is not dissimilar. I have my protagonist dangling from a tree, halfway up a mountain in New Mexico. I have a scientist on the point of mastering a thought-reading device, the hero’s wife having an affair with the leader of a bunch of anarchists, and I am about to throw a religious extremist into the mix. Well, this is the U.S. of A. Call it inclusivity. The only difference between me and those soap writers is that I have to get out of my own jams.   

That’s where I left it on Friday, and I have to say that coming back to a piece in progress on a Monday morning is a little like taking a leftover dinner from the fridge. It’s unappetising, and you’d really like to sling it out, but you know that if you heat it up it’ll be palatable enough; probably….
 
But right now I need to get dressed and - well, you know where I'm going.