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Thursday, 16 October 2014

I Declare This Day a Holiday (and after five books in less than two years, why not?)

I slept till eight; I got dressed at eleven; I felt no huge compulsion to dash to the keyboard and edit, edit, edit. I reckon I must be on holiday.

The fact is, yesterday afternoon I packaged up a big fat manuscript, hopped on my bike and took it down to Ushaw Moor post office. Considering that I didn’t start work on Chasing Black Gold until the final few days of June, and that I took two weeks out to go tramping around the Arctic Circle, that ain’t bad progress, is it? Thirteen weeks,  roughly sixty working days, and 93,000 words. No doubt about it: my client and I work well as a team.

The completed book – my fifth in 22 months - isn’t on its way to the publisher yet, nor the agent. We have fifteen more days before it’s due at The History Press. Instead, we’ve decided to send it to my good mate Joan Deitch, who will read it through and give us an opinion as to whether it’s working. Nobody asked us to do that, but both I and the guy I’m ghosting for felt it was worth paying her for some independent feedback. We will meet up next week in Edinburgh to discuss her report and give final consideration to any late changes. And I may yet re-write an opening passage which, I feel, falls short of the pacy, exciting stuff that follows.

Quite often when I’ve finished a book I feel huge relief. Sometimes it’s, ‘Thank God that’s over!’ In this case I feel rather like those characters who jump off cliffs in cartoons and hang suspended in mid-air. Gravity isn’t going to kick in until the realisation of where they are hits them. A number of very large fly-wheels in my head are still thrumming away; my metaphor- and image-detectors are still on full alert, and I keep thinking of fantastic bits of material that didn’t make it into the latest edit. I also feel… bereft. I have enjoyed writing about this guy – have relished the opportunity to adopt a voice for him and live, albeit vicariously, the life of a freebooter.

Already I find my mind buzzing around like a fly in an empty jam-jar, trying to decide which of the many ideas that are pressing in on me I will tackle next, while another part of me stands to one side, chin in hand, saying, ‘Would you just form an orderly queue, please.’

I was reading a column penned by footballer-turned-pundit Robbie Savage this morning. He spoke of his final playing days, when he would wake up after a hard game feeling fit as a flea – only to find that the next day his limbs and joints cried out in pain. Maybe that’ll be my writer’s brain tomorrow.

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