So, the next book. Barring some final tweaks to the previous, it’s all about the next novel now. And considering the Orwell quote down there in the sidebar (‘Writing a book is like a long bout of painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if not driven by some demon’), I thought I’d reflect a little before launching myself proper into the next abyss.
Yes, this time there’s a certain necessity to it: I’ve signed a deal for two books, so am contractually bound. There’s a deadline involved too.
But fear-inducing as this could be, it isn’t going to be the factor that compels me to return again and again, day after day, month after month, to do battle with a flashing cursor, to dance with Orwell’s demon.
And some dance it is. Self-doubt: in my ability, in the book itself. The sheer scale of the beast: it’s not just that you have to write 100,000 words, they have to be flipping good. The stamina required: it’s tough enough when things go well, with the book and life in general, but you can’t only write in the good times. The isolation. The endless revision/re-drafting. Elements of plot that won’t come together. Characters who won’t behave. I’m not bemoaning the dance – it is, after all, one I’ve chosen. But there were several times, deep in the long months / years of composition last time round, that I swore (Steve Redgrave-esque) never to do this again again: If you see me anywhere near a pen, you have my permission to shoot me. I at least thought I’d do something else in between – a play, another story collection, find my much neglected guitar.
But I realized my fiction almost always emerges from a unifying concept, a single theme and event, in a very visual, almost filmic way. The characters and setting and plot all follow. And so once this is in place, risen from my subconscious, my primordial swamp, it gathers momentum almost regardless of me. And this particular idea, this mise-en-scène, came to me months ago, when I didn’t have time to nurture and indulge it. So it was banished to the dark corners of my mind, where it seems it’s been lurking, a parasite to my thoughts and memories and dreams, coalescing them all before allowing the slow secretion of narrative possibilities. Sleep is disturbed, every day ephemera viewed through a haze of irrelevance. Friends increasingly ignored.
So you see essentially there’s little choice. It will not be ignored. The possession has begun.