Thursday, 28 December 2006

The state of the art.

I try to do a blog a week on this site. Normally, Friday or Saturday, but I just realised that I will be away from my computer for the next three days. So instead of offering some deep and meaningful discussion of say the 'laws of physics in a world of magic' or whether three books really are better than two, I’m simply going to say where I'm at with my writing.

Being a full-time teacher with a commitment to teaching well (hey, you can only try) I find writing during term time quite difficult. My last really sustained bash at the final volume of the Lamb among the StarsThe Infinite Day was in August. However, in the last week, I've actually had about four full days writing. There were some interruptions: Christmas, church, family visits, none of which I either wanted to – or could – push to one side. Anyway, I have been getting along quite well. This stage of writing is a little bit like throwing a bridge across the chasm but only being able work from one side. You begin to wonder whether you are going to overshoot or undershoot. So far, I am on 144,000 words and have a limit of around 220,000. There is a lot to happen, but I know what's going on. Of course, editing can tighten up a book and we could lose perhaps 10% of what I've written. On the other hand with this being the final book in the series there are issues about ‘closure’ to do with characters. And one would like to slowly build to a climax, rather than race frantically towards it. But I definitely can't put in a whole new subplot.

What I find extraordinary is to think how people were able to do this before the word processor. They must have very carefully planned out where things were going to go. I find myself constantly slipping back a couple of chapters to insert in Chapter 8 some fact that we need to have in Chapter 20. Sometimes, I find myself going back to boost characters so that when they are required later, they don't appear from nowhere. I suspect someone, somewhere has done a scholarly work on the influence of the word processor on the way we write. I have a suspicion that our not-too-distant ancestors could craft perhaps a couple of long sentences or even an entire paragraph in their heads and then write it down. Personally, I struggle to come up with more than the rough draft of a sentence which I then play around with to make it sound right. Is this just me? And does it make books better or worse?

Anyway back to the text!