Book #3 update

The pandemic has had a deleterious effect on many writers. Whereas it’s affected my ability to hold my concentration on reading (for pleasure), it has certainly proved to be an obstacle on the creative process of others. I’m grateful that I have, somewhat contrarily, thrived.

I committed to starting my third book in earnest, seeing as I had plenty of time on my hands — business was (and is) down, leaving me with large swaths of time during the week. Add to this the lockdown, which has affected my ability to plant myself in my familiar café/bar haunts, given that they have either been forced to close or restricted to only outdoor seating, I found myself working from home. And I’m not used to this, seeing as I share it with my partner. A good pair of headphones have helped.

My writing process is different this time. Typically, in the past, I’ve written most of my first drafts by hand in a notebook, then transposed to laptop. But that style was very much based on walking about town with my notebook and stopping off somewhere to jot down the skeleton of a chapter. This time, I’m staring at a blank screen on my laptop because somehow writing a rough draft in a notebook just doesn’t seem necessary (or, if I am honest with myself, perhaps less efficient). And, as it’s turned out, staring at a blank page on my laptop has become an invigorating challenge. I’ll know in my head the rough outline of what it is I’m supposed to write (i.e. This is the chapter were Marcus and Alex need to connect with one another), but aside from my marching orders I don’t really know what it’s supposed to look like. The advantage of handwriting is that there’s an implicit casualness — if I want to doodle in the margins then it takes the piss out of whatever I end up writing being somehow sacred, if that makes sense. And so I begin filling in the blank laptop page with tidy New Times Roman text and there’s a kind of rush, not unlike pushing off from the lip of a snowy hill, poles in hand, skis firmly strapped to my boots.

I wrote earlier about how I was considering Book #3* as a comedy. This has changed. There is plenty of comedic absurdity, don’t get me wrong, but I think The Point of the book has changed and developed, and clarified. This is the magic of writing: watching something that only exists in your technicolor imagination take shape imperfectly in the real world of the formerly blank page, and the more you write the closer it is you get — not to the technicolor thing you imagined necessarily, but what you learn it should be, if that makes sense. A novel is in some respects an argument for its own existence, and what exists only in your imagination is but an impetus. Once you begin to manifest it you discover that, like a legal argument, characters will demand that you justify what happens to them, what they say in the form of dialogue, so that you are ultimately being fair to the spirit of the material.

I suppose what I’m saying is that my relationship with writing has undergone a substantial shift between Radioland and now, and I think part of it is being more practical with my time/labour, and the other is finding a new way of focusing as I write, which I may write about in another post.

*technically this isn’t Book #3 per se. I wrote a novel prior to The Society of Experience, which I proceeded to put aside (if you read the acknowledgements in SoE you’ll get the story around this). Then, while waiting for SoE to work its way through to publication I began work on a spiritual sequel to SoE, which I also proceeded to put aside (short version: I had a better, more dynamic idea for a novel, and I didn’t want to feel trapped in the same narrative universe as SoE). Thus, my forthcoming “Book #2”, Radioland, came into being. So, Book #3 is really Book #5, which is some crazy backwards Star Wars shit, I know. It’s also, as some might realize, a lot of pages of writing that no one will probably ever see, and if any neophyte authors are reading this and wondering how I feel about that, my answer is that it’s part of the process. Just as musicians practice their brains out before going into studio to record, there’s going to be a lot of effort that your audience is never going to see that ultimately (and quietly) benefits the parts they do see.