So, the A levels were got through to everybody's satisfaction and the results were all that was hoped for. (Phew!) The novel was finished – later than anticipated but still in time to take time off with my Other Half and have some holiday. And now the summer holidays are over and, though I am back at school part time with my autistic young men, I have no children at school. This, after sixteen years of everything associated with having school-aged children is quite a shock. No more bleary-eyed teenagers at breakfast. No more soccer/hockey/cricket kit to wash. No more 'can you sign this form it's got to be in today?'. No more fetching and carrying from practices, rehearsals, school social events. No more stopping work at four thirty to stand about in the kitchen watching them make sandwiches and – if I'm lucky – tell me the edited highlights of their day.
The times they are definitely a-changing.
Today, I printed out the novel. The Black and the White. Well, let's be honest, it's still actually the work in progress; tomorrow the re-writing begins. I have a snag-list to address and a suggestion from a prospective agent which will see me completely re-structuring the first quarter of the novel. It's the old 'if I were you I wouldn't start it here' thing. Or, more accurately, in a book which – if it were a play – could be summed up as a two-hander, the rather less-often heard 'you need to get the second character in more quickly' thing.
I knew that right from the beginning. If anybody had asked me what the book's main flaw was, I would have 'fessed up to needing Protagonist No 2 in more quickly. Thing was, I just couldn't see how to do it without marooning the reader in the middle of the story and requiring industrial quantities of flashback. Not an option.
But I think I see how to do it, now. And I also think it'll make the book stronger and not just because the main character gets his antagonist sooner.
I shall be posting (see below) about how the re-writing is going but I thought I'd just say a few things, first, about the experience of not blogging for the last few months.
My last blog was posted on the 14th of April – almost five months ago. Initially, it was a relief not to have to find something cogent to say once or twice a week; like many bloggers, after two and a half years of regular posting, I had found that the blog had become something of a millstone. I applied myself to the book and to making sure that everything was on track for the A-levels and resolved to keep my head out of the blogosphere.
I quickly missed it - not so much my own blog, however, as those of other people. Initially, it had seemed like a good idea to stop reading other people's blogs as well as to stop updating mine – just to keep clear of the online world altogether. It can be, as we all know, a monumental drain on time which could more profitably be spent on the work in progress.
But I had underestimated the water-cooler effect. That's how I described keeping a blog (and commenting on the blogs of others) to somebody once, as the equivalent of water-cooler conversation at work. Writers being somewhat isolated as a profession, we need somewhere to chew the fat with people in the same line of work. So, I quickly abandoned the 'no blogosphere' approach and started reading other people's blogs again.
It has seemed like an unfair bargain. I get to read their comments, thoughts, observations etc but I'm not reciprocating. Ok, so I'm responding to what they have had to say, but it's not the same thing. It's like eavesdropping on other people's conversations and never bothering to start an interesting one of your own.
So, with thanks to all those of you whose blogs I have been eavesdropping on and who have been solicitous after the welfare of the work in progress, I am beginning another season of blogging. And, as I'm coming back to the blog at a very specific point in the journey through my book, I thought I might experiment with actually keeping a proper blog – a weblog, a day-by-day account.
So, if I can manage it, I shall try and post something about how the re-writing is going each day.
Watch this space.