A minuscule one of importance only to me, but a celebration none the less. Having just reached 90,000 words in my latest novel, the ending is in sight - which then just means an astronomical amount of re-writing as the plot is so convoluted that I am lost in my own literary maze, without Google maps, or even a small mangled paper version.
It seems to be the way I work though and I know there are great authors out there who experience the same 'method'; Steven King for one, of whom I recall saying his characters just develop without his control, and Will Self who plows through draft one without stopping and then starts on the grand re-write. Writing for me is like my own experience of playing chess; I can't think more than a move ahead as my mind starts wandering about - considering lunch ideas or wondering how we could improve the chicken enclosure/our income (ha) etc.
Below, an extract. Marion (main character who is currently in Pendingville after her demise while trapped the back end of a panto-horse) is on a Heaven taster-trip with acquaintance, Quentin Faraday, an ex- very successful and egocentric - conductor. Their normal conversational exchanges seem to be alarmingly altered.
“Good morning, dearest friends, oh, and you have brought new acquaintances with you. How simply delightful.”
The receptionist's voice was pure Merchant Ivory film. Or perhaps she really was from a 1870 English country mansion. Marion imagined her dressed in silks and brocades rather than the neat white uniform.
“Sorry to be inquisitive but can I ask what year you came from before Heaven?”
“Not inquisitive in the slightest . . . 1856.”
“And you chose Heaven after Pendingville?”
“Indeed. I was, what my guidance officer referred to as, fast-tracked to Heaven as my life had been deemed to be one of unerring faith and charity.” The woman paused to refasten an escaped curl of red hair that had become dislodged from its neat bun. The small act completed she smiled at them all in turn. “If you would care to follow our friends they will introduce you to the celestial cleansing boudoirs.”
Marion was led by to a cubical lit by electric candles and decorated with garlands, buddahs, holy Marys, Shivas and a host of other effigies. Incense drifted. A soundtrack of tranquil streams, four chord piano and bird song played. Slight panic enveloped Marion, a feeling that she could easily forget to return to the meeting point if she became sufficiently immersed in this unfamiliar territory. However the massage table did look inviting.
At the woman’s invitation, Marion stripped off her garments, took a shower in the en-suite room and returned to lie down and be subjected to oils, flowers, gentle pummelling, recitations, badly sung Gregorian chants, sips of honey water and confirmations that Heaven was the place to be, eternally. Her internal response was to scream, peel herself from the table and run away as fast as possible but she found herself uttering niceties, singing along and agreeing that this was, certainly, was the place to be.
Some hours later Marion left the building oiled, limp and with holy chanting alive in her ears. Quentin was sitting on a rock looking out over the ocean. She wandered over to him hoping they could join in some healthy sarcasm but it seemed not. He glanced up at her and patted the rock, his words hesitant, brow momentarily furrowed.
“. . . Christ, urg, ahh . . .” His brow softened as if an internal mechanism was forcing the action . “I mean, well, what an experience. Did you try the honey water?”
Marion’s words emerged somewhat differently to what she was thinking. “. . . Yes. Sublime, wasn’t it, and you must have loved that beautiful music, the string section, panpipes, stream, waterfall, choir, rainstick, birdsong . . .”
He spat his response after a pregnant delay. “. . . Yes! Divine! And the chanting . . . so relaxing.” His eyes appeared strained, hands jerkily conducting an imaginary orchestra with a twig. “Do you recall where and when we came in – not that I’m looking forward to leaving, oh no, quite to the contrary!”
“Yes – over . . .” The gates seemed to have disappeared, or they had perhaps been escorted further than Marion had recalled, “there, somewhere. But as you quite rightly say, not really important. Did your assistant tell you about the concert later?”
Quentin’s eyes bulged a little. “YES, he did. Four harps, child choir, bagpipes and guesting, Klaus Wunderlich and . . . Liberace!”
“Really? The Liberace.”
“And, the Klaus Wunderlich.” Quentin sobbed momentarily, “sorry, I’m just a little emotional. It’s going to be so . . . wonderful. And then there’s the macramé exhibition to go to and the cupcake icing contest.”
Marion nodded, the action automatic. “Yes, wonderful. I’ve always wanted to learn macramé and cupcake icing will be a very valuable skill to acquire . . . by the way, have you seen the others since you left the cleansing?”
“Only one. That guy called Nigel – VAT inspector. He was dressed in orange robes and chanting like those people in Oxford Street . . .”
“Was he happy?”
“He appeared to be, yes, wildly.”
“How wonderful. I expect we’ll see them at the concert.”
Quentin dropped the twig and bunched his hands into fists, his voice squeaky as if trying to force words to emerge. “Marion?”
His hands relaxed and hung limp over his knees. “. . . Nothing. Hungry?”
“Not really. I had a low fat cream cheese and fresh herbs rice-cake sandwich after the massage. It was really lovely.”