Sunday, July 18, 2010

Maybe not a blindfold but...

Well, I'm feeling a bit of an idiot. It's 3 weeks since I looked forward in Wales to getting onto the second section of my novel within a couple of days, and I have only just got there!

Maybe you'd think my life was boring enough for me to have got on with the thing (I'm hardly going out, after all) but enough things have intervened - the tail-end of my virtual book tour, a few days of the house being full of guests up from the south for a wedding, a reading and a one-day trip to London, and finally and most recently Salt's Just One Book Campaign - to dissipate the kind of focus it turned out I needed to negotiate the transition between the two sections.

There's an apocryphal story about Jonathan Franzen (one of my favourite writers) that appeared in some of the broadsheet interviews at the time of publication of The Corrections - to whit, that he shut himself in a room blindfolded in order to write it. He came to read at Waterstone's Deansgate and someone in the audience asked it were true. Of course it wasn't, he said, but yes indeed he had said it to a journalist: it was a hyperbolic way of describing the kind of isolation and peace one needs to concentrate on a novel.

Well, on a couple of mornings this week I did somehow find the kind of concentration I needed to discover that the reason I was finding it so impossible to make the transition between the two sections while negotiating three different time levels was that the overall voice was still not right (in spite of the fact that I spent so much time trying to get it right at the start, and in spite of having worked on the diction since!), and to work out how it should be different. It wasn't a big change, in fact it was a pretty subtle one, but it made all the difference in the world, and after I'd gone back and changed it for the whole of the first section, I was able to make the transition into the second section at last.

I've never before taken so long to get the voice of a piece of writing right - usually the voice is the first thing that comes to me. Live and learn, see?

No comments: