I know, I’ve been woefully quiet and I could use the excuse that I’m desperately trying to get ‘Hannah’s War’ written but I suspect the truth is, that for the first time in my life, I have had nothing to say!
This morning it’s started to snow which scuppers the one thing that’s kept me sane and that is walking the lovely hills on my doorstep. I feel so much for people who live in cities and can’t get out. So how are you? We probably shouldn’t go down the Christmas line. I suspected most of us ended up feeling terribly grateful if we managed to do anything at all but here we are in 2021 and things, as the song says, can only get better. I do hope you’ve all been OK and not succumbed to this terrible disease. I’m just waiting for the vaccine to be honest and if you don’t believe in it, don’t bother telling me…personally, I’m just ready for anything that will get us out of this.
But, this is supposed to be a writing blog so what have I learned over the last few months?
I’ve learned that Lockdown is the perfect environment for an author with a deadline. There really is no excuse and in a way, it’s given me permission to write on dark afternoons when I have nowhere else to be but as a new writer, I always panic about getting the story down to make sure I have enough in the novel to keep people turning those pages. The next huge progress-blocker for me is the research. Every bloomin’ sentence I write, I have to break off to check whether what I’ve just said would actually have been feasible in the 1940s. I blame the journalistic background. I read that Dilly Court manages to write three novels a year and while I’m in awe of that but I know for my way of writing, that just wouldn’t be possible. Finally, I go back and try to improve the writing and that’s the crafting bit that gives me the most pleasure. But in times of Covid, as you’ll undoubtedly know, inspiration is hard to find.
It’s very odd being on your third novel. I wrote the first to see whether I could do it; the second came so quickly on the back of that, I did not have time to stop and think whether I could manage another one. The third has been a struggle, I won’t lie. I really wanted to take people into the world of the Land Army girls but I started down new routes of research that held me up for ages. I saw an advert today for a course on ‘how to write a novel’ and I almost signed up. I have to remind myself that, apparently, I’m past that place but I wondered whether you’ve had these moments when that you have to remind yourself of your achievements. Do let me know and we can swap our insecurities!
This week, however, I’ve had a desperately-needed kick up the backside from two things: firstly, I’m reading ‘Fludd’ by Hilary Mantel. I struggled with the number of Thomases in ‘Wolf Hall’ but no-one can argue with her language. I’ve read two sentences recently that just made me stop and stare at their brilliance: ‘There were draughts, it was true, which followed each worshipper like a bad reputation.’ And then there was ‘black branches, like a witch’s knitting.’ Oh, to be able to conjure up such similes.
The second thing I heard was on Radio 4 when ‘The Great Gatsby’ was being discussed. F Scott Fitzgerald’s description of ‘yellow cocktail music’ and ‘ an angry diamond’ and how he mixes colour and senses made me want to strive for more in my own writing. It interested me that he wanted ‘Gatsby’ to take him into a more poetic realm. That may be beyond my abilities but it is a noble aim, I feel.
Do let me know what your noble aims are.
And in the meantime, let’s try to notice the few moments of extra daylight, the blackbird outside your window and three wonderful things about the person you are incarcerated with.
Oh OK, maybe stick with the birds and nature. We don’t want to wander too much into the realm of fantasy.