Novel-Writing in Real Time – Parts 3 & 4 of 10: ‘The Late Late Non-Show, with G. T. A. Browne’

A late start, this Friday night – it’s after 10 already. But I don’t particularly have to get up for anything in the morning, so let’s do this. First, however, a quick moment of newly-possessive pride: a new Hornby coach arrived at my desk at lunchtime. It’s a green BR Mk1, and it’ll join my 1960s Southern rake – the beginnings of which you can see below:

BoB Winston Churchill Cutting Lupins Away

‘Winston Churchill’ heads off with the express. Observe the green coach…

Anyway, on with the show…

Friday, 22:30 – This was a bad idea. I can’t concentrate. I spent the day outside, standing in the rain, and then followed that with a great big meal, so I’m both tired and sleepy, and I can’t make that work. Tomorrow, however, I have the day to myself, and I know from previous experience that, if given my head, I can put down a lot of words in a single sitting. (I wrote all 12,500 words of the last chapter and epilogue of Ghost Among Thieves on a day off when working on the Logos II). I will pick this up tomorrow morning – 1,500 words don’t intimidate me… G’night.

Saturday, 11:15 – It’s a foul day outside and I am cosily inside admiring assorted sleet, snow and rain showers as they batter at the windows. I like to faff around on the computer for a bit before I start work just to get it out of my system, so why don’t you join me in listening to a hysterically funny 1958 recording of Gerard Hoffnung’s “Bricklayer’s Lament” (a masterclass in comic delivery), and then we can crack on.

11:22 – Oh, all right, one more: Bob Newhart’s “Inexpert Bomb Disposal“.

11:30 – Work begins!

13:05 – I plot in broad strokes only, which is why I’ve been able to do what I’ve just done: the scene in the newsroom (which you must have guessed was the setting I was writing about on Thursday) led perfectly to a scene featuring characters watching the news and deciding to do something about it, which in turn led perfectly to the people who had triggered the news report in the first place, which then led perfectly to the response against those news-creators, which finally (of course!) led perfectly into the next, tense set-up for those characters – all of which has made clear the protagonists’ next actions, as well as their antagonists’ response. None of this was plotted, as such; this was just me being willing to be led by the story. (The upshot of that willingness, incidentally, is very simple: better stories.)

13:45 – An opportunity occurs to refer to events that occurred in Ghost Among Thieves. I love when these little callbacks and pieces of connective tissue present themselves!

***Intermission, in which our hero has lunch and watches The A-Team***

15:55 – So I just blew up a city…

16:23 – I hadn’t even intended to. It just sort of happened. But several factors came together (the destructive power of the weapons used; targeting choices that were inevitable given two previous, failed attempts to eliminate one particular thing) in such a way as to make any other outcome impractical. Now, of course, I’m going to have to think hard about how this affects the rest of the book. My initial thought is that it will force the action – or at least the politics – to swing back to where I feel they always ought to have been, even if for a while that wasn’t a realistic option. Blowing up this city is a way of restoring the balance and re-centering the narrative. Sometimes being an author of war stories means you’re required to swing a big stick. It’s fun, but you have to do it sparingly, and with some idea at least of what the consequences might be if you do. (One immediate consequence is that I’m able to have a cameo appearance of a character we haven’t seen in the last 400,000+ words: that’ll be one for the really eagle-eyed readers to spot.)

16:46 – Now, at long last and 5,484 words into the chapter – hey, look at that, we passed the half-way point and I didn’t even notice – we get to the thing I actually intended to write about in the first place: an invasion. This is where all the reading I did some time ago on Operation Neptune will at last be useful. (There have already been little hints and allusions – the bombers are described as succeeding because they got to ‘point-blank’ range. ‘Operation Pointblank’ was the Allied bombing effort of the invasion areas in Normandy before the troops came ashore). But it does mean that I have to run a quick search of the other two books to make sure that the ship I’ve chosen as the vanguard – the Mollymawk – hasn’t been rendered invalid by some event I’ve forgotten…

16:56 – No, we’re good. Mollymawk is the minesweeper-in-chief.

17:47 – And that’s the target hit and surpassed. I’m finishing for tonight having taken the novel past 210,000 words (it’s 210,148 in fact) and having written 3,294 words in the last four days (which I’m pleased by, given that my target by this stage was 2,980). So we’re doing well, and now it’s time to think about dinner and maybe a movie for my evening’s entertainment. Until tomorrow…

And here’s your moment of Zen:

IMG_3048

Two for one: a 56xx and a 45xx lead a heavy iron ore train out across the viaduct

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About Gavin

I am a 32-year-old PhD student in Aberdeen, Scotland. I work in QC at an e-learning company. I'm originally Northern Irish, though I've lived here in Aberdeen for several years. I am, essentially, somebody who is very normal, yet to whom very strange things keep happening...
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