Well, that’s it then! At last I have finished my third novel.
I was shocked into sudden creativity when I discovered it was the fourth anniversary of starting. I have to report that I knew where I was going and over the next few days I put the last four thousand words on the page. Okay, then I ‘edited’ the last section and found night had turned into day, unexpectedly, in the blink of a paragraph. With another rush of enthusiasm I corrected the time-slip, added a few of my favourite adjectives and tied up some loose ends with a few short sentences.
If I was a successful author I would no doubt be ‘saving files’ and emailing them straight to my delighted editor for his (or, more likely, her) magical but minimal (needless to say) touches before the new title was rolled out to the awaiting public.
So much for that last paragraph. Imagination overcoming truth, and corrected tenses.
Truth: this is my third novel and it is actually the first to be completed.
What happened to the first two?
Number one; started approximately fifty-six years ago in a school exercise book. (Always a good way to get something to write on for a budding author). That’s about all I remember now, except it was something about people living in forests. Today I could make up many potential storylines it might have been. I was of an age and in a period when it could have been of post-nuclear survival, probably along the lines of a Nevil Shute versus Smollet saga with heavy overtones of Enid Blyton. At that youngish age my reading was quite wide though probably lacking in depth of understanding. Except for Enid Blyton, maybe! Anyway, that exercise book remained a pencil-scrawled reminder for several years that I wanted to write. Of course, it got lost, thrown away, most likely, by me in a fit of angst. Oh if only I had kept it! Maybe there was a germ of an idea in the scrawl. But then if I had it now I suspect the faded writing would be illegible even to me. I was always told I wrote badly and lettering was much too small but then you had to write small to put all the thoughts onto a page.
It strikes me now that many a historic writer had to compress their handwriting into the smallest possible space as blank paper would have been quite expensive. Poor authors would have had to write on the reverse of letters or flyers that they received or collected. Certainly John Clare, in his early days of writing would write in all directions and spaces on any scraps of paper he could lay his hands on. Not entirely true but almost. However, my early attempt at writing certainly deserved to go into permanent hiding.
I recall getting het-up and starting to write plays a few years later. I had been reading things like “Fifty Best One Act Plays’ as well as the standards like Shakespeare, Ibsen (still a great favourite)’, Bernard Shaw, Wilde and others including Greek classics. Naturally, with the Theatre Royal Windsor so near I would be wound-up by the repertory plays they put on. When I could afford to go with my siblings, that is. From ‘Eagle has two Heads’, ‘Inspector Calls’, Noel Coward, to farce and Farjeon Revues, and on. Me and a few others still hanker after a good ‘Review’.
So I started to write a play, post apocalyptic, a few people trapped in a nuclear shelter but with little to see (it would be pitch-black). Talking to each other, then discovering there was actually no-one there. At the end of the performance the lights would go up and the stage would be empty.
Some time later (to my embarrassment) I learned Beckett and Brecht had that sort of thing tied up. I have never read ‘Waiting for Godot’ et al for this reason. And for that very reason I may be entirely wrong! So much for being a playwright.
Are you still with me?
Second novel: Here we are, still writing in a exercise book, retained for said use from school but also writing on A4 paper as it progressed. This is where it gets exciting: I bought a typewriter and began the slow (very) process of transferring into type what I had already written. And of course I was a poor typist, wasting much paper, many hours and many once-fresh swear words as I untangled the keys or whited-out errors. Eventually the ‘x’ key was most favoured and the slits thus produced in the paper I considered heroic wounds.
And the subject? This time I steered away from post-nuclear, apocalyptic (possibly another mistake considering the world is currently flooded with fiction, films, series and boxed sets of said disasters) and stuck with a more lowly theme: of a young man who worked washing-up in a seaside cafe and his dream of building yachts. Coincidentally this was just before a series on television that was about a young man and his family who set up a business building racing yachts . Impetus was lost on this novel and it joined the ranks, or rather piles of notes, essays, poems and discarded journalistic pieces that were accumulating.
A mere forty years later I had replaced the pencil and rubber, pen and even the typewriter. Having completely by-passed the original Amstrad or Dell PC (from a writing point of view) and taken up the challenge of an iPad. Will this count as flagrant advertising, I hope so!
And so after four years of very spasmodic writing I have completed my third novel.
Can you guess the subject? It is about a ring. A ring that gets thrown into a fire. It involves wars and cross lovers and woods and trees. Luckily there is no apocalypse, in so many words. Maybe because of my passed writing experiences, it is about coincidence, of chance and myth. And it takes time.
So now what? Will it ever get published? Unlikely, but it will be read, at least by me……
The feeling of completion is satisfying but there hangs in my mind a creeping doubt that this is the end. When I close my eyes I can still see minute ripples at the bottom of the well. If not empty then the ideas that currently flail around in the depths will one day insist on erupting as half-formed boasts, waiting to be tried and tortured into prose.
Roll on that day.