This Writer’s Yesterday

What do novelists do all day? My uncle had told me any writer gets asked that question regularly. So I thought that I’d try to explain what this one did … yesterday.

Now that the holidays are over, I have no excuses. I’ve decided to target finishing Conventions by the end of January. We’ll see if I can live up to that; but planting a timescale flag is necessary or one is apt to drift. However, even if I can manage that, with all that follows after the last word is “officially” written, it will not be available probably before March.

As you may know I try to write a blog post here five or so times a week. But as you may have also noticed I have fallen off that pace recently as I have found myself working increasingly on the last stages of the book. To give you all a morning wave, yesterday I chose Instagram:

It was not a great weather morning here early yesterday as well. So I posted that Knebworth Park summer photo. (But the sun did come out eventually during the day.) Not long after I’d posted it, I was off and running…

Well, not running, technically; but I did walk up to my office quickly. Within moments I had my iPad open and sitting atop my printer and music also coming from my iPhone. I noticed the Instagram “likes” coming through too, which makes anyone who labors at home feel happier and less “isolated.” (Oh, look, she liked that photo? She’s pretty cool. Why does she follow me again?)

But you can’t allow yourself to become distracted by all the iStuff and other tech. You have to get on with your writing. And when you see the end of the struggle in sight, you become even more determined than before to see it through to the end.

And yesterday was another day spent clawing towards that goal: I found myself tearing through chapters, finishing off half-written sections, consolidating, cleaning up, and even adding some new bits. The imagination, after all, never really stops.

I was at the Microsoft Surface (PC) for nearly 3 and 1/2 hours – from about 8am until nearly 11:30. After an hour or so my concentration was broken briefly as I realized my back had actually started bothering me, so I stopped and stood up for a break. I had become so immersed in the doings in France of “Mr. John Abbott” of South Carolina – you’ll find out about him! – at one point, that I completely forgot to finish my coffee as well, which was stone cold by the time I’d noticed the half of it still in the mug.

I thrashed through other happenings encompassing other “friends” as well from “230 years ago.” I no longer believe there is such a thing as a wholly “fictional” character: everyone written about is based to some extent on some living human a writer has encountered in some way, shape or form. I’ve also borrowed here and there (once again) from myself and my own life.

Even social media such as Instagram has served as a help – providing some ideas. That’s what writers do also nowadays. You impact a writer in any way, he may write about you and you will probably never know it. Always be aware of that.✍️💻😂

Suddenly I realized the morning was almost gone. However, I had been fully dressed all of the time. (I don’t write in pajamas!) But now I thought that perhaps I should maybe, uh, shower and shave?

After downing lunch a little while later, it was back to the office for an afternoon session. (That’s a fantastic idea! I have to finish eating and get back up there and write it down before I forget it!)

How can I kill her? Well, she has to die. If she lives, none of this will work in the last third of the novel.

At one point, I took a breather and considered the well over 100,000 words – which is far more than any single novel I’ve written to date – and the fact that I’m not even done. It’s a bit of a literary “monster,” I know; but the historian in me has long dreamed of crafting a novel like this one: a late 18th century “extravaganza” based around actual history and true historical figures intermingled with a group of fictional characters, and romance, twists, turns, fun, adventure, poignancy, terror in some unexpected places, and perhaps something here and there to make someone cry.

Planned front and rear covers for the paperback version of Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Click to expand.
Planned front and rear covers for the paperback version of Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Click to expand.

As I’ve joked here before, I hope my “magnum opus.”

If you’re gonna “go for it!”… well, then, “go for it!”

Every now and then my now late uncle and my now late mother come to mind: brother and sister died within two weeks of each other in October 2015. I ponder what I have been writing. I am determined that I will do the best job possible with the skills I have and the chance I have been given.

As I think about them, I find I also once more reflect on how amazing this is: I had started this massive effort about twelve months ago with the proverbial blank page – and in the wake of their deaths, no less. It took my mind off their losses, I suppose, and gave me a huge “problem” to attack and focus my energies upon with gusto.

My novelist uncle is especially in my thoughts in that regard. I miss him and his authoring counsel. I know he’d have lots to say about this novel. But he’ll never see this as he did my first two books. Nor anything else I write. He had taught creative writing in a large and famous northeastern U.S. university and had once told me to write and aim “big” – that I had the knowledge and background to write good stuff all my own.

That confidence he voiced leads me I suspect perhaps to overdoing it at times here. I do have to stop and delete this or that occasionally and remind myself, “Now, don’t get COMPLETELY carried away. Stay focused.”

Oh, where did the afternoon go? Wow, I’ve gotten loads more sorted out. Had a pretty good day.

It’s after 4pm and people are still liking my morning Instagram photo! California is fully awake by now, too. I have some of the best Instagram friends! (And we all get those people who appear from nowhere, just “liking” photos hoping to be noticed so you or others will follow them. I’m getting savvy at Instagram now – granted just a few years later than the rest of you, I know.)

Hey, another notification just appeared on my i-devices. Sophie Marceau just posted another photograph!:

Uh, okay, back to the writing for a little while longer…

What? An iMessage? Not now, I’m wooooooorking again! (I just had another great idea!)

Oh, it’s from our former neighbor from when we lived down in Christchurch. She has been a children’s author and is always one of my first readers; this time she is the very first person to see any completed part. She starts out saying she’s read the full first chapter (which I’d sent her the other day).

Uh (gulp), I had better see what else she says…

Whew, she writes that she looks forward to receiving and reading all the rest of it.

What a writer had been “doing all day” is in the end judged by what appears eventually in terms of the novel, short stories, or articles. That yardstick is unavoidable because results are, as in most else in life, required eventually. A writer who types immumerable pages which other readers never see is producing merely a private “diary.”

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So, that was yesterday. Today awaits. Have a good one yourself, wherever you are.😊