I have an unfinished post on the Dales Way, the Ribble Way, and a few other bits and bobs, but really, all I can say is that August got a bit away from me. I have been busy visiting family and family friends in three countries — Ireland, Wales, and Blackpool — I mean, England – and my free time reading madly about publishing (most recently, and exhaustively, the two blogs by husband and wife Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch), and working on my new novel.
In fact, I’ve written nearly the whole first draft over the course of August — it’s only ‘nearly’, as I’m writing this blog instead, and got a bit distracted reading Dame Judi Dench’s autobiography, And Furthermore, last night and this morning. I have the denouement still to finish, probably about two chapters’ worth of writing, I think, and since I’m going out with my granny and uncle tonight to a Welsh folk orchestra I’m not sure I’ll quite get it done. But I enjoyed the book, and somehow tomorrow feels as if it still counts as part of my effort to write a novel in a month. I didn’t really decide that until the 4th or 5th of August, anyway.
In Blackpool I went to an air show for the first time. I saw the Red Arrows — the British equivalent of the Canadian Snowbirds — perform some amazing formation flying, with coloured contrails no less, as well as a mad daredevil who did the most extraordinary things with his plane, like stalling at the top of a high climb and letting the plane tumble nose over tail halfway down to the sea. I’ve never seen anything quite like that, I have to say. I also saw the wing walkers (who were about fourteen!) perform on the biplanes despite quite a stiff wind. I kept having ‘High Flight’, the poem by John Magee (not the John Magee who was one of of my PhD thesis advisors, mind you!) running through my head.
I am sad to say that despite my efforts at memorizing poetry (including this one), I couldn’t quite recite the whole thing. Thanks to the powers of the internet, however, I can share it with you easily enough:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
This, actually, has been my feeling much of the month. I finished — at last! hurrah! — the edits to my first novel (whose title is oscillating between Plato’s Swan and Till Human Voices Wake Us — both of these are, I grant, a bit pretentious, but do fit the story; if any of you have thoughts about which you prefer, do let me know in the comments), including two pesky paragraphs that had been haunting me. The paragraphs in question were the second and the last, so a bit important to get right! I’ve also started serious research into my options for what to do with it now that I’m really, truly finished. At least for now.
At the same time, I decided to do something new with my new story (Derring-Do for Beginners — a title for one of my blog categories, one which I like too much not to use for this; this is also the story in which ‘The Rose and Phoenix Inn’ makes an appearance). I wanted Derring-Do to have rather more of an action plot than Till Human Voices Wake Us, which is primarily a character study; I want Derring-Do to be, really, a fun fantasy romp.
As I was reading about publishing on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog, I came across his ‘Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing’ posts, and the myth that slow writing equals better. He talks about the absurdity of this relative to, well, most other skills, where we expect practice to help, the more usually the better. I’m not convinced by all of his arguments, but when I was reading what he had to say about speed, something in me shifted gears and I thought: I want to be a career novelist. I need more novels written to make that happen. How fast can I write a draft of a novel?
In just about a month, apparently. I’d already spent part of a week blocking out the main lines of the plot, and I’ve spent years thinking about these characters. So when it came down to it, I’ve spent three weeks and a bit writing almost every day, as I travelled from Kirkby Lonsdale
and Blackpool to Dunworley, County Cork, Ireland,
and via Dublin and the Holyhead ferry to North Wales, and while I’ve been visiting my granny at the end of the Lleyn Peninsula.
I feel as excited as when I watched the daredevil twirl his plane, and the Red Arrows with their superb discipline, and the wingwalkers leaning into the wind. I don’t know quite what I’m going to do with the finished novel (which, incidentally, has taken nearly fourteen years of stop-and-start effort to get to this point), how good or even how long Derring-Do is — for I wrote it by hand — but writing it was certainly a fun romp.
And the blackberries are just starting to ripen in the hedgerows. I’m off to Shropshire for two weeks on an actual farm, then more walking. I’ll do my best to catch up with some of the walking and more about Ireland and so on, because this blog is fun to write, too. Just not quite as fun as swashbuckling, however imaginary.