Floraison for the Last Week of August

Aberdaron Beach

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.

Red Arrows

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.

Blackpool Air Show

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.

Harlech Dragon

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

Kirkby Lonsdale looking towards High Casterton

to Blackpool,

Blackpool

and Blackpool to Dunworley, County Cork, Ireland,

Dunworley, Co Cork

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.Painted Lady

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8 thoughts on “Floraison for the Last Week of August

  1. Victoria, you simply are born to write. Reading this post made me feel you were right here with me, enjoying a visit over a cup of tea. I love the comparison to the planes and how much you’ve enjoyed the act of hand writing. I often think of you when I write script and shake my head in disappointment as my writing has become so untidy.
    Happy walking my dear friend. XO

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  2. Plato’s Swan sounds like an excellent choice for the title! Till Human Voices Wake Us reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces – not that’s a bad thing, of course.

    One book I have found interesting with respect to the process of writing (although I must admit I have yet to apply it to my own) is Eviatar Zerubavel’s The Clockwork Muse.

    I wonder to what extent Smith over-emphasises distinction (‘no two writers are the same!’). As for ‘not writing fast’ as a ‘myth’ (I have to admit it drives me bonkers when people use the word ‘myth’ thus), considering that some of the most enduring and popular works of fiction which are twentieth-century classics, The Lord of the Rings, and the Narnia series had (in the first case) a lengthy period of composition, or (in the second) a lengthy period of gestation (if Michael Ward’s thesis in Planet Narnia is to be believed), I think his remarks would be better put as, simply, ‘some people take more time, some less, to write’.

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  3. I remember the first time we were taught to read that poem. It was my first attempt to read ‘blank verse”. That was over 50 years ago in a little two room school on the south coast of Newfoundland. I have always liked poetry and I write in my journal ,hoping that someday one of my grandchildren will have lots of fuel for a book. I love to read your enteries. My roots are in England. We found a shop in one little town that my “father’s name “in as the owner. Neat. Don’t know if there was any connection or not. Happy writing!!!

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  4. Jenny! How nice to hear from you! Thanks for uour comments — I’m trying, at long last, to transition into a proper writing career, and it’s wonderful to have the encouragement. Also, we totally need to have tea sooner rather than later! (When I’m back in Canada…)

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  5. I know that for me, the lengthy gestation period is important. It has been with academic writing, and certainly seems to be with my fiction, too. The story I’ve been working on is — so far — quick in the writing, but I’ve been thinking about the characters and the world for years. I’m not sure I cold write much without that; whenever I’ve tried in the past the story has petered out quickly.

    As for the title of the finished book — it is thematically and generically similar to Lewis’, so I don’t think it would be *too* misleading … but I do like Plato’s Swan better. I just thought it was maybe too obscure and pretentious. But I would pick up a book called that, myself, which is really what one wants …

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