Things don’t always go according to plan.
There must be a good many people who’ve thought that over the past year—David Cameron and Theresa May among them.
But it’s not just out in the wide world that life can scatter all your preconceptions like a ball plunging into a set of skittles.
It was back in May last year that I put my then work-in-progress on one side and turned my attention to another project. In my post ‘Critical Pause’ I proclaimed that working without a deadline ‘gives you the luxury of doing what every novel really needs—putting it on one side for a few weeks or months. When eventually I come back to this book,’ I declared, ‘I should be able to look at it more objectively and see what needs working on, what to cut, what to rewrite, so I can come up with a final version that I’m happy to pass on to my agent, for her verdict.’
I promised myself I’d do a bit of work on that other project (a contemporary novel) and return to my historical novel in the autumn, after it had been rested for about five months or so. All very sensible and organised.
Well, that was more than a year ago. Life (and, sadly, death) intervened and I’ve only just lately been able to return to that ‘resting’ novel.
At least it’s meant that it was almost like reading something completely new. I came to it with fresh eyes, able to see what was good about it and what needed rewriting. Of course, I’d hoped there’d be very little to change, that it would all seem wonderful.
It didn’t. In fact, it was very clear that the book needed a complete re-write. It wasn’t a disaster, but it definitely wasn’t working as it should. The bones of it were there, but that was all. It was a skeleton without flesh and life. The good thing was that I could see quite clearly not only what was wrong with it, but how to start putting it right.
So that’s the task now, to put flesh on the bones and breathe life into them. I don’t regret the long break—it’s been an ideal way to approach the final stretch of this novel. And at long last I have time to write. In theory anyway.
I know that my plans for a summer of writing could well be interrupted, by small distractions or major upheavals, good or bad, domestic, national or international. You never know what’s round the corner.
Meanwhile, I shall take things day to day and just enjoy being able to write again. And maybe stop trying to make plans…