My new novel AOR* was just a twinkle in my eye about five years ago and it's a couple of years since I started to write sketches - actual sequences that could end up on a page in the final novel; dialogue (ditto); idiosyncratic biographies which would help me to become intimate with my characters: I also gathered notes, poems metaphors, analagies, images, quotations. maps, images and drawings.
Every day something new occurs to me, Some of this stuff goes on the wall, some on the table, some in boxes.
The more I go through this process the more things come to me - gathering like iron filings on a drum. (I am reminded that psychology there is a process called set presupposing perception. That’s when you think of something and then you notice it everywhere...)
In this way I begin to build up a mass of relatively shapeless inchoate material which has sprung out of that the original inkling: that first twinkle in my eye.
There comes a time when the mass becomes critical. In The Romancer I described this point as like fragments in the interior of a kaleidoscope. You shake those pieces and a distinctive shape emerges,
To develop my iron filing analogy - at this point you put a strong magnet under the drum and the iron filings shift into coherent and meaningful shapes and patterns.
This is the point where I find at last where the novel will begin;, what might be the issues; the possible low points; the possible high points; the ultimate climax; a possible ending. This is also when I discover significant gaps in the meaning and the structure of the narrative.
So begins a new brainstorming process to create credible links and substantive new material to make the prose and the narrative work.
|Clue to AOR:New Novel|
Somehtimes, at this stage working at home one can get stuck in the rich alluvial soil of a novel. For An Englishwoman In France at this stage I went to France for two months to clear my mind to sort this out.
This year my solution to this problem was - with my good writing friend Avril - to spent five days in the peace and quiet of Balliol College in Oxford to regain control of this mass of writing, material and inspiration and make my novel work.
And in that academic peace and quiet the final shape of my new novel did emerge. Reaching this point can be truly magical. This time it was like a key clicking in a lock: a door closing behind me. I knew that was it. I had the shape: all I had to do now was finish the novel,
ALL! Well there you go.
|Oxford Wall Plan|
I am now working in and on the crucial Saturday in the lives of my characters.
*Title under wraps just for now, but it’s a good one.
PS Next! - a work in progress extract from the end of the novel...