Today was the first day of my home writing retreat proper. After a week of prep and birthday celebrations, it was time to sit down and do the work. Here’s how it went.
A post-birthday miracle. One early night, no midnight wake-ups and a full eight hours sleep. Incredible scenes! Surely an omen.
Take the kids to school. Walk home in the snow.
First job – head to the shed and put the heater on. It gets bitterly cold at this time of year, so I have to give it 15 minutes while the heater does its magic each day.
Can’t get heater to work. Panic. Consider how long it will take to go to the shop and buy a new heater. Scream silently at the sky. Go to the house and make a coffee.
Thankfully, when I get back to the shed the heater is working again. No explanation. No apology. My appliances are trolling me.
Let’s get to it.
Print everything I have written on this novel so far. There is quite a lot, but also plenty that will be out of date or unusable. My job today is to go through every line and get my head around where things stand.
It’s like a word-based jigsaw puzzle. So many pieces. Stuff everywhere. These pages are the physical embodiment of the way I’be written this book so far. Fragments. Shards.
It takes 15 minutes to realise that this is what I will be doing for the rest of the day. And that’s okay. It’s a week for making decisions and I can only do that if I fully understand my own manuscript.
Every time I find something that I really like – a passage, sentence or turn of phrase – I add it to a Post it and stick it to the wall. They feel like mini discoveries. Nuggets of gold I wasn’t sure existed.
But there is loads of material that can head straight to the bin. Ideas that have moved on. Writing that doesn’t really do it for me anymore. Stuff that doesn’t make sense.
I could spend hours sorting like this, but I keep reading and making notes, because I need to move forward.
Getting funky with the Post its. Green for events, ideas and general notes, orange for characters and yellow for scenes or chapters. Pretty basic stuff at the moment, but handy to see things take shape.
Wait a second. Need a decision.
I’ve never been sure when the events in the novel should take place, so I have avoided choosing a timeframe. Not anymore. Let’s go with the early 1990s.
Quick Google search. (The only time I type anything all day.) When was eBay launched? 1995. 1995! What else happened that year? One of the hottest heatwaves recorded in the UK. Excellent.
Decision made. The novel will start in the summer of 1995.
Going through the notes, I find I’ve named some of these characters multiple times. Pretty confusing and totally unnecessary, so I spend 30 minutes choosing some names that will not get changed again for this first draft. John. Sebastian. Mimi. Eric.
More decisions made. Much needed. Feels like progress.
The kids are home from school and there is karate and swimming to be done. I spend another 15 minutes going through the final few pages and making the last set of notes.
What I have at the end of day one is a whole load of something. I don’t quite know what that something is yet, but I have a much better idea than I did at 9.30am this morning when my heater conked out for shits and giggles.
Tomorrow I’ll be back with the Post its to start creating scenes and giving the novel the overall structure it needs. I think having that sense of shape, even if (when!) it changes will help me keep going beyond this week of focused writing.
It’s been a pretty good day. Found it hard at times. Bit frustrating that I am in this position of always feeling like I am starting again. But that’s what this week is about. Momentum!
Thanks as always for following along. You can read previous issues and subscribe on my website, if you’re new. And you can follow me on Instagram, where I am posting bits and pieces throughout the days.
Lots of waving,
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