Monday, 10 November 2014

Deadline dread…

With a deadline looming, I’ve been working away at getting the final draft of my Marcus Marcus blog novel written up and ready for a print edition in 2015 / 2016. While the blog version is a great read – full of verve and colour – I realised it needed an entirely new opening sequence to anchor the story. So, armed only with a pencil and notepad, I stepped once more into that realm of demons, spaceships, treachery, perversion and bloodshed.

It took two week but finally I finished the new beginning. At 12,000 words in length it not only added a new boldness and brightness to the tale, but it helped me understand what parts of the original text needed to be changed to keep that bold narrative flowing. The changes needed were not drastic and I was confident that another two or three weeks would see the final draft finished.

The first of these new changes involved one sentence in one paragraph describing the palace and estate of the hero Marcus Marcus. It was a simple enough task, and yet for the life of me, I could not work out the words needed. The more I tried, the more any solution eluded me. I sat, stood, danced, sat again but could not figure it out. The sentence defied me, refused to let me change it in anyway whatsoever. It grew as twisted and complex as a rubix cube; it sprouted thorns and snagged my skin.

That one little line of letters transformed into a monstrous barrier separating me from my deadline. All day I fretted and fashed and bashed my pencil on the paper. Nothing. That night I dreamt I was on stage but when I opened my mouth I could not speak. I woke with a stab of panic in my chest and nausea churning in my belly. A week went by and still I could not surmount that vast bristling palisade of vowels and consonants.

Finally I did want any sane person would have done long ago. I gave up. I took two days off and did fun things. As always I had my pencil and journal with me, ready to jot down any random thoughts or observations, but apart from that I was free of the written word. In Coole Park I tried to catch autumn leaves with my children, a very tricky task. As leaves drift down to earth, they seem to fall slowly. But no matter how hard you try, and how precisely you position yourself in their path of descent, they will always flutter away from you at the last moment.

As we walked, ran and snatched and laughed at elusive teasing leaves, my youngest (aged four and three quarter years) told me he had learned to spell his first word. I was impressed and asked him what it was. With a wicked grin he spelled out ‘F. U. C. K.’

‘Well,’ I explained, with barely a pause, ‘now you should be able to spell a lot of other words. How about muck?’
My wee man repeated the word, sounded it out slowly and then spelt out ‘M.U.C.K’
Maith thú! How about suck.’
‘Brilliant! And duck?’

Having increased my youngest son’s spelling skills and (once more) thwarted my eldest son’s ambitions to turn his wee brother into the foulest mouthed member of his junior infant class, I decided it was time for tea and biscuits.

As the boys drew pictures and flicked through books, I took out my journal and rewrote the sentence. The new version was a bit clunky but the order of words was correct. I scribbled down some thoughts on other changes needed in the text, then put the journal away. My writer’s block was over and I still had a full day and evening of relaxation ahead.

I realised I should have done this much sooner, took time out after finishing the new 12,000 word intro to celebrate what I had achieved, but I figured it out eventually and now my little holiday I’m back writing the final draft. This morning I wrote up the new sentence, and more besides. At the moment though I’m working on an equally important task - putting together a list of words that rhyme with fuck. I suspect they will be needed before too long.
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