The great man

"I told him what Molly had said - about Stalin's not knowing; because I thought how odd it was we all have this need for the great man, and create him over and over again in the face of all the evidence. Michael looked tired and grim. To my surprise he said: 'Well, it might be true, might’nt it? That’s the point - anything might be true anywhere, there’s never any way if really knowing the truth about anything. Anything is possible - everything's so crazy, anything at all’s possible.'"

Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook, p.158

Week 11

Writing longform is working well. I still have my structure up on a board in front of me, which acts as a kind of comforting blankie as I plough on from strange scene to strange scene. Ideas appear in a throwaway sentence, and I make a note to return to that idea on my second draft. Some of it develops the story a little bit more, and some of it will go in the bin, but it really is amazing what comes out when you just plough on without much thinking. Tortoise

The main thing I've been thinking this week is the need for patience. Getting used to the pace of a novel. I think all those books about plotting give you the sense that a story really rollicks from the word go, when it fact it's much more gradual than that.

Not only that, but my synopsis focuses so much on getting to the next turning point, or the next crisis, and an eventual denouement, that I forgot it takes time to delineate a character, to create the little scenes or turns of phrase that bring them to life. Chapter two has been about that.

On Lloyd's suggestion, I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and can recommend it to anyone who gets easily distracted from doing what they want to (or, as they're also called, everyone).

And I came across this quote from Doris Lessing today, which sums up something I've discovered in the last few weeks. A book for Doris is alive "only when its plan and shape and intention are not understood".

That idea always used to make sense to me as a reader, but now I see it as a writer too.

Word count this week: 2,456 Running total: 18,535 First draft: 4,777

On planning

"…it is not only childish of a writer to want readers to see what he sees, to understand the shape and aim of a novel as he sees it – his wanting this means that he has not understood a most fundamental point. Which is that the book is alive and potent and fructifying and able to promote thought and discussion only when its plan and shape and intention are not understood, because that moment of seeing the shape and plan and intention is also the moment when there isn’t anything more to be got out of it."

- Doris Lessing, preface to The Golden Notebook (Flamingo, 2002), p.20-21