Sunday, 7 March 2010

55,500 words and some lifewriting

Well, I've alternated between family phone calls and talking to the hospital. In the in between bits, I've managed to write a few words here and there but they do add up. I've started the backstory to Emma's strange, lonely experience running a B&B now. I think that the backstory will make about 25-30k and then, maybe, I can weave it through the contemporary, linear narrative. I hate those books where you jump about all the time, so I'll look at a more natural way to do it. through memory or dialogue, maybe.

This is a very first draft bit of backstory:

Emma opened her eyes. She was lying in a pool of very dim light, just enough to obscure the rest of the room. She moved her arm a fraction, to reach for Charlotte, who would, of course, be there. Her arm was heavy, and turning her head she could see the snowy plaster that covered her arm from hand to shoulder. She lifted the other arm, twisting it a little. It had black bruises on it, and a drip, but was otherwise still there. The chair by her bed was occupied by her father, his eyes black in the dim light, grey hair and eyebrows bushy, his mouth moving. She strained to hear what he was saying, before she realised he was crying.
‘Emma.’ His hand, strong and dry, clutched hers. The skin on his palm and fingers always felt as if it had been polished, buffed smooth on thousands of pages a week. ‘Emma, don’t try and talk, just go back to sleep. You’ll be better in the morning.’
As Emma closed her eyes, her mind started to search for Charlotte. She hadn’t seen her, maybe she was looking after Mother. She could feel Charlotte there, somewhere nearby. ‘N’night, Char.’ The whispered words drifted around her own head, maybe reached Dad as he squeezed her hand. N’night, Em.
Emma was awakened for what seemed like the tenth time by a nurse shining a light into her eyes. The room was bright, sunshine slanting in onto the shrunken shape of her father, asleep, his face almost as grey as his hair in the morning light.
He jerked like a marionette, and opened his eyes. The nurse’s cool fingers touched her wrist. ‘How is she?’
‘Improving. I’ll leave you to talk.’ Her gaze seemed full of meaning as she locked eyes with him.
‘Where’s Char?’ Emma’s first word had been Char. Charlotte’s first word had been an approximation of biscuit.
‘Charlotte was in the accident too.’ Of course. Charlotte couldn’t let Emma have an accident and not have one too. Emma’s lips stretched tight skin on her face as they tried to smile.
Her father took her hand in both of his, squeezing, his hands shaking a little. Emma stared at them. They looked so wrinkled and stringy in the light from the window. These hands had once lifted her onto windowsills, to see out of high windows. They looked like they could barely hold their own weight. ‘My dear, dear Emma.’
Charlotte’s thoughts drifted up from the back of her brain. What have you done now?
‘When can I see Charlotte?’
He spoke, but the words were fizzing and popping like lemonade in a glass, they didn’t make any sense. The words made him cry, his head bowed as if he was ashamed, as if he was hurt inside. Maybe Dad had been in the accident too.
Emma let her head fall back on the pillow, let him cry. She was very sleepy, very tired and confused, and he was getting annoying, sobbing into her hand. She pulled her hand away and let the sleepiness wash over her. It was strange without Charlotte, but if she wriggled the fingers out of the end of the cast she could still feel her there.

It's keeping my imagination going, anyway. I have also managed a bit of lifewriting, around 1200 words, towards the TMA. All in all, a productive weekend.


  1. As a result of your blog, a chatted with my wife about your number of words written so far - I or she have no idea how many constitutes a novel - we tried desperate sums at the breakfast table multiplying the No. of words in a magazine article - familiar territory - with a novel. H said it depends on whether earlier decades' print or recent... So, enlighten us... ho many words.

  2. Sorry about typos in recent comment - it's late evening!

  3. Hi, a novel usually comes in at about 80-100k - about 3 months work realistically for a very shaky first draft. Then rewrite is about the same, then editing language and to turn it into good English - probably the same again. Much less rewriting than poetry, I can't believe how much work goes into just one poem! I usually add about 8-15 k in the rewrite and then prune it down for the final edit. The closest I've got to having one published is encouragement but no thanks from a publisher but practice does make it better. They say on average a successful author gets the fourth book published. How many give up after 1 or 2 or 3? This is number 3...