Monday, 26 May 2008

Surprised by Joy

rain, cool, temps 13

Rainy day, but who cares - I finished book 5. Will probably be announcing this for the next week - just so it sinks in. As with most jobs, this takes me a while to detatch. All day my mind kept going back to the story, and I had to turn it off.

Not only am I not writing in the next 3 weeks I'm determined not to even think about it as much as possible, but to just have fun. Then let my calmer, cooler, more relaxed mind have a go at the first edit.

I think of writing as similar to sculpting - Some writers work from the bottom up and add bits and pieces until they have a stunning work. Others work more from the top down - whittling away at a giant mound of clay.

I'm the latter. My first drafts are way longer than they should be. I don't know, and right now don't want to know, how long this first draft is, but I suspect somewhere around 140,000 words. I'd like to get it down to 115,000. So I sculpt.

The good news is I know the themes, the characters, the plot, the setting, the action and tension, the love and laughter and warmth are all in there. I just need to cut away to let them out, and let them breath. Some characters won't make the cut - I already know of at least one who's going to be edited right out. Some scenes will go completely. But mostly, for me, it doesn't get done by taking out large chunks. The book comes out by taking a little here, a little there, adding a line or two, or even a scene. Adjusting, polishing.

I love this stage. The first edit, as you can see, is a lot of work and a little stressful. But not nearly as stressful as the first draft. Then after the first edit, if I'm happy, it becomes a complete and utter delight. That's when many of the grace notes are added, the tiny touches, like a painter adding that tiny dab of white to an eye. Makes all the difference. Brings it alive.

But for now the giant hunk of words is sitting in our living room, and there is can stay until we get back from the UK and Toronto. And just added a visit to Michael's wonderful cousin, Marjorie, in Elora.

Had fun in Sutton today. We've decided, since I wrote all of THE BRUTAL TELLING at home, that we really don't need the loft in the village as an office anymore. And Michael's very happy with his home office and writing in front of the fireplace as well. But another office/commercial space opened up in the same building. It used to be a creperie (made crepes) and the best cafe au laits. But closed. It's smaller and we thought we'd just move in there.

But we visited it today, and while it's wonderful Michael and I sat down and decided we probably don't need any office. We can work from home, and expand into the guest cottage if need be. A real cottage industry.

So that's what we've decided to do. Of course, that means selling a huge amount of stuff we've accumulated. Chairs and desks and all sorts of things.

I have to say, though - that loft was a god-send. We both loved working from there for 2 years. But now we don't need it. It feels like we've made a wonderful decision. And, you know what? If we were wrong, we can always find another place in the village, eventually.

Off for our Cowansville breakfast tomorrow - then all sorts of errands, including buying new sheets after I mistakenly (in a fit of spring cleaning akin to the Tasmanian devil) gave most of our sheets and towels away. Now we have tenents arriving Friday in the guest cottage and no summer sheets. I did, however, keep 4 washcloths. That should help.

Had the most wonderful time with my brother Doug. Lots of walks with the dogs and had lunch and just a beautiful time. On sunday morning I came down after my shower and there was no one in the home so I piddled around and made coffee and got the breakfasts going then went onto the screen porch to set out the breakfast things and in the distance I heard Michael laugh, then I heard Doug laugh, and off across the field, on the other side of the pond I saw the two of them, walking in step, and talking. I couldn't hear what was said, just a murmur. And the dogs were jogging along beside them.

It was so beautiful I actually started to cry. Tears of peace and joy, of contentment and wonder. At my great good fortune. Even writing this now I'm starting to cry again.

Must be off - dinner to make, and a husband to hug.


Anonymous said...

what a wonderful post! There's so much happiness in your world but without any of the stagnancy we're often afraid content will bring.

Thank you, & Congratulations on the complete draft of book 5!!

Hilary said...

Just to pass on congratulations -- for the first "end." Tried yesterday but the blogger was being mean and ornery. Is it possible to be mean without being ornery?

Have a good holiday.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Ovidia,

Thank you! I know what you mean about bewing worried that 'content and peaceful' are actually code for 'boring'. And have to admit in the past (less often now) I've been guilty of tossing emotional bombs when things got too calm. Stopped that in my 20's (a few 24 hours ago). It's interesting, though, to recognize the same behavior in others at times. And smile. And try not to react.

And I'm thrilled to be at 'The End".


Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Hilary,

Laughed at the mean and ornery. I wonder if mean is deliberate but ornery is more a personality trait?

I don't actually know (as you can probably tell) and it was a rhetorical question anyway, wasn't it. Never mind.

Thanks for the congratulations, and your lovely persistance in delivering it!