Well, if there's one positive thing you can say about the almost-lockdown we're living through thanks to COVID-19, it's that I've plenty of opportunities to get on with writing, fewer choices of distraction and even fewer excuses.
Mind you, sometimes it's hard to stay focused for a protracted period. There's always a news flash, a Twitter feed update, a blog post, that seems more urgent than anything else to distract my mayfly attention. I'm not sure what it is about the current crisis, but it seems to be lurking there in my subconscious to subvert my best intentions and interrupt my concentration regularly. I'm even finding it hard to read more than a few pages of any book at a time.
Hopefully, things will settle down. I'm establishing a slightly modified routine, which, to be honest, isn't too different from my previous slovenly author's existence. Although I live in a quiet area with plenty of easy options for socially-distant walks, I'm still trying to limit myself to a long walk about every three mornings. On other days, I try to find some jobs to do, whether to cut the grass, tidy the garden, fit up some new spice racks – there's always something that needs doing – before I then settle down to write in the afternoon.
One other pleasure each day that's helped to remember that we're all going through this together has been to listen to Olivia McCabe's staycation podcast. She manages to bring a little warmth, humanity, joy and perspective into each day with her dulcet tones. Go listen!
Oh, yes. I've just remembered why I'm here. Time for one of my regular series of pointless updates as to where I am with my next novel, My Family and Other Ghosts. What d'ya mean, you're not interested? Tough. You should know by now I only write these blog posts so I can come back later and see how deluded I really was about what I thought I was doing.
Part 3 (Alex) is now complete, or should I say, the first draft is now complete. The chapter structure unusually panned out exactly how I planned:
That puts me at a word count of just below 59,000 words, about 75% of the way through the first draft. I've quite a bit of work to do in the second draft, by the look of the length of my review notes!
However, I have carried out an energetic re-jig of parts 4 and 5. I realised my original plans for part 4 would completely lose momentum in the story and add little value, just as I reached a really exciting (I might be biased) point in the story. It then left part 5 rushing the denouement in a very unsatisfactory way, So, the original four chapters in part 4 are now collapsed into one, leaving me space to develop things at a more reasonable pace towards part 5, which almost acts like an epilogue now – although, hopefully, it won't outstay its welcome.
So, tomorrow, it's on with part four, possibly after the excitement of hoovering my car.
One final thing before I go. You know there's always one final thing. I mentioned in my last blog post, just after finishing part 2 from Lisa's perspective, that I'd started the early planning and research for the book that is yet to be, which I've given the working title of The Muffler's Ministry. I have a small update on that.
It's definitely going to be drifting into the territory of light fantasy – a first time for my writing – with everyone in its world routinely using everyday magic. I've copious notes about the world already, I know the basis for the story, the primary initial setting, but not much beyond that. The protagonist is only very lightly sketched, but there's a significant chunk of research I want to do to flesh out the world a little first.
So, just as a tease, I thought I'd reveal the first of the books I'm digesting to fully flesh out the magic setting in my fantasy world: Postcapitalism by Paul Mason. Hopefully, not too obvious a choice, and don't worry – you won't have to agree with his politics to enjoy the book. I hope.