Writing a novel is just like life …

… it’s only in the doing of it that I discover what works and what doesn’t.

I can plan and plan and plan and I do, but when I do I tend, at least some of the time, to let myself get away with vague descriptions, half-formed theories or, sometimes, whole ideas that don’t hold water. (And in life the way I imagine things will happen is rarely the way they do happen!) But the thing is, when I’m planning a novel, I’m blind to my vaguaries. I don’t know I’m letting myself get away with it. I think the thing’s watertight (The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley: Robert Burns). It’s only when I begin to write scenes that I discover the history I’ve given the characters isn’t congruent with the way the story will work; isn’t even congruent with the words they’re speaking, sometimes.

So … it’s only in the writing that I discover what really works. But I can’t do without plans, even if they’re rudimentary (and sieve-like). So what I plan (!) to do from now on is plan a bit and then write a bit, plan some more and write some more, because I’ve discovered that if I don’t plan at all I write miles of words in the wrong direction (I wrote about that here, several years ago: it seems I’m a slow learner!). And if I plan too much I kid myself into thinking I’m actually doing the bit that matters, when I’m not.

Although one thing that’s remained constant in my writing so far is that I always know how the novel will end: it’s just the getting there that’s not so clear. Just like life … .

And the thing I would love to have made this month, in a parallel world where all is possible and time is infinite, is Barbara Hepworth’s SINGLE FORM:


Hepworth was commissioned to make a piece to commemorate Dag Hammarskjöld who died – far too early – in 1961. There’s also a version of this beautiful sculpture in New York.

About Angela

I write fiction about the difficulty we have when we try to say what's in our hearts.
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