Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Clearing the mind. Or not.

Chapter 6 done, and now we’re on the dreaded Chapter 7, usual point of major crisis.  I’m at the fretful stage of writing, getting anxious about my deadline and Frith isn’t helping.  Having forced her back into the third person, suddenly up popped ‘I’ in the middle of Chapter 6 again.  I thought we’d been through this, and I’d decided that, Oh-So-Sensible Secretary notwithstanding, readers preferred the third person. 

No wonder I’m having trouble sleeping.  I write until about midnight at the moment – although rarely get down to any work until after lunch, so this is not as disciplined as it sounds – and then when I’m too tired to do any more, I fall into bed and lie there with my mind careening all over the place.  No sooner do I switch out the light than I think of something, and have to put it on again and drag out my trusty bedside notebook and pen.  I scrawl down enough to remind myself of it the next morning and try to sleep again.  Five minutes later, on goes the light.  More scribbling.  And so it goes on until the small hours while I toss and turn and wonder why my brain can’t be this active when I’m actually at my computer.

The current notebook is nearly finished and is full of incoherent and barely legible jottings that are nonetheless recognisable as the genesis of various scenes from books from Last-Minute Proposal onwards (had completely forgotten that Tilly was originally going to be called Lottie Vale!!)

Lottie, respelt, turned up in a later book.  Market scene email Lotty, I scrawled one night.  Or scene with Blanche?????  Obviously I was in the throes of Ordinary Girl in a Tiara then.  As it turned out, I did write Caro’s meeting with the Dowager as an email to Lotty, but clearly changed my mind about the market scene. 

In pub, mats hunting scenes or coaches, Lex thinks of hushed efficiency of office with nostalgia è but DEAL.  Hhhmmnn.  Juggling Briefcase and Baby, for sure, but it looks as if I cut the detail about the place mats.  Weird what seems brilliant in the middle of the night!  On the same page I’ve written, oddly: evening keep notebook by bed! Er …?

Mr B + H into study, is scribbled on another page.  Not quite sure why study was so important.  I’ve underlined it twice.  Deep voices shaken cloth in yard straightened carpet on chest – ah, this is Time’s Echo.  The scribbles wind round where I’ve written LINCOLN OTHER LETTER??? and CHAIRMAN? in large letters, which is bringing back vague memories of some editing crisis.   

Interspersed with ideas for scenes are urgent notes to myself about the vital stuff that spins round in your head when you’re trying to sleep: TEA BAGS.  Tony’s birthday.  Order lamb (underlined three times; clearly a worry). MA – shipping???? BLOG!!!!!  Who knew my life was so stressful?  

I’m feeling quite anxious just looking through the book for last night's notes now, but it’s a handy thing to have one beside the bed.  The theory is that once you write a reminder, you can put it out of your mind and relax, although I have to say it doesn’t always work that way for me.  If you’ve got any better tips for clearing your mind, please let me know - I'd really like some sleep before I get to the end of this book!


  1. I've got piles of them in the office. Some have notes from at least two books on one page. It's fascinating to see the genesis of a book. Or puzzling.Oh dear. Wibble wibble hatstand.....

  2. Yes, it does make for an interesting archive, Lesley. Imagine how fascinating it would be for a researcher in 500 years' time - always supposing they could decipher my writing, which is not at its best in the middle of the night!

  3. I just finished Tilly's book. The first scene got me hooked. It was a great, relaxing read. And now I can see how much time and effort you put into your books.

  4. Oh, I feel for you. I don't have trouble sleeping so rarely have recourse to the bedside notebook. But I do have loads of slips of paper all over the house with notes similar to these. I do wish for a waterproof notebook as most of my ideas turn up in the shower. Hope you get Frith sorted and some sleep!

  5. Oh no! We all appreciate your suffering so that we can have another book :)

    I have to read before I go to sleep to get my mind to switch off. Otherwise I end up doing exactly what you're doing, only over the other side of the world ;-)

  6. I've heard other people say that reading helps, Lacey, but when I try it, it just wakes my mind up even more and my story and the one I'm reading get all muddled up in my head.

    Louise, a waterproof notebook would be just the thing, wouldn't it? I've always found a bath the best place for ideas and am sure it's something to do with the fact that it's the least convenient place to write anything down that makes the brain wake up and think 'Aha! I'll just catch her when she can't do anything about it.'

    Glad you enjoyed Last-Minute Proposal, Natalija. One of my favourites - and as I remember it, one of those rare books that write themselves. Unlike this one!