Even at this stage, I’m still writing new material for the novel. There are two new scenes I want to write – both of which are about developing the relationship my narrator has with one of the other characters. They sit very nicely together – one taking place in 1998 in a teenage girls’ bedroom, and another happening ten years later – the middle of the night in the bathroom of a run-down studio flat.
I thought of these scenes at separate times but now I’m coming to write them I’m seeing the similarities and the ways the present works as an echo of the past. I wonder if anyone else will notice this. I mutter to myself. Three years to write it, and it takes three hours to read. I feel curmudgeonly, and carry on scribbling and underlining and typing.
The rest of it though, is tinkering. This is how I do it:
1. Take the file on my memory stick to Granthams, get it printed out two pages to a sheet of A4, landscape, and then comb bound across the top. It sort of looks like a book, but it doesn’t work like one. Wide margins, so there’s plenty of room to write. And only one side of the paper.
2. Gasp at how much the printing costs, and
3. gasp again when I realise I’ve left my memory stick in the shop.
It’s lovely though. At Granthams, they put it in a box and wrap the box in brown paper. They are politer and dishier than the lot at Staples. I pretend I’m special – that I get the box and the paper because the Granthams-printing-and-comb-binding-massive know this is a novel and not a thesis or a catalogue or a report but a novel.
There’s a certain, breathy way you should be hearing that word in your head right now. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen it printed out before, yes? We’re concerned about the environment. We work on screen and save the wasteful treat of paper until the very end.
4. I get hold of the heft of the paper in my hands for an afternoon and then I give it away and pretend it doesn’t exist.
5. I get a friend or two to read it with pens and pencils in their hands.
6. I leave it a few weeks, and do something else / earn some money.
7. (a) I pretend I’ve forgotten.
7 (b) I get (even more) bad tempered.
8. Then it comes back, dog-eared and tatty and smelling like someone else’s house and I go over it and read it myself with another pen. Scribble away. Scissors. Post-its. The Small-Fry’s Christmas Crayola Marker Set.
9. Then there’s a day or two in bed with my ego and a bag of oranges, groaning. And feeling pleased, too – because it’s big – thousands of words, and I wrote it myself.
I’m there now. It’s going to take me another four weeks or so to translate all those scribbles into the document on my computer, and write those two scenes. But when I’ve done that, I’ve done with the book.