Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Daily Wordcount

Graham Greene reckoned application made him the writer he was. He didn't get over-zealous. A mere daily minimum of 350 words helped him to 26 novels.

My own daily rate is falling slack. I took my book out to write on a plane the other day, then reckoned achievement enough was not leaving it behind. I tell myself that a few still days when I'm not travelling around will see me settle, so when I get back from Plymouth on Wednesday perhaps .... the trick is to snatch an hour or two early on, before a day can ride you ragged.

I met with Anne Macgregor of Moondance Films on Friday. She's fairly fresh from a project that has consumed her for years, a splendid film for the Smithsonian institute, 'The True Story of the Mary Celeste'. The film became a labour of love. On finishing it, she found the need to jump into a new project immediately. It was a weaning process, distracting herself with work so that the Mary Celeste passion would have a chance to ebb away.

Anne pointed out that I am going through the same process with Haldane, shifting to my new novel so as to free myself from what has been an exhausting and mesmerizing project - my upcoming biography of J. S. Haldane. It had never struck me that this was so, but clearly she is right. Especially when I consider the provenance of the book I am writing now. Ten years ago I had so much writing momentum after completing my biography of Mother Meera, In Search of the Divine Mother, that I had to keep on writing. I needed something utterly different to spiritual biography, so started off with just a wacky title: 'Effendi, A Wet Dream of Morocco'. As I started writing, an utterly different book emerged, a tale of a senator's son kidnapped from the Acropolis.

Ten years on, reworked a fair bit, that project grew to two chapters. Now it's called 'Badger Boy', part of a trilogy perhaps, and has grown enormously in my head. It's grown through a further five chapters as well, through a mode of daily application, 2-3 manuscript pages a day.

That puts me slightly ahead of Graham Greene and maybe earned me this weekend off. Maybe. As I sat down to write this evening I fell asleep. Guess I'd better set my sights on a later train tomorrow and get up earlier. Life can go on without me, my writing won't. I have to bring the requirements of journalism to my novels, and set my own word limits and deadlines.

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