May 10, 2009



. . . is driving me mad.  Well, madder.  Not that this is the least unusual.  Writing novels does drive one mad. 

Well, writing mine has always driven me mad.  Peter, however, is a pain in the butt about this as about so many writery things.  I always used to say–grandly, smugly–that while I am perhaps a little slow, no one can crank out really superior prose quickly:  a book a year, say.  Anyone holding to that schedule very long* is inevitably writing inferior stuff.  Then I started noticing the copyright dates on Peter’s books.  I’d first discovered his adult murder mysteries;  I didn’t know he also wrote kids’ books till I started working in the children’s department at Little, Brown–as it then was–one of whose lines was the Atlantic Monthly Press, which published Peter’s kids’ books in America.   He’s been known to publish more than one book a year, the comfortable-philosophy-wrecking ratbag. **

And then!  As if this is not bad enough!  He isn’t driven mad by his stories!  He may sometimes sit at the kitchen table with his hands over his face muttering to himself but . . . he still gets up and makes dinner!***  He never snarls, I’m working† when I address a remark to him!  He even remembers to shave!††

I, on the other hand . . . †††

Well.  PEGASUS is driving me mad.  Have I told you it started life as an AIR story?  Oh, you’d guessed, had you?  Yes, by the time PEGASUS galloped/flew into my ken and I tentatively sprinkled a few words of it on paper and watched it instantly start straining at the margins I was cynical enough to guess that it wasn’t a short story.‡  But the margin-straining has gone on.  And on.  About a month ago I decided I couldn’t do it in one book:  so perforce I’m going to be writing a real sequel for the first time in my life . . . well, sort of.   It’s going to be a sequel like THE RETURN OF THE KING is a sequel to THE TWO TOWERS.  Remember the last line of TWO TOWERS?  ‘Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy’?  Yes.‡‡   You’re going to hate me for the ending of PEGASUS.  Well, I hope you’ll hate me:  you’ll hate me if you like the book.

I can’t help it!  The freller is too fricking long!  And that really is the place to end volume one!   Anyone with the most rudimentary sense of Story will see this at once!‡‡‡

But my problem now is that having decided to hack it in half and breathing, as I thought, a long sigh of relief, because I might thus still make my end-of-summer deadline . . . it’s shaken off its restraints with a hurrah and taken off for the horizon.  Wait!  Wait!  Wait!  I’ve got old!  I don’t move so fast any more!  And laptops weigh more than pads of legal paper used to!

I’m supposed to be at the end of the second draft!  I have got to be at the end of the second draft by the end of May§ or I am seriously frelled!  I should be getting ready for the frenzied final yanks and twitches, knots and clamps, of the third (more or less) and final (more or less) draft§§!  And what am I doing?  I’m writing more new, raw, first-draft stuff!  I wrote one page today.§§§  And it wasn’t merely one wretched horrible new first-draft page . . . it was a wretched horrible first draft page that tells the heroine something she didn’t know and casts a very long retroactive shadow–that I, the miserable scribe, am going to have to go back and crosshatch in.


Even Word has given up on me:  when I hit 75,000 words a while back it gave me an error message that said:  There are too many misspelled words in this document and we can’t deal any more.¤  And all the little red squiggly underlines went away.  I almost miss them.¤¤

So Days in the Life may start having Links Entries to go with Guest Post Saturday.  Or Poetry Entries.  Or something.  And if I sign on some night vnb&^c****q/@zbzb gah!!!!! frzppp?%, don’t worry.  I’ve just used up all my articulateness on PEGASUS that day.  And am probably also in kind of a arrrgh, snorty mood.


PS:  I listened to the Midsummer Night’s Dream I saw the beginning of the week on the radio tonight . . . it’s nowhere near as bright and funny just listening on the radio.  Sigh.  And furthermore the Words & Music tonight–which I declined to attend when I found out Radio Three wasn’t paying any expenses–on The Faerie World was totally brilliant and I’m sorry I wasn’t there. 

            Never mind.  I can go to bed early and get started on PEGASUS earlier tomorrow. 

* * *

 * Yes, I’m about to have a third book out in three years.  But FIRE is short stories and only half ^ of them are mine. 

^ In story count, only two-fifths of them are mine.  In word count . . . um . . . more than that. 

** I am very grateful he’d slowed somewhat by the time we got together.  There is only so much humiliation a woman can stand.^ 

^ Some day when I’m in a really bad mood I’ll tell you stories about being Mrs-Peter-Dickinson-oh-she-writes-too?-How-quaint.  I know I’ve threatened you with Mrs-Peter-Dickinson stories before, but I’m never in quite a bad enough mood.  But I’ve told you, haven’t I, that Robert Maxwell took his header off his boat about a fortnight after I moved over here, taking my entire British backlist with him?  When they got round to fishing for drowned treasure they didn’t bother with anything that hadn’t sold well in the first place, and I have never sold well in this damned country.+  So I remained at the bottom of the ocean and there I have mostly stayed since.++ 

+  So, choose:  the public footpath system and rosebushes that survive the winter, or credibility in your own home.  Okay, fine, credibility is overrated. 

++ I’ve been afraid to check the sales figures on the reissued SUNSHINE, but–sigh–I somehow imagine that if it did anything startling I’d hear about it.~ 

~ However I will have an announcement about the British SUNSHINE in about a fortnight.  Mwa ha ha ha ha.  Stay tuned. 

*** Yes, really! 

† As someone else we know is inclined to do.  Ahem. 

†† Well, usually.  And he’s never been too good at the matching sock thing.  And he wears a lot of black because you don’t have to figure out what it goes with.  I have created another of those rods for my own back by giving him clothing in colours.  Whereupon I am obliged to spend a certain amount of time saying, Aaaugh!  That does not go with that! 

††† Fortunately I’m not expected to shave every day. 

‡ It’s one of the reasons I managed to buy Third House, though.  You remember I signed a contract for 1,000,000 books to scratch together enough of an advance to make the bank and the estate agent/realtor stop laughing?  This required writing up, you know, sample chapters type things.^   PEGASUS was Merrilee and my editor’s favourite. 

^ Thank the gods nobody expected a complete outline.  

‡‡ And have I told you how I read LOTR for the first time?  That my best-friend-in-seventh-grade’s brother was giving it to her one volume at a time, over the course of birthday-Christmas-birthday?  So there was months to wait in between?  This was back in the early ’60s, when it was only just beginning to be discovered by American college students, which my friend’s brother was.  My friend and I were in Japan, however.  Borrowing the next book on inter-library loan wasn’t an option.  Although military dependents’ libraries were not entirely to be despised:  I discovered Elyne Mitchell in a Tokyo US Army base library.

            But ‘Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy’ still kind of echoes down the decades at me.  It was a long few months. 

‡‡‡ Yes, I’m setting you up. 

§ MAY?  HOW DID IT GET TO BE MAY ALREADY??  I’d think you were lying, but I’ve noticed that it’s still daylight lately when we get out of ringing practice at 9 pm. 

§§ Frenzy is necessary.  It has nothing to do with the fact that when I get there I am invariably behind schedule. 

§§§ It was single spaced.  So about 750 words.  This is not unreasonable when I’m writing a first draft. 

¤ I never get around to putting all the funny words and made-up names in the dictionary.  I actually have put ‘pegasus’–no capital P– in the dictionary and it ignores me.   With an attitude like that, no wonder it can’t cope. 

¤¤It’s okay.  They still talk to me for blog posts.


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