Looking through the papers last weekend, my eye was caught by the heading of an article in The Sunday Times’ Culture magazine: ‘TV presenter Jay Blades says: “I’ve written my memoir; now I’m going to read it.”’ Read more “The most interesting stories of all . .”
It’s what we all think, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter whether you’re reading a book or writing one, the end of the next chapter is where you know you can safely put the story aside and take a break.
If you’re reading then it might be when you turn out the light/get off the train/finish your meal.
If you’re writing then it’s probably when you breathe a sigh of relief, get up from your desk and head for a cup of tea while thinking, ‘that went OK’. Or maybe, ‘that might need revisiting tomorrow, but at least I can take a break now’.
The big problem with writing a book is that once it’s there, it’s there for ever. You fail to check one seemingly minor fact or you make one little typo that’s not picked up and it’s still there, reproaching you, ten or twenty years later.
Every time you open your masterpiece, it jumps out and hits you in the eye. Every time your friends wander over to the bookshelf and idly pick up a copy, you know that’s the page they’ll hit upon.
It is commonly accepted that starting a book is the most difficult part. It’s certainly a tough moment when you confront the blank page at the top of which stands the legend: Chapter 1. But by the time you reach that stage, you will have done a lot of thinking, a lot of planning, a lot of research. If you’re working with a ghost, you’ll have done hours of interviews and had lots of discussions about what’s going to go in. And of course, if you are working with a ghost writer, that first sentence on the blank page is his/her problem, not yours!
As modern Doctor Who fans will know, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a nonlinear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly … timey-wimey … stuff”. (From “Blink”, by Steven Moffat, first broadcast 9th June 2007.) (If you’ve got five minutes you can watch the whole scene here; it’s a masterclass in combining humour, explanation and tension.)
He could also have been describing the plotting of a novel.