The book is completed; appropriately by Thanksgiving Day!
Yes, at 3pm yesterday, I wrote the last sentence of the epilogue: Back to the beginning. Sturdy followers will recall the prologue In the beginning published here on the 4th November.
Still can’t believe it, to be honest. A total of 53,412 words written in 27 days, or an average of 1,978 words a day.
Now the first thing that has to be said in bold: THIS IS THE FIRST DRAFT! The professionals recommend taking at least two weeks off before starting the equal challenge of editing, refining and finishing. There was another pep talk on the NaNoWriMo website that I would like to post here; it seems to illustrate the game of being a writer so well.
But before that, thank you to everyone who kept me going. It meant a great deal.
The Shining may be the best film ever made about being a writer—not because Jack Nicholson’s character went bonkers, but because he had the work ethic it takes to build a career. Sure, he just typed “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” thousands of times. But he worked every single day—even when the creative juices weren’t flowing.
I’ve never bought into the self-indulgent notion of writer’s block, a grown-up version of “The dog ate my homework.” The fact is that some people have nothing to say and will never be writers. But if you need inspiration, try perspiration. If you’re meant to write, you’ll write. Sure, we’re all stymied from time to time, struggling over how best to shape a character or how to bring a crucial scene to life. But the best way to confront such problems is to sit down and start typing. Things happen when you make them happen.
Sure, it’s gorgeous out, your friends are partying and there are errands that need to be run right now. Or there’s more research to do, or another urgent email that needs a response. There’s always an excuse not to write—but if you make a habit of grabbing excuses, you’ll never become a pro. Better to type up slop, throw it away, and start again the next morning, than to duck your daily battle with the keyboard.
There have been days when I just could not bring myself to sit down at the computer, but such days have been rare. More often, I may not feel like chaining myself to my desk, but I sit down and get to work, anyway. I’m a writer. This is my job. Often, I’ve wanted to quit but stuck to the mission… only to find, after many a barren hour, that I’d written something so good I asked myself the most satisfying question a writer can spit out: “Jeez, where did that come from?”
Many an aspiring writer is just in love with a glammed-up idea of being an author, but not enthused about the actual work. Well, the only way to learn to write is to write (and to write a lot). Sit down and get started. Even if you just type, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Writing is wretched, discouraging, physically unhealthy, infinitely frustrating work. And when it all comes together it’s utterly glorious.
In these last days of NaNoWriMo, get to work.
Ralph Peters is the author of 30 books, and has published extensively as a journalist and essayist. He pays the bills by writing.
Learning from Dogs
“Hallo, Jonathan, it’s Philip.”
“Philip, how are you? Listen I heard about you and Maggie splitting up. I’m so sorry. Must all still be very raw in your life at the moment.”
“Yes it’s been hard. I’m very slowly coming to terms with all the implications of what will be a divorce in due course; without doubt. Nonetheless, I think there’s a long way to go for me. At times it feels like more than I can handle.”
He paused, “To be honest, Jonathan, that’s why I’m calling you just now. Over the last few weeks, going back over and over again about Maggie’s behaviour has been stirring up a whole pile of strange and often conflicting feelings. I just wondered if there was any chance of us reversing roles; of me becoming your client?”
“Oh Philip, that’s a question I would much prefer you hadn’t asked. Because fundamental to how a counsellor and a person adopt a counselling relationship is that they are not familiar to each other from previous times. I’m really sorry but I have to decline your request. It’s for your sake, you do understand.”
“Jonathan, guess I hadn’t considered that but it does make sense, even though I hate to admit it. But there’s something about you, something about your, what’s the word you use, your mindfulness, that engages with me in a manner that previous counsellors have so lacked. Is there any way that I could see you that was appropriate to our circumstances?”
There was quite a long pause. It was clear that Jonathan was deep in thought. Finally, he spoke, “Philip, the only way that it could happen is like this. That is that you agree to let me be the judge of whether the counselling is working for you and that if I have the slightest question about that you will allow me to terminate the relationship, possibly at quite short notice. Let me be clear. If I decide that your best interests are not being served by me, then not only will I ask that we no longer meet but that you won’t do anything other than to gracefully accept that. Plus, of course, you could no longer mentor me with regard to my own business plans.”
Philip had no doubt in his mind. “Jonathan, that’s completely understood and I give you my word that I would accept seeing you on that basis. Plus our existing mentoring relationship is not continued.” He then added, “To be honest, we had covered most of what needed to be covered in terms of your own business anyway.”
“Philip, do you have a feel for when you would like to start coming to see me?”
“To be honest, Jonathan, not a clue just now. Chances are that the house is going to be sold. Then there’s the game of disposing of much of what’s in the house, finding rented accommodation, although that may have been sorted, then probably around May time, I’ll be going out to California for two or three weeks.”
“OK Philip, well just let your life run as smoothly as is possible in this difficult period and when you see the window opening in terms of coming to see me, something that will be very clear to you at that time, I don’t doubt, then give me a call and we can work out a schedule that is suitable for you and me.”
Came the following Saturday and Philip welcomed Jeremy Stanton who was accompanied by a Fulfords assessor, or so that’s what Philip gathered. It was a dry morning so he walked Pharaoh around the garden two or three times before sitting on the bench in front of the house. Not too long after, the Fulford duo came outside.
Jeremy came forward and spoke to him. “We’ve had a good look around and, frankly, we like what we see. Yes, the floor area of the house is smaller than average but that comes down to the fact that it was once a barn, and that’s a huge plus. Nonetheless,it’s fully a three-bedroomed home with a nicely appointed kitchen and, of course, that wonderful living room area overlooking both the village in one direction and classic Devon countryside in the other.”
Jeremy turned towards his colleague. “Dick and I are of no doubt that your property should be listed at just a shade over five-hundred thousand pounds. Was that in line with your own thoughts?”
“To be honest, Jeremy, I still can’t get my mind around how prices have risen in recent years. How would a sale price in that region compare with other properties for sale in the village?”
“No question, we are pricing it a little higher than the few other properties for sale in Harberton. But when you compare it to those others, your place is the genuine article, a real Devon stone barn converted into a good-looking home. Then when you add good vehicle access, plenty of parking space on your property, a real scarcity in the village, no passing traffic, a very quiet location right on the edge of the village but just three minutes walk from the pub and the church then the price we have in mind is certainly not fairy-tale land.”
Philip and Jeremy kicked around a few other aspects of the house market, how Spring was just around the corner, and it was decided that Philip would come into Fulfords on the Tuesday to sign their agreement.
Later that Saturday afternoon, Philip wondered if he should brief Maggie, either directly or via her solicitor, about his likely intention to sell the barn. But just the thought of dealing with Maggie had his blood pressure rising and, thank goodness, while she had some of her money in the house, it was his name alone on the deeds. He would do what he damn well wanted to do!
Thus on the Tuesday, a little after ten-thirty, Philip was poised, pen in hand, to sign the agreement for Fulfords to market Tristford Barn, Harberton, for the asking price of five-hundred-and-fifty thousand pounds. Fifteen minutes later it was done. His home of the last eight years was for sale. Philip had requested that a For Sale sign not be put on the property; well not for the meantime. There had also been discussion about the best way to handle viewings. It seemed to make a good deal of sense for Philip to take Pharaoh for a walk, or out away from the barn, when Fulfords had someone who wanted to view the property, thus ensuring that Pharaoh wouldn’t be ‘speaking’ to strangers coming up the drive. He would leave the barn neat and tidy, wood stove lit but closed down, flowers in the kitchen, and the rest. He had already passed a spare set of house keys across to Jeremy at the time he signed the agreement.
Philip had no idea of the level of interest there would be in the barn. However, Jeremy had suggested that it was the sort of property that would attract quite a number of viewers in the early days; converted Devon barns didn’t come around that often, plus Harberton was a much sort-after village.
True to his prediction almost as soon as the sales particulars had been printed and distributed, appointments were coming in to view the barn. Philip did his best to leave the barn warm, with lights on, and as welcoming as he could make it. Pharaoh was clearly puzzled at all this unusual activity yet didn’t complain about the walks he was offered, often at short notice.
He was out walking Pharaoh for just the reason of a viewing of the barn early in March. It was a Thursday, Philip recalled, and he had taken Pharaoh to the beach at Torbay to allow him a dip in the waves, something Pharaoh never failed to enjoy. He was just putting Pharaoh back on the leash when his mobile phone rang in his coat pocket. It was Jeremy.
“Philip, good time to talk?”
“Yes, not too bad. I’m over at the beach but can hear you pretty clearly.”
He signalled to Pharaoh to sit, pulled his coat collar closer around his neck.
“Well, I’m in my car parked in your driveway. I have just been showing a potential purchaser, a Mrs Fuller, Tristford Barn. In fact it’s the second time I have shown her around. No question, she loves your place. She’s single, no home to sell, has the cash, will pay the asking price but here’s the rub; she wants to be in by the end of April.”
Philip had sunk to his knees, oblivious to the wetness of the sand, his free arm around Pharaoh’s shoulders. Pharaoh was licking his ear.
“Bloody hell! Sorry Jeremy, didn’t mean to be coarse. Just a lot to take in.”
“Understood,” replied Jeremy. “but clearly it was right to call you straightaway. Mrs Fuller is still in the house. I said I would try and call you. Presume you are happy to go with with this and to be frank Mrs Fuller is about an ideal a buyer for you that you’ll ever find.”
Philip confirmed his support for the offer and Jeremy rang off saying he would call later once Mrs Fuller had been in to the office to sign the various documents.
1,575 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover