Anyway, I am not a fast writer. At the end of last year I had 70,000 words, not all of them good ones. I shall blame the pram in the hall, the spectre of the bank manager and the demands of work, but still, I'm hardly an automatic writing machine.
People have given me good advice, which can mostly be captured in the succinct and pithy counsel Stephen King once gave a friend of mine -'Stephen,' he asked, 'What advice would you give to a first time writer?'
'Just f***ing write it.'
That's all very well, but along the way, one has to also teach oneself how to write: I unwittingly set myself the fiendish challenge of writing first person and - like Mrs Dalloway - setting the damn thing on a single day. Would I do that again if starting afresh? Probably not, because it made life immeasurably harder - but the plot, narrative arc and characters couldn't be written another way (or they possibly could but it wouldnt be a book I wanted to write) so I simply taught myself how to overcome the pitfalls of the first person/rigid time structure thing.
I also learned that you can map out your characters in enormous detail - down to their horoscope and the scent they wear - but infuriatingly, they take on a life of their own and become wilful and contrary, even when one shouts 'But I'm the omniscient author' at them.
Six years is long enough, I thought to myself over New Year-the traditional time for castigating oneself about things done and undone- I will blooming well finish it by May. It is two thirds done, I know what happens in the unwritten chapters, I even know how it ends. But, imagine the horror: I sat down at the Mac only to find my writing had become perfectly horrid. Dreary, even. I know that in these circumstances one is supposed to plough on (Advice to Writers #37), but the words I put on the page were so inept, I really couldn't bear it.
I remembered something a New York writer I admire once wrote: writing is a muscle. You have to use it frequently or it becomes flabby, inflexible, wasted. Good work only comes with practice, like many things, it's 10% ability and 90% effort. Much like I've become entirely unfit and out of shape in the six months since I stopped beasting myself at Equinox, my writing has become creaky and clumsy. It couldn't manage a single burpee.
It reminded me that one of the reasons I began this blog in late 2008 was to create a space where I could give my word-hoard a workout. So, before I return to my resolution to get the last five chapters down on paper, I'm putting myself in blogging bootcamp. You're getting a post every day, even if it's a rubbish one, in the spirit of a Couch to 5K mission. I'll let you know when I think I can run without stopping to gasp for breath.