Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Leaving it to Marinade - Linda Newbery

I'm at that intriguing, exhilarating, slightly nerve-racking stage of gearing up to write. This means that I'm not doing any writing at all, just leaving my idea to marinade, and working up the sense of atmosphere that is so necessary before I start. I enjoy this time - the daily discipline hasn't started yet, the fretting over plot clunks and stodgy bits, and the story is open to me with all its possibilities.
Meanwhile, I'm indulging in various start-up rituals. These include: finding a desktop background for my laptop which sets the right tone; filling the noticeboard in my study with pictures and words; making a playlist of background music (Rautavaara, Gyorgy Ligeti, Arvo Part and Jan Garbarek); ah yes, and buying a notebook. The purchase of notebooks can be a major displacement activity, but this time, after rejecting several, I bought a plain lined pad in order to customise the cover. I don't want to intimidate myself by using a notebook so beautiful that I'm reluctant to scribble and cross out in it.

I never discuss the forthcoming story with anyone. I hate talking about work in progress, and to talk about it before I've even started would more than likely be fatal to the life of the story - reduce anything to plot, and it immediately sounds trite, and not worth writing. My story has to keep its magic for me. And, although this is going to be quite a short book, it has to feel big, and this stage is important in letting it grow and spread all by itself. I have to build up a hunger for writing, while denying myself any writing at all until the time comes.

And, of course, one of the pleasures given by a book-in-waiting is that in my mind it's the consummate work of fiction I'd like it to be. I don't yet have to face the shortcomings that will become apparent as soon as I start to put one word after another.

I've got a title. I've got my ingredients. I'm brewing up atmosphere. There is still a lot that I don't know, and won't know for a while yet, but soon I'll be ready to start.

16 comments:

Lynne Garner said...

It's lovely to read how differently we all work. I allow things to 'fester' in my head but never use images to help the process along. But I do invest in a note book. A part of the process that just HAS to be done!

Linda Newbery said...

Yes, notebooks are definitely addictive! I like the "festering".

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I work like this too, Linda - even reading your piece gave me that little thrill of vicarious excitement - thank-you! I love finding the notebooks even though I write straight onto the PC - but I do make lots of notes (and it's nice if the pens are those green Italic nib felt tips) assemble the music, books and pictures (I even buy old postcards off eBay) and surround myself with the right 'stuff'. I don't like to talk about the story either. I always find myself being evasive when somebody asks what I'm planning next. Talking about it can make it disappear.

julia jones said...

The late great Margery Allingham (a professional if ever there was one) used to do large projects of plain sewing, or baking or even white-washing a wall when she was 'cooking up' a tale. I wish I was like that ...

Lee said...

Notebooks: it seems we all love them. I've taken to customising my own by uploading a more or less blank file to Lulu, designing cover, and self-publishing.

Your image has sent me in search of the music!
(However, I can never listen to music when I write: somehow it disturbs the rhythm, timbre etc. of my own words.)

Linda Newbery said...

Yes - music can easily disturb like that. It has to be just right.

I must look out for those green italic pens, Catherine! Where do you get them? Re Margery Allingham - I haven't tried baking or sewing, but painting a room (nearest thing to whitewashing) is great. Swimming is good, too. Yesterday when I was at the pool, my plot took off in an unexpected direction. I don't know if it's a good idea or not, but it definitely wants to go that way, whatever I think.

Jan Needle said...

my old friend larry mcdermott used to enter a phase of typewriter cleaning when something big was cooking. he once claimed to have worn an old imperial down to the bare metal before he started. when he finally got the work up and running, his mother in law, an old-fashioned oldham lady, used to refer disparagingly to him 'doing his little bits of typing.'

Cindy Jefferies said...

This post was just what I needed Linda. I've been wanting to get on with the writing for ages, but everything hasn't been in place. Your post has reminded me that it's okay to wait...in fact, probably vital. Now where's that paint brush...

Avril said...

You describe the pleasures of a book-in-waiting beautifully. I share your love of this time - when everything is possible and nothing yet troublesome. I like the idea of choosing your music - that's new to me. Keep the magic and good luck when you start

KMLockwood said...

I like an object to touch too: a lovely turquoise glass globe for a Red Sea story,a trio of earthenware seals for a selkie one. My CDs are of natural sounds - and I put a Do Not Disturb card on my closed door!
Best of inspiration with your story, Linda.

Linda Newbery said...

Thank you, Avril! The music is quite new to me, too, and I haven't got it right yet. But I found Einaudi very helpful for a previous book, because it seemed to set the right mood without intruding. I've already deleted some of the tracks I thought would work this time, because they don't seem right after all.

Thanks, Cindy, too! Happy writing, when the time comes.

Linda Newbery said...

Hello, KM! Good to see you here. An object to touch - what would it be? At the moment, a purring cat, who's rather inclined to dribble on my keyboard. Not good!

Linda Gillard said...

I agree about getting the music right. I usually have one particular composer who sets the tone of the novel. I'm a big fan of Arvo Part and Rautavaara so your work in progress sounds very promising!

CANTUS ARCTICUS actually made it into my 3rd novel. For those who don't know the piece, CA is a "concerto for birds & orchestra" and some readers thought I'd made up both the concerto and the composer.

Linda Newbery said...

Actually, Linda, it's thanks to you that I first listened to Rautavaara! My friend Adele Geras sent me your novel, which I enjoyed very much. I was trying to identify a piece of music at that time and from your description I thought Rautavaara might be it. He wasn't, but I was glad to make his acqaintance anyway. Thank you!

Linda Gillard said...

Ooh, lovely - I like serendipitous stories like that. Did you ever manage to identify your mystery music?

Linda Newbery said...

I did, eventually, when I heard it playing in a pub and asked the barman to show me the CD cover. It turned out to be Thomas Newman, Any Other Name, from the soundtrack to American Beauty - not much like Rautavaara at all! But I bought the CD and that has become another of my atmospheric favourites.