Friday, 29 September 2017

Time to kill: N M Browne

I am having problems with time. For a start, I can’t believe it is blog time again. Nothing says ‘wasted month’ quite like a blog date in
which, yet again there is no news from the coal face. Nope, my novel is still not done, in spite of numerous  attempts at setting a deadline, I am learning, like Douglas Adams, to enjoy the sound of them rushing past. I am in the mid book doldrums and time is not my friend.
  In the book, I fear (as I always do) that nothing happens for far too long and then when it does happen, it is all over too quickly like bad sex or, as I write more battles than sex scenes, a battle where you don’t ever get quite enough bang for your buck. 
   My character is on one of these endless quest type journeys in which time should be of the essence, but he is taking so long to get anywhere that he and I are both worn out. It’s a bit better today as I’ve had him fighting for his life. Again. But I am running out of horrible things to do to him and I’m barely halfway through.
  Then, I have the problem of determining how long all this story stuff actually takes in the sixth century, besides ‘far too long.’  Is it reasonable that a boat should take four days to sail and row from the Thames to Pevensey? Who knows? The answer would seem to be no one. And how long does it take to kill a sheep and spit roast it? Do you need to let it hang for a bit or can it be fast food for a feast? Again, who to ask? And what about portion sizes? Were sheep bigger and appetites smaller or am I going to have to roast six of them? 
   I am so tired of talking ‘moments’ and ‘heart beats’ and ‘instants’ and ‘watches,’ ‘movements of the sun’ and ‘phases of the moon.’ I miss the usefulness of minutes and hours, the sharp decisiveness of ‘five minutes later.’ Story telling needs time, enough for the story to unfold, but also its measured urgency to keep things rolling along. I am becalmed in the slower pace  of  the sixth century, losing my patience and, if you must know, my mind. 
   In life too, writing middles seems to take so much longer than writing beginnings. In fairness, there is much more middle than beginning, but I feel I have been up to my knees in the soggy middle for much longer than usual. Several moons and sunsets and a helluva lot of heart beats, not to mentions sips of wine and coffee spoons. 
   Yet, my character is still trudging on, fighting for his life and, for the moment, winning, and I too am trudging with him, one painful paragraph at a time.

 Sorry.
GTG I’ve shipwrecks to write and time and characters to kill… 

9 comments:

JO said...

Oh it's so hard to be original when marking the passage of time in fiction! How many moons can go round the run before we are all yawning - good luck with this (and i've no clue about sheep-easting protocols in the sixth century!)

Nicky said...

Thanks. I think I gave up all hope of originality some long heartbeats ago! I'd just settle for not boring the pants, skirts, tunics and peplos' off the reader!

Sandra Horn said...

I hear you, Sister!

Umberto Tosi said...

Nice to know I'm not alone. Thank you for your candid and illuminating post!

Jan Needle said...

Feeling for you.

Bill Kirton said...

our pain is clearly shared. Maybe that will ease it. Or maybe not.

Dennis Hamley said...

Ah, the dead vast and middle of the book. We've all spent many lonely hours there. But always remember - the main purpose of research for historical novels is not to inform readers of our unique knowledge. It's rather to challenge the reader to how you're wrong. And, yes, it would easily take four days to row from the Thames to Pevensey Bay. It takes Joslin de Lay eight days to sail from Cherbourg to Ipswich in Of Dooms and Death (don't ask why he didn't just hop across to Channel due north to Devon, just trust me) and he had a sail (admittedly not a very big one.)

Dennis Hamley said...

Sorry - I meant 'to SHOW you're wrong'. And please add 'as he wanted to'' after 'north to Devon'.

Nicky said...

Thanks, Dennis!