Friday, 14 September 2007

It's Gone!

One sign that you are coming to the end of a piece of work is when the idea 'I've finished!' begins to occur with ever-increasing frequency. How often I've said it these past few weeks! How often I've been told to go and celebrate, but I didn't feel like celebrating, not yet. I got up at 4am this morning to review the last-minute revisions of yesterday and then went for a long, hot soak in the bath. Suddenly, in the midst of steam and on the edge of sleep, I realised I had missed out a very key point. It happens so often, that one forgets to state the obvious, that I'm really surprised that I haven't learnt the lesson yet. Anyway, back to the draft which is the fifth of its kind titled 'Final Version'. I found the place where it should be and put it in. It did not cause seismic shifts in the rest of the text - a good sign. So then I sent it off to David, and sat for a couple of minutes watching the upload arrow on the envelope icon, feeling rather stupid and spent. David is now sending it to the typesetter.

That's it then. Thirty-three years of work ended at 11.30 am on Friday 14th September, 2007. I did promise I would sing, but I don't feel like it. Perhaps that will come later.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Counting words

When I started writing, we used to have count words ourselves, without the aid of a computer. For a short piece, where the count often had to be precise, you would count each word. For a longer piece, you went by averages. A general average was 300 words per page but you found your own average and stuck with that. If I’d had to count every word in A Tabernacle for the Sun, I’d probably still be on the task ten years later.

It is so easy to bemoan our computers and their tendency to spoil our days, so easy to forget the absolute boon of some of their features, word counting foremost among them, so far as I am concerned. It was a joy on my first Amstrad, but it still took a little time. Now it is instantaneous and I stare in wonder at how many words I’ve written, using how many characters, feeling a little cheated that the tool does not record the amount of words that I’ve deleted, because a word count is not a record of what is written, but of what has survived editing and revision. I’d like it to tell me that I did have five hundred thousand words, which went down to one hundred thousand words, and then up again to two thousand five hundred words. That would be interesting.

So, how many words have I written in The Botticelli Trilogy? A Tabernacle for the Sun comes out at a beastly number of 166,660. Pallas and the Centaur is 174,219. The Rebirth of Venus – 184,146. Grand total: 525,025. Half a million words. Funny – it felt like a million.

In the spirit of an old Cabalist, I’ve added those numbers up. Tabernacle = 7, Pallas = 6 and Rebirth = 6. Which all adds up to 1. The grand total also adds up to 1. Now, that is pleasing.

Another wonderful thing of the modern world is Google. It can answer just about anything: the symptoms and treatment of concussion; how to make apple chutney; where Steeple Barton is; the right spelling of Zenobio, to name a few of the problems I’ve solved this week. In less than five seconds I’ve discovered that Tolstoy’s War and Peace has a word count of 553,890. Funny – I thought it was a million. Of course there is no comparison between the books, not least because Leo wrote his story in five years, whereas I took thirty-three.

Monday, 3 September 2007

The End?

After months of wondering, here is the answer. You have reached the end when you look at your work and think, 'There's nothing more to do.' So off with it to the typesetter at the end of the week then, and start worrying about covers.

It being such a lovely day, with sunshine and a cool breeze from the north, we spent nearly the whole day on the allotment and had a picnic lunch entirely organic and much of it fresh-picked. Never tasted anything so good. 'This is better than a holiday,' said David, staring out at Wytham Hill. We had company: Cowboy Catherine on the next plot, and Robin on the one after that. We were all happy, digging, hoeing and raking. This is the good life.

Having just followed an American recipe for 'apple jam', I'm wondering if the Americans use the term 'chutney' - for chutney is what it looks like to me. Too hot to taste right now, but I'll try it in the morning and on toast.