Thursday, June 30, 2011

Working on the word mine...

I have never written a history book before - or a book which pertains to the seriousness of a history book - so I have no experience of the thicket of quotes, the gorse bushes of sentences through which you have to slither.

It takes me back to being at university: that sense of slight misery and bewilderment when something that seemed transparently clear - a good quote - refuses to yeild up its presence.

And then there’s the conundrum: the wonderful quote (which exists in your head)but when you find it it is slightly but very definitely different and its power seems to leak away.

It’s like being left with a stale sandwich at a bus-stop, after the bus has gone.

Well, the news is my computer programme didn’t have a word count so I went on merrily compiling my book, imagining it was a sleek little vessel  - only to find I handed it a 260,000 ocean liner. 

   (How could a computer not have a word count, you ask?) I ask the same question...

  So a lot of time has been spent throwing things overboard.

  The image is probably apt as I feel at times like I have been throwing over everything - chairs, cultery, lifejackets and eventually living humans - all in the effort to keep the boat not only afloat but moving.

   O well.
  You learn, I guess.

   A nonfiction book with pictures has picture permissions, picture captions, picture placements. And quotes, those endless quotes which once appeared such victorious talismans - such wonderful clusters of meaning.

  Now they appear obturate (my editor would outline this in bright yellow and tell me to stop using a favourite word) slightly sullen, like furtive teenagers only too happy to slope off into the undergrowth for some nefaious activity.

  Hence my long long silence.

  I’m a labourer in the quote mine. 
  I’m a miner in the word cave.

  One day I’ll come out to the open air.
  Can’t wait...