We’re 20 000 words into the new manuscript. Cruising speed. You know that moment when the plane has ground its way upwards, tipped frantically to one side before finally levelling out. The lights go back on. One breathes a sigh of relief. Sounds of industry emerge from the galley. Finally – air-borne.
Of course I don’t know where we’re heading and that is surely different from flying somewhere. A ghost has swirled up our main character’s backside, but that probably won’t stay (not if I have anything to do with it), although maybe it will. I think that’s a fine entry point for any ghost, though not a journey I would want to make.
Nor do I even know what the whole thing is about. That sort of discovery takes time to emerge. Some people start with an image or a sentence or even a fully-plotted book. We tend to begin with a feeling or perhaps more accurately, a tension: we want to explore a certain kind of emotional experience.
We’re bound to hit turbulence. When I hit turbulence on a plane – I’m a jittery flyer – I like to imagine I’m on the sea and the air pockets are waves. After a while it almost begins to feel relatively rhythmic. With writing, you hit pockets all the time. You’re moving along and then – boof! – you fall into a pocket of despair and wonder what the hell you’re doing. At this point, it’s an advantage to have two people writing, because one of you will just carry on moving. As long as you carry on moving, you have to go somewhere, and generally that’s towards clearer skies.
At the end of a plane trip, you arrive in a different place. Sometimes you’ve never seen the place before and it’s not how you imagined it would be. It’s the same with a book. Who knows what we’ll find at the end of the journey but unlike planes, the journey itself can be a lot of fun.