In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.
This quote comes from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, and matches exactly the newest approach I’ve been taking to the Magnum Opus.
Like Bradbury, I’ll call this Blurting.
The things that I’m blurting won’t even be part of the book – they’re just backstory (just, she says: as if backstory wasn’t important) – but the thing is I’ve got myself stuck. I’m so deep in the mud of the middle (the ‘muddle’ we might as well call it) that only a radical tactic will save me.
And so – though I’m usually chained to my keyboard – I’m writing by hand, in an A4 pad full of bits of old lesson plans, notes for old stories, occasional shopping lists (Lynsey’s top tip: if your notebook’s too fancy or pricey or perfect you’ll find yourself frightened to write anything for the fear of spoiling it; drafts are best done in the tattiest book you can find). What you blurt should be legible – just – but don’t stop to find typos (writos?) or fill in missed words. There’s no need. All you’re catching I think, when you blurt, is the story. And stories are more than just words. (It is nice, though, when a character uses words you hadn’t thought of. Private proclivities, for instance. Scarpered. Specimens. A few of my favourites today.)
It’s dangerous, though. Look closely at the picture above and you might spot a woman’s name: Dora. There’s no one in Madder Hall called Dora. Not yet… But the deeper I burrow, the closer I get to the core of it all: what’s been causing the muddle, I think, is the fact there are two diverse strands to my story – and, damn it, they just won’t join up. Every bone in my body is aching to MAKE THEM join up and get back to the novel already, for god’s sake (impatience turns quickly to panic); this draft should be finished by now – but these things can’t be rushed. ‘If poetry,’ said Keats, ‘comes not as naturally as leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.’ A novel needs rather more planning, of course, than a poem, but just like a poem a novel comes mainly – completely? – from the jolly old subconscious, and blurting allows the subconscious to speak.
I imagine my own as a kindly old lady, proffering tea. On a day like today there is cake as well. ‘You might want to sit down, dear,’ she says. ‘I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is great news: you’re really immersed in this story. You’ve found all the voices, so well done, you.’ She puts a gloved hand on my knee. She’s called Babs. Or Val. ‘Here’s the bad news, dearie. Your two strands won’t ever join up. It’s beyond our abilities. See what this Dora character has to offer, why don’t you? What’s that, dear? Speak up, please. This isn’t the novel you wanted to write? Why no, dear, whoever said it should be? It’s the one I want to write. Let me cut you a slice of this cake…’