Last year I wrote a novel entitled Speedbird. Speedbird is Part 3 in the troubled life of Dr Alastair Cameron-Strange. I sent the draft to my publisher, who pointed out some structural problems that needed to be addressed. This was indeed the case, but at the time I wasn’t really in the mood to address them. (I hope I wasn’t becoming a Diva, a Prima Donna, but you never know.) Anyway we agreed to put the book down, like a vintage wine, and let it do whatever vintage wines do while occupying the cellar. Of course the simile is not really a propos. Vintage wines might mature, or they might degrade, with time. Written words, on the other hand, will do nothing at all, no matter how much time you give them. The words in storage remain exactly the same. The only thing that will change with time is the author. He may resurrect the incarcerated tome and find it is exactly as it was when abandoned. If it appears changed, it is only because it is being viewed with fresh eyes.
So I forgot about Speedbird. Then my gentle publisher emailed me and asked after the well-being of Alastair Cameron-Strange. It was the nudge I needed. I brought the tome up out of the cellar, blew away the dust, and perused it once more. I perceived a change. Whether the change resides in the book or in the author hardly seems to matter. I was able once more to take up the threads and weave the tapestry. I became engaged, then distracted, then preoccupied, and now – mildly I trust – obsessed. I confess I rather like Speedbird. It is taking shape. Weird shape, but shape. Its forging has come at a cost. ACS’ world is growing darker. Nothing I can do about it.
A pretentious conceit, I hear you say. You are the author; you can do with your creation whatever you like. And that is perfectly true. And yet the more I proceed with this tale, the more I am constrained by a sense of what plot machinations will “work” – or not work, as the case may be. I can only proceed where I am led. So I sit daily in front of my word processor and grope my way forward into the dark.
Structurally, the tome is in much better shape than it was. It is in three acts – a format universally favoured by the film industry though I have to say that that consideration mattered to me not one whit. Each act occurs in a separate location, and takes place over eight chapters. 24 chapters then. And then a coda, revisiting each location once, over a further 3 chapters. So, 27 chapters, “bookended” (as they say) by a correspondence, two letters, to open and to close. There it is.
Today was my birthday. I gave myself a day off. After all, Sunday is a day of rest. I attended Dunblane Cathedral, then was shouted lunch in Callander, then had a delightful walk in the environs of Kings Park Stirling, then had a private recital from a virtuoso pianist, all the while bombarded by a barrage of congratulatory texts that made me feel like a teenager. Tomorrow, I entertain an old friend from New Zealand.
But come Tuesday (if spared), it’s back to the coal face. I have a sense of being within shouting distance (within co-wee, as we say in New Zealand) of the conclusion.
Onward and upward.