I’m having a strange experience. Yesterday I finally gave myself permission to play with the novel I started writing in March – and haven’t touched since April. I love this phase, when ideas are in free play with no worries about the end product.
I have two scenes in Paris in 1947 and 1958 and I can hear Edith Piaf’s Milord playing in the background. There is an office in modern London and a house in Highbury, some digs in wartime (WWII) Oxford, a scene somewhere in America (seriously vague that), a musical mishap in Moscow with comic overtones. Some drafts are in the first person, some third, some in the present tense some in the past.
In the past I have started with a structure, like the armature of a sculpture, and let the story grow up and around this frame. This new story has a single central figure with plotlines radiating outwards, particularly into the past. I don’t at present see how it will ever shape into a continuous narrative.
Ideas for this book go back several years, and I have been disconcerted to find at least five different opening pages, several vague and/or contradictory plot outlines, some pages of character studies and dozens of unlikely names. There are four people alive and active in one or more of these scenes, but how the two from the earlier period interact with the more recent ones is still mostly opaque to me.
This is an octopus and I really don’t know which arm to investigate first. Actually, it’s more like a piece of knitting, with sections of sleeve or cuff half knitted on different size needles in different colours with different weights of wool.
Since I have created this chaos I should be able to sort out the strands and turn them into a serviceable rope. Hmm. In the meantime, I shall keep on playing Milord.