Novel done. Seventy-nine days. Janet was kind enough to check it over, so after editing and minor revisions, it’s come out at 99,500 words or thereabouts. Now what?
I’ve sent it to a friend. A couple more have asked to see it. A few from the family too. What else? What do you do with a novel these days? It’s too long to put on a blog. Even if an agent bothered to read it, I doubt peddling the work of a 68-year-old man with little social media presence would be of interest.
Does it matter? No, though obviously everyone who writes a lengthy book probably harbours repressed thoughts that it would be fun to see it evolve into a movie or, in the case of non-fiction, into a documentary.
It does feel good to have completed it, to have proved to myself that I have been able to write a work of fiction of that length, when I had not thought it possible. Apart from non-fiction books, mostly written to order for money, I have concentrated on relatively short pieces of writing that come within the rough borders of poetry.
Beyond that sense of personal satisfaction, what is there? I doubt I’ll ever read it again but hopefully, over time, some will ask for it to be emailed to them and, again hopefully, they will find something to enjoy in it. (If anyone reading this wants to, you’re welcome to email email@example.com)
There is, of course, a substantial gap between the writing of the thing and the reading of it. Not just in time, but in the experience of those involved.
Already, when it’s hardly been read, I’m getting on with other stuff. ‘Real life’ things like rolling the land ready for winter, making sure the hens are ok inside their inner pens to conform with avian flu regulations, preparing for the arrival of new pigs. And going off as usual to watch our beloved West Bromwich Albion home and away.
As to writing, it’s been surprisingly difficult to switch from the mindset necessary to create something of length to writing short pieces again. I wrote only one poem in the 79 days afforded the novel. At the time that felt like a huge release of air. Now, though, it’s taking time to settle into it again and find links between thoughts and images. I’ve started and scrapped dozens of attempts.
This morning, I thought ‘perhaps I’m trying too hard’. So I wrote something simple, a memory. As follows. It may or may not work but it feels suddenly, somehow, as if it’s done the trick. The novel’s done with. Onward.
The first time I saw a horse die, I was a boy.
I was sitting high in an ancient oak.
I saw the horse galloping around the field.
I saw it stumble in a dip in the ground, fall.
It made a terrible, squealing noise.
The old farmer came out of the farmhouse.
He loaded his shotgun as he walked.
The horse rolled about, tried to get up,
flopped back again. The old farmer
pointed the gun at its head and shot it.
I remember the echo, pigeons taking off.
The old farmer looked up at me and said:
You can get out of that tree and help me
start the bonfire. I dragged dead branches
over to the horse in the middle of the field.
Piled dry leaves.
Not long ago, I saw a horse put out of its old age.
A vet injected it.
The woman who owned it had already been taken off for a walk.
The horse slowly lay down and died.
The man from the knackers yard let down the back of the truck.
I looked in and there was another dead horse already there.
This one would have to go on top of it.
I watched the horse winched up and swung into the truck.
I watched it dropped on to the other one.
I remember the thud. The clatter of a shod hoof on the floor.
The back of the truck was locked.
The woman who owned the horse came back.
She was crying.