In between having a final look at the revised proofs for “petite” and fielding emails about things related to the publication/publicity of the same in various territories I’m mostly playing around with lots of ideas related to book two at the moment.
The contracts I signed back in October last year referred to book two simply as “untitled work, 80-100,000 words, fiction or non fiction”. My agent had explained when we first met that it was common for publishers to sign a new writer up for two books, and that this would be a good option to take as long as I didn’t find the prospect too daunting. I did find it daunting, terribly so, but I was also very conscious that I wanted to be seen as more than just “petite anglaise”, so I bit the bullet. There followed many months where I did my very best to bury my head in the sand and put “untitled” out of my mind completely. The December 2008 deadline seemed an awfully long way away, and I had more pressing matters to attend to, such as writing book one.
Luckily the germ of an idea was born while I was working on my memoir, and began quietly taking shape in my mind while I was occupied doing other things. So when I sat down to start defining book two in September, I realised I was in possession of a fairly clear idea of the overarching story and that I had an awful lot I wanted to say. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt when I started noting down scores of possible scenes and wore my pencil down to a stub.
So, here I am, after several months of editing and proofing (and holidays), back in the writing saddle again. Back to counting words obsessively and calculating how much they represent as a fraction of the Whole Thing. Back to printing out the work so far so that I can see that the stack of papers is slowly growing thicker, and looking more manuscript-like. Back to scribbling fragments of sentences in my notebook and on post it notes when I think of something I desperately want to use somehow.
In some ways it’s easier because I’ve done it once before. I know what normal is, for me. I know that there will be days when I’ll spew out a thousand words, others where I’ll manage only half that amount, and others still where I’ll find myself obsessively re-writing a previous section, losing all track of time and agonising over a single sentence for half an hour or more. I know that there will be phrases that float to the front of my mind and make me laugh out loud with glee when I think of them, but that these may or may not seem good by the time I get to the final draft, and may not even make the final cut.
What I don’t have, as yet, is a title for book two, 80-100,000 words, fiction.
So in the interests of making the little yellow folder on my desktop seem a non-threatening place, I’ve given it the working title of “motherfucker”, or “MF”, for short. My sincere apologies if this language offends anyone, but personally, it brings a smile to my lips every time I see it. I should hasten to add that this title shouldn’t be taken as an indication that I intend to encroach on OneTrack territory. Not at all. I’m quite happy to leave the sex writing to the sexperts. The only clue to be gleaned from this title, if any, is that the protagonist may just be a mother.
This codename makes me smile because it calls to mind an exchange I had with The Boy a couple of weeks after we first met. We were talking about our respective families, and it transpired that his mother and I had several things in common. A shared Christian name. A shared profession. Single parenthood.
“Motherfucker,” I said with a snigger, without giving any explanation whatsoever.
The Boy frowned at first, unsure of just what he had done to deserve such an insult, but then in a blinding flash he suddenly grasped my meaning. Oddly, before I pointed it out to him, he hadn’t joined the dots himself; hadn’t realised that he appeared to have selected a mate who rather resembled his mother.
He retorted by calling me his MILF, a term which required a degree of explanation, given that I am something of a porn philistine.