That’s the first draft of the novel finished, printed out, proof-read, and now I’ve started a critical read.
I’m more than halfway through the critical read, and I’ve already rewritten several sections that needed substantial revision. I should finish it this weekend.
What then? Frankly, I’m not sure. I didn’t write it with the aim of publication, as I’ve said before, but to get it out of my system, and to prove to myself I can write a novel. I’ve had the idea in my head for a very long time, ever since Jane and I visited the Languedoc and toured round some of the Cathar sites. Discovering that two of the major massacres of the Albigensian Crusade took place on my birthday, albeit in 1209 and 1210, gave me a weird feeling, as if I was somehow destined to write something which contributed to an understanding of the Cathars, their beliefs, and the reasons the Crusaders attacked them with such ferocity and brutality. I also wanted to describe something of the social setting for those living at the time. But I didn’t just want to write about some obscure events which took place in what’s now part of France in the 13th century. I wanted to write a modern story too, and have the Cathar narrative weave in and out of that story.
A lot of my short stories are about couples and their interactions, but they’ve usually been focussed on short time scales. This time I wanted to cover a longer period in the modern story, about thirty years in total, and I’d never attempted anything like that before. But it’s been constantly fascinating as well as challenging. And now it’s done, or at least drafted. At the moment it’s just over 90,000 words, the longest thing I’ve ever written, apart from my PhD thesis..
I’ve had to focus a lot of time and energy on the writing this past year. Fortunately, with the social effects of the pandemic, I haven’t had any real conflicts of interest or time. That’s been a bit of a luxury, I suppose, and I shouldn’t expect that to continue in future. I’ve got some editorial commitments for the next few months, so any writing time I have will be for shorter things.
I feel happy and relieved that I’ve completed what I set out to do, and I’ll consider very carefully what I want to do next, both with the novel and with my writing life. Would I write another novel? Not immediately.