Photo Diary

The Last Few Yards

There are few more hideous periods in an author’s life than getting close to the end. Fine, so I am nearing that gorgeous phase when I can type “The End” and wander into the sunset. But hold on  . . .

First, you have that rush of happiness at the thought that it’s close to being over. Except it’s not, of course. The agent will call up with the “Hey, Mike, this is great” call, which must have a “But” somewhere towards the tail-end.

Then there is the editor, who will be more fulsome (it means nothing. They’re more polite the less keen they are), and the copyeditor. Both involve retypes, more work, reminding yourself what the hell the story was, who died in that alley, and who on earth was actually responsible.

The job is never over, really.

However, before you even get that far, there are other little tribulations.

Doubts creep in.

Did I tie up that red herring on the first questioning of a suspect? Oh, God, no, I didn’t. And the guy’s clothes. Why were they green on that page, when I clearly stated they were red on this one? The ruddy man’s carrying a sword here, but it’s only a long knife at the end of the para – and why the hell do I say that she was dead lying on her back, when she was on her face on page ten?

Some, of course, aren’t so bad. Some, indeed many, of these little niggles (did I say little? Hah!) aren’t so bad always. They can, for example, mean that the story develops along new, unforeseen lines that can make the plot work a lot better. But some don’t work that way. Some are story-stoppers. They are the equivalent of the tree trunk lying across the railway tracks in front of the Riviera Express. They stop the thing on the tracks while the poor blasted author wanders off muttering darkly about narrative consequences and tangled webs and wouldn’t it be nice to be stacking shelves at Waitrose rather than sitting here at the desk for twelve hours or more every day . . .

And then you reach the sunny uplands and suddenly everything is good, happy, delightful, and a massive, massive relief.

I am looking forward to that moment just now.


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