Notebooks and Transcriptions

I think I’ve reached a point with one of my notebooks where I can finally put it on a shelf so it doesn’t clutter up the space next to the sofa. I’ve always written my stories across a range of notebooks for later transcription, so finding that time when I can put one to one side is a relatively rare moment. I used to have a terrible habit of starting a book and then launching into a new one when I bought or received one as a gift for the sheer joy of marking the pages of a brand new set of pages.

Some books were pressed into use for making notes in the workplace before my doodles and story and game notes took them over, while others where used because they fit more conveniently into my pockets while I was travelling. I have moleskines of various sizes, notebooks with ornate patterns on the front that I bought because I thought they were pretty, and any number of books that I’ve sort of accumulated over the years like some literary detritus in my wake.

I’ve also taken to writing in many different books as a way of mitigating against losing work through damage or simple disorganisation. About six months ago this paid off when a story I was re-writing got damaged by rain water that soaked my jacket while I was walking home. Fortunately the first draft of that story was in another book so I could pick up the thread quickly – and once the notebook had dried out, I was able to carry on using it despite the slightly odd texture to some of the pages.

I’m at the stage now where, barring one or two chapters, I’ve largely written all of my first novel. I’m now stitching the narrative together from the various notebooks to get them all in one place on my laptop – housing the work on a drive location that I keep synchronised with cloud storage as a backup. It’s allowing me to do a bit of a first edit and clean up as I do it, as well as resolve various points where I’ve referred to certain characters by different names when I’ve been writing about them at different points in time. I’m now harmonising those references and using the opportunity to make sure I consistently reference people, places and descriptions, as well as clean up the time-line a bit. (This is mostly because in the first draft there were certain things that would have been impossible to take place on the same day because there was too much crammed in and across geographically too diverse locations)

So, I have another notebook that I can actually say is finished and complete. My aim is try and actually fill, transcribe and finish each of my existing notebooks before starting any new ones. That brand new House Stark moleskine I got for Christmas is practically crying out to be used though… I must stay strong…

The Little Things

I made a mistake today. One of the areas of stock control we do in the library is the removal of older and damaged books from the shelves. The branch I work at is one of the smaller ones, but it is surprisingly busy. Its numbers are consistently on a par with much bigger libraries and so the books are well read, and often well thumbed.

We use a stats-based system for stock management that rotates books from where they aren’t as popular (in terms if the number of times they’re issued) to places that have high rates of issues for that subject, author or series. Other times we take older and tattier books off the shelves to make way for newer purchases.

If these older books are in very good condition, we send them to a storage location for rotation back out to public libraries as requested. Otherwise we remove them as stock and send them to the same place, marked as withdrawn. These are then either sold for resale through partner booksellers, or some to be pulped.

This isn’t a confession of sending things out incorrectly marked; though I have just remembered I didn’t leave crates out for collection in the morning. Instead it’s an acknowledgement that, even in what can feel a reassuringly organised and even sedate environment, there can still be rakes in the grass.

My mistake, while feeling grim, low and flat, was to pick up one of the novels and start reading. In this instance it was The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It’s a book that a number of people, familiar with me and certain events, had warned me not to read – but caught up in the adventure of reading a new and exquisitely written piece, I forgot about that.

Reading the beginning, and the event that kicks the whole story off was shocking and left me physically shaking. I was lucky to be out of public view to be honest, because it took me totally by surprise. I carefully put it back in its crate, knowing a replacement was already on order, and finished filling in the routing slip.

Those simple words shook me and repelled me, but even in the middle of that visceral reaction I still can’t find a point of empathy with the people who felt that shooting up the Charlie Hebdo offices yesterday was in any way justified by any reaction they had to things published there.

The Lovely Bones has a horrific beginning, and some day I will steel myself to carry on reading it, but I can’t even begin to express my horror and disgust at what is happening in Paris right now. As a writer it sends chills down my spine. As a human being, I am far more appalled.