A few days ago I finished the first full-length draft of Villain Miriam (which began life as a 12,700 word novella). Here it is all printed out at 67,700 words. It’ll be a fair bit shorter when I’m done (savage edits planned). I’ll retype the ms from scratch too I think, a tip I’ve seen elsewhere and think might give a fresh perspective.
This is how Villain Miriam begins (at the moment). This is how it continues: lots of tinkering, lots of red pen. Getting as much done as I can before the novel edits come in for Flesh of the Peach.
The sun is shining, and I’m off for tea and biscuits. The year finally, at last, finally, feels like it is starting.
Here’s the first photo I’ve taken outside this year. Suitable mood setting for the novel draft I have just finished. It’s currently called Villain Miriam, and is set on an invented Scottish Island called Toftsay, Toft meaning the site of a house/building/homestead and -say being a suffix meaning an island, commonly found in the bounds of Scandinavian Scotland. There’s a woman at the heart of the book, an inscrutable witch who has lived since at least Norse times – she’s a kind of Cailleach figure, the hag-goddess who brings winter and drops stones to form mountains, though that sort of thing is behind her by the time we see her in the novel. Her ways are quieter and more devious. Two girls come to be servants in her house, and the story is of how they are at once charmed and trapped and gain their own forms of power amid at terrible loss. It’s a long while until the novel will be up to the standard I hope for it, though sections were completed as part of a novella earlier, and you can read an extract on 3AM: Magazine here. The form it takes is flash fiction and fragments. I hope to be finished by October this year, right before my debut novel, Flesh of the Peach, comes out. Then the process of trying to get it too out into the world. It’s the second novel I’ve written set in Scotland, though the first, originally my PhD dissertation, entitled Kilea, is set aside for now. I hope one day too it will be published. No dead darlings there, quite yet.
Also on the go: a second flash fiction collection, hopefully just a little longer than On the Edges of Vision. It might take a while going in tandem with two sets of novel edits, but the relief of writing over editing will probably help it along. Some stories are forthcoming in print and online, I’ll link when I have links to share.
It’ll be a year of writing, a year of submitting flash, a year of rejections and acceptances. I hope it is for you too, or art-making of other sorts, or whatever you wish to be doing. In great amounts, and well-done.
A short extract from a flash novella I’m currently working on (titled Villain Miriam, for the moment) is up on 3:AM Magazine today:
A woman in grey, a woman, yes. Necklace of teeth on a red chain, the suggestion of a chignon at the back of her neck. How old she was it was impossible to say – her face was like something made by a painter tired of holding the brush. But there was a terrible steadiness behind. Behind Miriam’s glasses, the eyes like cracked opals. And on the table the spoon gleamed too bright for the ambient lighting, and Aophe would not tremble.
I love the Leonora Carrington piece that accompanies it too.
Tonight I see Anne Carson’s translation of Antigone, starring Juliet Binoche.
Tomorrow I read at the Edinburgh Book Festival.
So much, so much.
Now the flat has settled into place, the ghosts pacified and the furniture (mostly) rearranged to suit, I have begun a new project. This while I wait for more hard work on On The Edges Of Vision (some time later in the year).
I’ve started a novella in small flash bits, a little in the style of Mary Robison (of One DOA and One on the Way and Why Did I Ever) but without attempting her acerbic wit and pithiness. This novella, currently called Villain Miriam (which I hope sounds like a toxic plant) is about a girl called Aophe who goes to live in a witchy house on the shore of an island, thinking she is special. She has a pug puppy for a familiar, while the two other witch-types there (a girl called Mar and a boy called Tatra) have much more sinister creatures at their disposal. And then there is the Miriam of the title, a shady figure who has appeared in other fictions of mine.
I’d like to get the piece to about 20,000 words long, then edit it down to the shape and weight of a little stone, then throw it out to sea. There are a number of deadlines out there for novellas between 36-100 pages, some for the beginning and some for the end of October. It’s a light, dark, slightly younger thing I’m writing. Hopefully just right for the closing-in, Samhain time of the year.