In what must rank as one of my longer gaps between posts, I noticed that my last entry was way back on the 31st October.

Normally, I’d feel a vague sense of guilt at such a dereliction of writerly duties, but this time around, I feel no shame. Because while I love writing blogs, I love writing books more, and in large part, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing in my absence.

Now, here are some pictures, all of which have something in common:

The Seaman’s Hall at Somerset House

A vintage Dior wedding dress

The headquarters of Birmingham council

Kim Jong-Suk, the first wife of Kim il-Sung, former first lady of North Korea and grandmother of the current “Great Leader”

The connecting factor is that they are all things I’ve looked up in the last few days as part of my research into the new book.

You may remember that my last post was all about my plans to take part in NaNoWriMo and attempt to churn out 50 000 words in a month, and about the new book I was intending to write, called the Separation of Powers. (see link)

Now, the good news is that between then and now, I’ve written 78 000 words – not bad for two months work. The bad news is that not all of these words are part of the same book, meaning that instead of having a first draft of something nearing completion, I have two half written stories. Woops.

Right through November, I dutifully stuck to writing 1,666 words of the Separation of Powers each day (or in practice, missing a few days and having a few marathon sessions), and though I found it a bit of a challenge to be writing something other than The Cavaliers, I was generally quite pleased with the result. I hit and even slightly exceeded my goal of 50 000 words on the last day of November, and felt quietly proud,  conscious that there was still a long way to go until even the first draft was complete, and determined to write the other 50 000 words before too long.

But first, I wanted a little break after such effort. And then I had a week of feeling ill, and some hectic days at work, and suddenly it was Christmas and the word count stayed resolutely around the 50 000 mark.

But over the Christmas holidays, with several days off work, albeit many of them filled with visits to family and friends and taking part in festive fun, i was sure I could get some more writing done. But somehow, when I was at home, lounging around with a book and a drink felt preferable to sitting down in front of the computer and putting fingers to keyboard.

And then, on Christmas night, after a lovely day together, my husband was playing some new computer game while I read a new book (we’re cool like that in my house). The video game featured a crazed tyrant who had once loved the hero’s mother.* And as I sat there, tipsy from the day’s champagne and port and wonderfully relaxed, it triggered memories of a story I always used to make up in my head when I was trying to get to sleep or bored on a bus, and that I’ve always vaguely intended to one day get down on paper. And despite my conscience screaming that I ought to do the sensible thing and finish the novel I was already 50 000 words into, I decided there was no time like the present.

I woke up on Boxing Day with possibly the strongest urge to write I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s not like I tend to be unenthusiastic about writing. We spent most of the day having a nice meal with family,  while ideas for the opening chapter continued to percolate in my head, and when I got home, despite it already being about 8PM, I sat down and wrote something ridiculous like 8000 words without a real break.

And somehow, the words have just kept coming, kept flowing out of me. I’ve never really struggled with writing, never found it a chore or suffered from real writer’s block, but I’ve never known it be quite like this either.

You know that feeling, when you really love a book and all you want to do is read it and talk about it and how everything reminds you of it? I’m currently feeling like that, only it’s my own book I can’t stop thinking about and just want to write. I sort of wanted to blog about it before now, but this is the first time in days I’ve managed to sit in front of my computer and not just start blasting another chapter.

As of yesterday, I was up to 25, 318 words in 11 days. I’m slightly electrified, and slightly terrified that either the inspiration or the enthusiasm is suddenly going to run out and leave me with two half-written books.  But I really  hope they don’t, because while there are plenty of plot holes that need resolving and motivations that need fine-tuning and scenes that are going to require a re-write, I honestly think there’s something really good at the heart of this book.

I was tempted to give you a blurb or a tiny extract or at least some further details, but while I’m on a roll, I sort of don’t want the world to intrude (even writing this much about it feels a bit like tempting fate or breaking the spell) so for the moment, I hope the pictures are sufficiently intriguing…

On the other hand, for anyone who was more intrigued by my description of Separation of Powers, I’m still hoping to finish that before too long. My vague ambition is to have a draft of both books before the summer.

And finally, this is a picture that may or may not demonstrate how much I’ve internalised this new story. Having been there and done that in the past, I wanted to carefully avoid making a character who matched my physical description too closely, so for a start, I gave her blonde hair, on the basis that mine is usually a very dark brown. And then on Saturday, I went to the hairdressers, and this happened, which I swear is just an unfortunate coincidence. I’ll only really start to worry if I suddenly develop a brummie accent.

blonde hair

*Incidentally, the book was Station Eleven, which I’d highly recommend. I’m hoping to get a review of that and some of my other holiday reading up over the next few days, if I can put my previous story down for a minute or two.

I’d also like to point out the rather odd fact that I never play computer games, but I always obsessively follow the plots while my husband works his way through them.