Bad moment a couple of weeks back. The USB memory chip on my key ring vanished. I back up on this every single night, a legacy of paranoia which comes from growing up with an Amstrad PCW (UK readers of a certain age will remember that piece of hardware with a nostalgic sigh it doesn't quite deserve). I still had The Dreaming Void safe and sound on the computer, but a copy was now loose on the world. Mrs H decided "that'll come up on eBay next week". Fortunately she was wrong. While performing my usual contortionist act (not recommended for someone my age and weight, and certainly not on a daily basis) trying to strap our two-year-old into her car seat the chip had pulled off, and it was there safe under the back seat. But it did make me wonder how much sense anyone could make of my notes, and if they'd be able to write and publish my book before I got round to it. Frankly, I'm not sure they could. Or if they did it would be very different to my finished product.
I've been going back through those notes over the past few days because I'm at that stage of the book (two thirds written in case you're interested) where I have to completely re-write the remaining chapter outlines. Ideas tend to come along while I'm writing that I like too much to ignore or edit out, so they stay in and change the nature of the story ever so slightly. As this happens at the rate of two or three a day, the knock on effect is considerable. So by this time, the plotlines are nowhere near where they should be according to the original concept, and have to be wrestled back into some kind of logical order.
I'd like to say that re-structuring is now complete, but ask me again in a few days. One reason that I haven quite got to grips with errant plotlines is the generally good progress I've been making. Ask any writer and they'll tell you that some sections of the book are hell to write, with a single page taking days; while other parts seem to slip out of the brain directly onto the screen with no effort involved. I've had that last phase for several days now. And I'm not giving any of the plot away by saying that it's the bit where Paula Myo makes her entrance, or for those of you who've read the Commonwealth Saga, her reappearance.
It always takes a while for me to capture the rhythm of new characters. And no, I don't mean that in a soul brother sense. Once I've been writing about someone for a while, typically half a year, they become progressively easier to write as I grow familiar with them. By the end of a book I know exactly what they'll do in any given situation, and describing that is very easy indeed, almost as if you're reporting it live rather than composing the events.
Not only have I been writing Paula for three years, I enjoy her, the way she never quits, the way her unerring moral compass makes everyone around her vaguely uneasy. Sort of the opposite to me really. Anyway, she's arrived and I sit in front of the computer screen grinning because of it.
Another reason for progress is that the major distractions that plagued me all summer -house extension being built, birth of son, etc, are vanishing rapidly into the past. Felix is starting to sleep through the nights. Although his first tooth has now appeared, which has kept myself and Mrs H awake the best part of a week. But on the whole he's lovely and a lot easier to cope with now he's that little bit older. The house is also essentially finished, apart from the shower which still isn't working. The plumber, when he does answer his phone, has decided the latest problem with the pump is a faulty flow switch. Strange that, every problem we've had with the plumbing is due to faulty equipment, never the installation. Ah well, like every good writer I shall utilize the life-experience and deploy my art as a mirror to reflect the problems of the world. So in 1500 years time we'll have flying cars, ftl starships, eternal life, computers that don't crash, true democracy, an end to prejudice - but still no decent plumbers.
Peter F. Hamilton