One of the most terrifying things about writing any novel is the pre-match nerves. It doesn’t matter how many times I put myself through this, every time, it feels like the first time. The demonic voices of common sense and reasonableness rise up inside me, shrieking “you canny do this”, “you’ll never write fifty thousand words in a month” and more disturbingly, “she was only eleven, you twisted old bastard”.

And then, once I force myself through the fire, once I’ve wrung out the first ten thousand or so, ‘my’ characters start taking the law into their own hands. They start spouting words I never thought of putting in their mouths. They display attitudes I hadn’t thought of.

Just this morning, one character launched into a diatribe against nineteen-eighties’ political correctness. I didn’t see that coming. I wanted a group of missionaries to be a bit dodgy and I wanted my MFC to explain this to my MMC. She came up with an amazing story (using bits of a story a mate told me about travelling in Brazil) then shot off into the stratosphere with an incredible tale of missionaries. Christ alone knows where it came from. I don’t even feel I can take the credit for it.

The other week, I mentioned Mike Leigh. His method is to work out the characters with each individual actor bringing in aspects of ten different people as each builds their character up out of parts of these people. When rehearsals start, each of these multi-faceted characters is turned loose on set with the others and the story writes itself.

This is kind of what I’m experiencing just now. All I’ve done is write dossiers for each character – throwing them all in on top of each other is bringing the whole thing to the boil.

Meanwhile, back in the other reality, ‘Scottish’ Labour is still in freefall and in a poll last week, were there a general election tomorrow, fifty-two percent would vote SNP. If you’re reading this anywhere except Scotland, this might not mean much, but I have never in my life voted for anyone except Labour. It’ll take a pretty good sex scandal to talk me out of voting SNP next year and the year after. And there’s plenty of us.

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