I write quickly. I put all my available time into the work. I work with a breathlessness that makes the work flow more easily. I race into a project and cling to it until it is done.
One of the reasons for my speed is because I am afraid I will forget. My memory causes me terrible anxiety. I forget people. I forget conversations. I forget I have written something. Sometimes I come across an errant file on my computer and it is as if a stranger has written it. I have no memory of that particular short story. I don't remember putting those words down in the file. Maybe this is a story sent to me by someone else? Only I recognise a turn of phrase. It has my accent. Therefore it must be mine.
It is worse with a novel. A novel has so many disparate parts. By the end of a book I have no idea where I started. I will have forgotten almost everything about it.
And don't get me started on having to answer questions for an interview. Really? Did I write that? Of course I must have because the journalist has done her research even if I have forgotten what I actually wrote.
Sometimes I wonder if I have an actual medical condition. My memory is so bad that I will bet to the last scene in a movie and suddenly find it almost familiar. Yes, we have seen that before, my husband will say, don't you remember?
I don't remember.
So I hop on a book like a runaway horse and cling on till the ride is over. This is how I have always worked.
The problem now is that I am frightened the books will grow stale before they emerge into the world. I do understand why my publisher will only consider a book by me every two years. We don't want to wear readers out. If a short time has elapsed they may not be ready to read another book by me, particularly when each book seems to be so different from the last. Maybe readers don't want to be confused by my tendency to leap across genres with each new offering.
But in my panic to finish a book before it shakes me off I tend to do a draft in a matter of months. A second draft in half a year. Subsequent redrafts can be fast and furious. Sometimes I have two books written simultaneously done in under a year. This is what happened with Steeplechase and Triptych. Steeplechase was a longer, more fraught process. Between the beginning of the first draft and the final redraft I had interspersed my writing with two other books, A YA book that has never seen the light of day, and Triptych which ended up being published two years before Steeplechase came out.
I am working on two books at the moment. Holding Hands is still giving me grief. It is not yet done. I have a second draft and it is 8 months since I started. In that time I wrote a book of poetry, Eating My Grandmother, and two drafts of a horror novel called Half Light. I have been racing to get a perfect draft of Half Light completed but I realise that my next book, Holly's Incredible Adventures in the Sex Machine, will not be published till February next year, 2015. After this there will be a two year gap as there always has been. Half Light probably won't be out in the world till 2017. Then, of course I will have to wait till 2019 to put out Holding Hands.
I have three other ideas on the boil at the moment. I have Crawl Space - a surrealist novella, tapping at the back of my head, and then I have the sequel to Holly's Adventures mapped out in my brain. I am also making notes for a book on writing sex and and a sexual adventure with other writers. Given the pace of the publications, Crawl Space will be out in 2021 and Holly's sequel in 2023. Who knows when the two sex projects will find their way into the world. In 2023 I will be 55 years old. I don't know how many books I can fit in before I die but I know I can write way more than will be published at this rate.
Is it any wonder I write fast? How can I contain all those characters and all those plots unless I tackle them at a run?
I do know this is a good problem to have. Better too many ideas than no ideas at all, but perhaps one day it will dry up. One day I might sit down at the page and realise I am done. Until that day I must continue to write in a fury. I must race myself. I am a ticking clock. I will die. There will be an end.