Diary of a Novelist: June 1980
June 3rd 1980:
Suddenly it happened. I got up at 9.30 and I knew. C. had really begun to shape in my head. I started to write and it just fell out of me in easy torrents. I did 36 pages today. At last, at last. I was so happy and relieved and ecstatic.
[Received] the S&S [Simon & Schuster] contract from L. and a letter from Caradoc [literary agent].
The new book is set in Greece to begin with, and is very different to anything I've ever done before.
June 4th 1980:
I revised the work I did yesterday, improving it, then I wrote Ch 3. I got to p. 61. I'm very pleased with it. It feels good. The last two pages need revision, though.
I expected a call from F. [editor] but no call came. I was bubbling with euphoria all day about the book. That does worry me. Have I lost my touch? I rang her later to tell her not to tell me what she thought of J. [previous ms]. It might put me off C. ...
She said kind things about my poetry and I said it was all derivative. She didn't disagree. How could she? It is true, alas. She said she wondered what poems I'd torn off the 2 sheets: self-combusting ones?
June 5th 1980:
Today I largely revised the 3 chaps I'd already done. My extreme excitement went, though this time I am determined to finish it. It was rainy, misty, grey and clammy. Thunderstorms all over England. I booked my hotel and air flight to London.
June 6th 1980:
A beautiful day; not as warm as it has been, but sunny and slightly hazy. Sent carbon of C. to F. (1st 3 chaps). I wrote C. but it was all revision of what I'd done before. Sharpening impact, glossing up, tightening. I only did part of the revision needed but at least it got done. I was working on the book all day.
Felt restless, irritable, on edge, but oddly excited about C. I feel sure now that it is going to be a great book. What I have to do is strike the right note.
I feel myself moving into the frame of mind which I can only call shaping or forging. The book has now taken hold and I am like a man heating iron and forging it to make a sharp spear. My old way of writing won't do any more. I have got to get used to writing, rewriting, writing. I must be more patient. Tenacity is a great virtue for a writer.
These edited extracts are taken from Charlotte Lamb's personal diaries, which cover most years of her writing career. The book above, 'C', was begun on May 30th, following this entry: 'Later in the evening I began to think about writing [an] M&B. Jane was reading Obsession and I suddenly felt like doing another book.' She finished this ms on June 29th - her fifth novel in 6 months.'
I haven't definitely pinned down which of her books these extracts describe, though I have a few key suspects. More extracts on writing to follow.