Tuesday 18 April 2017

Book of the Book - Celia Rees

Every time I plan a new book, one of the first things I do, once the idea has gelled, once I know it will be a book, is to buy the Book of the Book. The one above is the Book of the book I'm writing now.

Book of Sovay
Book of The Fool's Girl

These are two I made earlier...

I have a weakness for notebooks, as many writers do. This is the perfect excuse to indulge my vice. The Book of the Book is special, to me anyway, so it deserves to be handsome and expensive. Once I have the book, the right book (selection is important, too) them I'm ready. 

The Book begins with the starting point, first ideas. Something I saw, remembered, a place I visited, even an object which ignited an idea that I knew would be a book. I collect things, postcards, flyers, programmes, photographs, it's part of what I do, so usually, I have some record of that first spark.  

First page for Sovay

First page for The Fool's Girl (originally titled Illyria)
From here, the ideas begin to accrue. Not all of them will be used. Some will be discarded but all signify something. To embark on a large project, I need to be excited. Collecting, visiting places, taking photographs, going to museums and art galleries, finding pictures of people who could be reference to characters, images of objects from the period, helps me to tap into the initial rush that having the idea gave me in the first place. It fuels the spark.     

Initial ideas for Sovay

Fool's Girl - walk along the South Bank
I may, or may not, have started writing at this point. Maybe I'm working on something else, maybe I just don't feel ready, but once I begin to write, the Book tracks the book's growth and progress. The Book is a record, not just of what the book is about, you can read it for that, but of the writing of the book, with all the wrong directions taken, dead ends and frustrations encountered, as well as the pure joy of making new discoveries, finding the thing that will fire that initial excitement again,  help me find the right path. 

The Book follows the patterns and rhythms of my writing. Each entry is dated (mostly) so it gives a rough history. It is also a record of the places that I visited, the research I undertook as I went along, so a page might have a coaster from a coffee shop, a restaurant card, a cafĂ© bill, an entry ticket. 

Not everything finds its way onto the page and, if it does, it might just be a line or two. Sometimes, I can't even remember why I found this, or that so fascinating, but the pages work as snapshots of what was going through my mind at the time I was writing; they also work like time capsules, taking me back to a particular stage of the writing. The pages show how I constructed a scene, a setting, a character, out of all sorts of bits and pieces, not just what I needed to know but what I found interesting, the detail needed to breathe life and veracity into a particular passage. 

The Book tracks the life of the book from first beginnings to the end of the writing. On the last page is the date the book was finished and sent off and the cover. I could not have imagined either thing  when I had that first idea.



Susan Price said...

Sovay and The Fool's Girl are fantastic books.

Leslie Wilson said...

fascinating and beautiful!

Celia Rees said...

Thanks, both. Sometimes the process is as fascinating and exciting as getting there.

Jean Bull said...

That's a wonderful idea. I must admit that I make similar books of my travels, but I've never thought of making one as the background to a novel. I might just give it a go!