Friday, July 14, 2006

Dr wagered a ring

Let's get this thing started then. What can I tell you at this stage that won’t give too much away?

I first heard of Edward Grainger in a pub in early 2005. He didn’t have a name then and didn’t share my birthday. “Cor,” I might have said. “That sounds exciting.”

On 6 July 2005, Ian asked me to write Story 7 of his exciting new anthology, on the condition that I work six particular elements into my plot. “No problem,” I said, and spent the next 13 days coming up with a story which included almost two of them.


Six days later on 25 July, I sent in a more obedient outline called “Shoulder to shoulder”. This made use of bits of an idea I’d already been thinking about anyway, called “Good deeds”. The title referred punningly to the kindnesses performed by Dr Who and also to a document proving the ownership of a building.

“Sounds great,” said Ian, obligingly, and added another condition. Could I also introduce a… Well no, you’ll have to read the story to find out.

On 27 July, Ian was the lucky recipient of a 1,036-word “crude outline” (my words) of the whole story, which is pretty much as it finally came out. Most of the “Good deeds” stuff had been excised for reasons I cannot remember (probably because it wasn’t any good), and I also suggested the alternate title “Picking up the pieces”.

The plan was to discuss this over lunch on the Friday, though I managed to oversleep and miss lunch (and Rob Shearman), having been up until 5 in the morning finishing off Short Trips – the History of Christmas. Oops. But the outline got agreed.

There was then a fallow period where I worked on other things, nattered with the other authors about what we might do, and thought idly how it might be more complicated. There was a rather good night in the pub with some of the other writers on 8 October.

By 9 December, I had begun writing the story up and four days later Ian rang (while I was congratulating myself for using the word “paroxysms”) to ask me now not to include Condition #6.

I sent the first 262 words of the story to Joseph Lidster and my friend Boab on 16 December. Getting started is always a bit tricky and I needed to know that it made some kind of sense.

“Lovely!!!!!!!!” said Joe, which was something of a relief. I sent him the next 1,902 words later that day.

The writing slogged on over the month, in between other things. Gradually it all came together, which is quite fitting when you read the story. Which you're going to, aren't you?

“Silly, giddy mood on Christmas Eve,” I reported to my blog, “having finally finished a draft of a story at 8,155 words. Needs some polishing, but the hard work’s done. Such a relief! And I now know what a Mim is.”

“Far too long and all over the place,” I admitted to Boab, Joe, Ben Woodhams, Eddie Robson and Philip Purser-Hallard, who I sent it to for comments at 18.45, before knocking off for Christmas drinks.

They all gave valuable insights on what didn’t work, most notably Phil who wrote a 1,326-word critique. I reworked the thing accordingly and in it went to Ian.

On 17 January, Ian replied in a generally positive manner. He wasn’t wowed by yet another new title, preferring the old “Shoulder to shoulder” to the new “Picked up bits”. He had 12 other points of concern.

“‘Shoulder to shoulder’ didn't really reflect the story," I replied. "How about ‘Details’ or ‘Incongruous details’?” Which he liked.

The final version, bar some tweaks at the proofing stage, was delivered on 25 January 2006. Then I had a lie down.


Blogger Steven Savile said...

Ahhh I thought I was the only one who pulled a fast one on Ian and kept changing things!

9:49 pm  
Blogger 0tralala said...

He needs to be kept on his toes. He thanks you for it in the end.

11:12 am  

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