I was working at The Old Mill in Killin today. The community is doing a school uniform swap in conjunction with a kids clothing sale . I was there to collect the uniforms. I had a bit of paperwork to do for the shop (I run the wee Reuse shop in the village), but I had time to spare. So, seeing as I had my laptop with me, I decided to pass the remainder of my time editing my novel in progress. I couldn’t think of a better location to edit. The Old Mill is a three storey mill, once used for Tweed making and grain. It is no longer a working mill, but an important part of the village. It sits by the Falls of Dochart, a picturesque spot in the Scottish Highlands. How lucky am I to be able to work on my novel while the water rushes by outside, just me and wee Margaret, the mill ghost.
I began writing a novel on 1st April 2020, and tonight, at 11pm, I typed the last two words – The End.
What a journey it has been. What started as a love story, turned into something quite different.
I competed the novel in 77,234 words, 34 chapters and a possible sequel on the cards.
I guess the most important thing for me whilst writing this novel was a loose plan, and a refusal to follow a process. I’m not one for forcing myself to write when I’m not feeling it, or building the writing muscle as I’ve heard it called. I don’t have a method, I’m prone to procrastinating, and I only write when it brings me pleasure.
I feel a sense of not quite knowing how to feel right now. Maybe tomorrow that’ll become clearer, but for now, I’m satisfied.
I wanted to write a blog about the many ways that writers identify themselves as writers, but alas, I have toothache. It started through the night last night, swollen gums and an ache that won’t go away. I’m almost 49 years old and I can’t recall ever having toothache before, and I would have remembered this pain. So, I sulked quietly today. I even cracked open a can of lager in the hopes of dulling the ache, but it’s given me a sore tummy instead. So I’m miserable.
On the plus side, I have managed to read a chapter of my book and write 1100 words of my novel. I’ve now written 64,947 words. That’s 29 chapters. I can almost see the finish line and I reckon I’ll have a first draft by mid February, (providing my head hasn’t exploded with the toothache first). But I wanted to check in and say hello, and thank everyone who stops by my blog and gives me a wee like or interacts with a comment. It means a lot.
I didn’t need to read the spectacular reviews for Luckenbooth before I ordered it. I didn’t need to. I bought it based on the fantastic writing in Jenni Fagan’s last two novels, The Panopticon and, Sunlight Pilgrims. My plans tonight are to have finish the 65 pages of Duck Feet, (review to follow), and then dive in head first.
Do you ever read a book based on an author’s previous work?
Do you have a favourite author, who is it and why?
Do you ever pre-order a book and wait for the delivery to arrive for the whole day? As I said to my partner last night, I haven’t been this excited since Wham brought out a new single.
Kelman’s novel Dirt Road is story that takes both characters and reader on a journey right from the outset, but the journey is more than it seems. The novel begins in the West coast of Scotland where we learn that Murdo – a sixteen-year-old boy – and his father Tom are mourning the death of their mother/wife and sister/daughter. Searching for solace, they embark on a journey to Alabama, U.S.A to spend time with Uncle John and Aunt Maureen. For Murdo, family is just a happy memory, a moment in time captured in a photograph, ‘The family was four and not just him and Dad’, whilst for Tom, family is the bond that holds them together. Throughout their journey, Tom strives to guide his son and keep him on ‘the right path’, yet Murdo, as we will learn, has a path of his own to find. Stifled by the fathers influence, the boy has a tendency to stray, thus when they reach Allentown Mississippi, Murdo stumbles upon a family of musicians led by Zydeco performer Queen Monzee-ay. Murdo is as drawn to music as his father is to family, the boy himself is an accomplished accordion player, and when he is offered an opportunity to play a set with Queen Monzee-ay in two weeks’ time, we watch as the road between father and son diverges and choice and risk becomes the key plot in the story.
While this may appear a simple story line, Kelman’s exploration into the fragmented relationship between father and son gives the reader an honest analysis of family and grief. The third person narrator, with bursts of free indirect discourse from Murdo, allows the reader both an internal and external insight into the constraints of family. This parallel leaves the reader feeling uncomfortable, yet with a conflicting heart. This is Kelman’s unique writing style at its best.
Dirt Road is more than a novel of grief and family relationships though; it is a novel of risk, of following new paths with uncertainties, about leaving behind the familiarities and safety of the past and following the heart. It is about deep connections; for Murdo this is through music and the feeling of freedom that he associates with music, whilst for the other characters it is about cultural connections and Scottish ancestry. Kelman’s clever use of parallels shows the reader the intensity of human connections whilst suggesting that change and progression is possible. This great novel will linger in your thoughts for weeks after you put it down, and it brings to mind a poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken