Scribble scribble scribble. Type type type. That's what I've been doing today and for many days.

Some writing days are good; some bad. What differentiates them? Partly it's whether or not I cross the magic line of 1000 words (about 3pp in a novel). It may not seem like much, but it is a lot to conjure up day after day. If I write less than that I feel a little flat and stupid and annoyed with myself for procrastinating and wasting time.

But it's also about quality. A good writing day is when I push a scene forward and something unexpected comes out of it. Maybe a character does something I wasn't planning. Or I think up a twist that deepens the story. Or I surprise myself with a word or a phrase or a metaphor. Bad days are when I repeat "look" too many times (my characters seem to look a lot!), or I grind through a description of something and my heart isn't in it.

Today I wrote a scene for my forthcoming novel ("The Winchester Novel" as it has no title yet) between two friends, who are having a heart to heart, trying to get each other to confess to behaviour they're not sure they approve of. 1600 words, not too many "looks", and a couple of surprises. I wrote it long-hand, and have just typed it up to the tune of Al Bowlly's "Love Is the Sweetest Thing," which was a big hit in 1932 when the book is set. That song is becoming important - another surprise.

To give you a taste, here's a bit to read, along with a link to the song so you can listen at the same time. This passage is not what I wrote today, which would give too much away about two important characters. But it gives you a taste.

And here is the lovely Al Bowlly:

Ffrom The Winchester Novel:

             Violet gazed up at the sky, which was dotted with stars but no moon. New Year’s Eve revellers passed by, on their way down the High Street. Then she heard the bells. They were not the full-throated ringing she’d grown used to - indeed, looked forward to. Instead a round sounded normally, and the next dull, as if heard through a duvet. Back and forth, they alternated between loud and soft. They must be muffled, Violet thought. Or half-muffled. She seemed to recall hearing fully muffled bells when she was young and Edward VII died, and the strangeness of it, like a thudded ring that held no timbre.

            She glanced at her watch in the light from the pub windows. 11:30. Would they ring all the way through midnight? Was Arthur one of the ringers? She had a sudden urge to be up in the ringing chamber, high above the city. Before she could talk herself out of it, she stubbed out her cigarette and crossed the stream of people heading down towards the statue of King Alfred. She headed the opposite direction up the High Street, then turned into Market Lane, a narrow passage that led to the Cathedral Green. It was lined with shops, their windows still decorated with holly and crèches and snowflakes for Christmas. Here there were fewer people, and it was dark. She passed a few laughing couples - why were people always in couples, and always laughing? She hurried along. The Old Market Inn was on the corner, and she could hear people inside singing.

            Then she was alone, walking across the Green, the Cathedral ahead of her lit by spotlight, though it was dark inside and deserted, for there would be no service tonight. Only there were bells: louder now but still half muffled, as if a hand were being placed across a mouth but a shout was now and then escaping.

            Even as she thought of it, Violet shuddered at the image, and walked faster. And then she heard footsteps, and knew it was him. He was whistling “Love Is the Sweetest Thing,” and he was doing it so that she would understand he had been in the pub with her, he had probably spent the evening watching her without her knowing, and now he was following her, because he could.

            It was as if she were back in the cornfield, running through the same thoughts and choices. It was hard not to walk faster, yet she did not want to show him she was afraid. Now he has ruined it, she thought. Ruined a song I love.

            There was no one on the Green now, just her and the corn man approaching the Cathedral, squat and dark, with only the muffled bells to comfort and guide her.

            Their sequence clicked into the descending scale, repeated a few times, and then they fell silent. The bells’ sudden desertion was more than Violet could bear, and she ran.