Dickens didn’t work hand-in-hand, chapter by chapter, with his illustrator

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I decided to have a page on this site with work in progress.  The book in question is The Garden of The Grandfather.  When I started – and isn’t this always the way – I didn’t realise quite how difficult it would be to write in public.  I imagined it would be like writing instalments of a novel which could easily be polished up once I’d reached the end.  I was thinking of the Victorians, particularly Dickens, who wrote his chapters fast and fluently  to meet magazine deadlines.  What a huge number of chapters he wrote, too!  But, apart from his talent and ability to write at speed, he didn’t have to think of, or allow for and dovetail with, the shape, layout and illustrations.  A heavily illustrated non-fiction book takes a different kind of thought; a much slower process than writing fiction, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Another difficulty in writing in full view of your audience, as it were, was my way of writing, which is constant revision.  I cannot re-read a paragraph without fiddling with it.  How anyone managed before typewriters, I cannot imagine.  Now word-processing makes it so easy to fiddle.  Perhaps we’ve lost the composition skills of earlier generations who wrote with quill pens and got it right first time.  Or were their wastepaper baskets full of ink-splattered scratchings out?  Come to think of it, I wrote my first six novels on a typewriter – and I didn’t use that much paper.  I conclude I’ve grown less able to get the sentences right with my first shot.

Despite difficulties and a fornight of thrashing around with Peter, deciding the relationship and proportions of illustration to text, I feel I’ve reached a good halfway stage in the book.  From here onwards, it will be easier to know where I’m going, and approximately how many pages it will take to get there, and whether we’ll have done our life in Greece justice.

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