I’ve now written ten thousand words of my new book, two chapters set in the present, two chapters set in the 17th century and an extract from a diary set in the 19th century. It’s the first time that I have written a parallel time or “time slip” type of book and it’s proving to be a challenge.
The first big question I came up against was whether I should write all the 17th century chapters at the same time then do all the 19th century diary entries and finally write all the contemporary chapters. Then, when I had all the component parts I could sort them into the right order and slot the story together. Aspects of this appealed to me. When I am in a seventeenth century mindset it’s difficult to stop and change to a modern one. The writing is different; different vocabulary, different construction. The characters think and speak differently. So to leap backwards and forwards across those four centuries is precisely that – a huge leap. It makes sense to write those sections of the book at the same time, to develop those characters’ stories, to write in that style.
But… writing a book isn’t as simple as assembling a series of chapters. The book changes and grows as it develops. The three time periods are intertwined. Ideas and images seeded in one chapter connect to the others. So although the story spans four centuries it is actually one whole, not three novellas. In order to write all the 17th century scenes at the same time, all the 19th century ones etc I would need to be more of a planner than I am. I would need to have each link, each development, planned out in advance, so that when I came to assemble the whole it would fit like a beautiful jigsaw. I’m not a great planner. I don’t yet know what all those connections will be. So for now at least I’m going to be travelling back and forwards through different time zones, inhabiting the roles of a 17th century queen, a 19th century courtesan and a 21st century photographer. And it’s going to be a lot of fun.