With the sea thundering in and the incredible view from this worktop, I’d like to say I’m scribbling away with words flowing faster than my fingers can type. But it’s odd how work timetables catch one out and page proofs in particular have a way of popping up at the least opportune moment. So instead of being on holiday and in full creative mode, I am doing fine-tooth combing on a novel set in a place that couldn’t be more far removed from the sea.
It’s reminded me of how chameleon-like writers have to be.
And page proofs are double-edged swords. It’s exciting to see the formally laid-out pattern the words make on the page – the story is captured never to be undone – but at the same time this moment of absolute finality is terrifying. There’s not much more you can do about it – a comma might help, italics here and there, a word replaced with something that zings more. With a bit of luck one might even get way with a few inserted sentences – a sleight of hand that is made to appear just as a tweak, lest your editor gets too upset. But basically the novel is all there in print. No more ‘what if’s’.
On the other hand, because it’s viewed in print for the first time, the story comes through as a surprise too and often seems much fresher than that tired manuscript that was rewritten and rewritten. Time seems to distance the author from the work so there’s almost the feeling ‘did I write this?’ And if you can forget about the gruelling task that lies ahead of fine-tooth combing, one can almost begin to enjoy the story. In truth even the fine-combing is enjoyable – who doesn’t like to get rid of nits?
And after a very, very long journey, soon the book will be out there
So while I might appear as if I’m staring out over the sea, I’m really in the heart of the Okavango Swamps in Botswana with pythons and man-eating crocodiles and only a red Victorinox Explorer Swiss Army knife for protection against dynamite-brandishing crooks with a sinister goal – to collect poisons from the most venomous frog of all – the Golden Poison Dart Frog in Colombia.
‘It’s not called Phyllobates terribilis for nothing. It has enough toxins to kill ten to twenty people. Poison can last up to a year. Just a single grain on an envelope or stamp would kill anyone licking it.’
OLIVER STRANGE and the Journey to the Swamps is the first of a 3 part series entitled FROG DIARIES that will be published by Tafelberg in June 2012