There are different stages to writing a novel. 

The initial inspiration which seems to happen in dream time, when you wake one morning - or pause in the midst of cooking or doing your laundry - with a fully formed concept in your mind. 

The hours, and sometimes days, you spend crafting a pitch for your editor, which needs to demonstrate the essence of your book in a few paragraphs. 

The period of meticulous plotting which, in my case, involves squared paper and coloured markers. And then the long months of writing when you live in a sort of cocoon.

Then finally, after the copy edit, there's the proof stage, when you're back to colour - this time a red pen.

At the moment I'm finishing the proofs of The Month of Borrowed Dreams, the fourth Finfarran novel about local librarian Hanna Casey and her neighbours. It's set in May time on Ireland's western seaboard and, given that we're well into April, the pages I'm reading should describe a version of the view from the window by my desk. The wildflowers on the ditches should be budding perhaps, not blooming, but the mountains should be glowing against blue skies and the garden bursting into life. 

Instead, as my characters move through green fields and picnic on sunny beaches, the view from my desk is lost in mist and the windows stream with rain.Because, as I proof read The Month of Borrowed Dreams, I'm living through the borrowed days.

Let me explain. There’s an Irish folktale about a cow on a mountain who boasts that the weather in March can't kill her. So March borrows a few days from April and batters the old cow to death with a violent storm. That's why the first  days of April are known in Ireland as laethanta na riabhaiche, which means ‘the borrowed days’. (You pronounce them 'lay-han-ta nah reeve-uk-ah')

This year the borrowed days have lasted longer than usual. It's cold and everything's stagnant; and whenever the season seems to move on the rain and hail return. Yet you know it's just a stage that has to be gone through and that, once it's over, the sun will emerge, calling you out of doors.

Like the turn of the year from one season to another, each stage of writing a novel carries a particular pulse. Proof reading is nothing like the dream time of inspiration, or the heavy cocoon of creation, or the in-between stage when you try to capture the essence of something yet to be explored. Instead it's nit-picking and finicky, and sometimes it feels as if it will never be done.

Today I'm wearing a fleece over three T-shirts, heavy trousers, Uggs and woolly socks. I sit here with my red pen noting misalignment and misplaced commas, and double-checking the publisher's proof reader's queries about the text. I'm polishing and refining, ensuring that the book's transition to the page is unimpeded by errors. Basically, it's a matter of hard slog.

But there's pleasure in this link between the writer's craft and the typesetter's skill, and in the promise of the finished book to come and feedback from readers all over the world.

And, with this book, there's the added satisfaction of borrowed days in which to proof read, before the beaches and the mountains call, and the ditches start to bloom.   


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