Diehards

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Crusty

For a while there I didn't know what to do with myself. On Friday I finished the first draft of my novel and now it must be left for a while – Stephen King advises a minimum of six weeks – in order that I may read it with fresh eyes for the rewrite stage. Thus the weekend was a bit of a damp squib: so used had I become to my routine of rising, making tea, and getting straight to writing I drooped about noticing all the flaws in myself and how dusty my room was. Most other activities had been squeezed to the borders, like internal organs during pregnancy, and so when the story was out I felt hollow and didn't know what to do. And I missed Cristina, my main character; we'd spent hours a day together for eight weeks and suddenly she was gone. I felt abandoned.

So I read a debut novel: Before I go to Sleep, by S. J. Watson.



It had been all over Twitter where I kept seeing snippets of rave reviews; had already been translated into something like thirty nine languages, and sounded utterly intriguing. I enjoyed it, up to a point. Adverbs irritate me beyond reason. I can cope with a few, one can't expect a writer to show everything, some telling is necessary if only to keep things moving, but Watson relies on them a little too much for my sanity. I also felt he used stereotypes without exploring them, so there was a slight smug, elitist feel about the book. This is a shame as the premise is interesting and the story, for the most part, well told.* The film rights have been bought and filming is set to begin sometime this year and I reckon it will make a bloody good film in the right hands. I also look forward to reading Watson's next book, he will have learnt a great deal from writing this one.

Yesterday I got back to the kitchen, made a loaf of bread, and remembered what I really like to do. I'd asked Stevie, he is the shopper, to get me some wholemeal flour at some point and he did, but it was bread flour. With new found time to spend I can't think of a better thing to do than bake bread. I have never been successful with wholemeal bread though. White, yes, but brown always comes out dense and chewy. I've never known why that might be, but decided to be especially careful when kneading. I love kneading, it makes me feel authentic and strong, and that moment when you feel the dough turn silky and know it's done, it rocks. Whether it was that extra care or just the benefit of experience I don't know, but I'm glad to say this loaf was perfectly bread-like. Here are some shots:


Dough ball rising.


The shape was a bit peculiar, but it had a good crisp crust about which I am particularly pleased.

It looks just like bread inside! (Apologies for the rather soft focus).

We had it with chorizo and white bean soup, which I made because we had a few chorizo that needed to be used and soup is about the best thing to serve with fresh bread: buttered and dipped.

* The Guardian Review says it's marvellous, so don't take my word for it!

22 comments:

Lulu LaBonne said...

I'm reading this while waiting for my onions to soften to start the soup - all I need is this bread and it would be a perfect evening.

Congratulations on finishing that book - I'm very impressed xx

nick said...

Congratulations on finishing the book!

I've read several books recently that had piles of rave reviews and been disappointed by all of them. Maybe I'm just a fussy bastard who's read too many books and sees the flaws far too easily.

That's very mean of you showing us fabulous-looking bread that we can't try for ourselves....

The Weaver of Grass said...

Love the pregnancy simile Eryl - very appropriate. Good luck with the novel.

Meri said...

Hail to the writing goddess! I am so bowled over by your completion of the first draft. . . especially because I have several first drafts in process and can't seem to commit to bring any one of them to fruition. Time to revisit those core beliefs.

Titus said...

Whoo-Hoo on the novel. Stephen King must be a very good model to follow - I'm amazed he lets a book lie for 6 weeks before editing he is so prolific - but it obviously has worked big time for him. The Stand is still one of my favourite comfort books.

Not heard any of the buzz on Before I Go To Sleep, and now don't know whether to try it! I was aiming for the Orange Shortlist - I listened to the abridged The Tiger's Wife on Radio 4 and loved it, and would like to have a proper opinion on the a-bit-like-Fritzl one.

The ubiqitous Thomas Tosh are now selling rather good fresh bread daily, so my bread-making is out the window at the moment. Yours looks good!

Eryl said...

Lulu ~ I hope you have some sort of bread, I expect you can buy really good stuff in your neck of the woods. Not so here, sadly, I have to drive up to one of the big cities and it seems much more economical to make my own.

Nick ~ I'll give you the recipe, if you like.

Are you fussy or discerning, do you think?

Weaver ~ thank you, pregnancy is very much how it felt.

Meri ~ I began this book, or a version of it, in 2006 so it's taken me a while. I think, for some of us, certain artistic projects take a long time to gestate, and then they come out in a rush, fully formed. I also have two other books I've been sort of working on for some time and now a new one is beginning to take shape in my imagination.

You are so busy with lots of different artistic endeavours that there's probably no space for writing books too. They'll happen when they do, that's my thinking.

Titus ~ apart from On Writing the only other thing I've read of King is 'Shawshank'. I'll read The Stand as soon as I can, now, though. Just about to read Kat's Tender Graces which I'm really looking forward to.

I'll have to check out the Orange short list, I've been so locked away I didn't even know it was out!

Don't let me put you off, everyone else seems to love Before I go to Sleep!

Kim Ayres said...

Between drafts, one of my favourite people to photograph should get her book jacket image ready :)

It was such a shame I was so busy over Spring Fling weekend that I wasn't able to add you and Stevie to the wall.

Let's look for an excuse to get your photo taken :)

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Have you read King's book On Writing? It's pretty great stuff.

Oh, Lord, what a meal. My wife is a decent cook but this is over and above what I'm accustomed to.

Crusty. Not just a clever blog title. That's how I like my women.

The Weaver of Grass said...

In answer to why simmental makes you think of cake - maybe simnel cake could be why? Or are you, like me, trying not to eat cake - in which case everything makes you think of cake!

Eryl said...

Kim ~ lets. I was talking to a writer, Sarah Sheridan, recently who is particularly good at promoting her work and she recommends having lots of photos of yourself doing all sorts of things like browsing in book shops, sitting at your desk, buying bread, etc.

UB ~ On Writing is one of the chapters in my bible. I think you may have been one of the people who recommended it to me, and I am very grateful. It was reading that that kicked me into actually getting on with the job.

You have to have a lot of time on your hands to be able to cook this sort of peasant food, when my son was small I couldn't do it, and when I'm working I can't either.

You like crusty women?!

Weaver ~ you're right, of course, simnel cake! Thanks for coming over just to tell me that.

Miss Scarlet said...

Congrats on completion! How long did it take - did you plot it all out first?
Anyhow, who cares what shape the bread is, it looks scrummy!
Sx

Mark Sanderson said...

Yes, well done on getting all that writing done, Eryl. Six weeks, you say? I'd be worried that by the time six weeks was up I would find myself making too many alterations: structure, plot, characters, the whole thing!

Fresh Garden said...

Yeah! Yeah! We all are happy for you! Yeah!

Eryl said...

Scarlet ~ you've got your old head back!

It took about eight weeks: I did two thousand words a day, every day with a few exceptions; didn't plot at all and had no idea what was coming next, which made it really rather fun. I expect that this will mean a few nasty surprises when I come to actually read it later.

Mark ~ for the next six weeks I'll pretend it doesn't exist and do something else. Once the time's up, though, I expect all those alterations, and some I can't even imagine now, will have to be made. They say the first rewrite is the hardest part of writing a book, and you often end up with totally different everything by the end of it.

Eryl said...

Fresh Garden ~ hello, and thank you!

angryparsnip said...

The book I know nothing about but the bread looks so Fabulous...

When it gets below 100 here in Tucson, no one turns on an oven in the summer, I am thinking I might make a Beer Bread that you whip together right before dinner and 30 minutes later fresh bread !
Instant yummyness !

cheers, parsnip

Carole said...

The bread actually makes me drool. It looks so good. But I still have ten pounds to go, so I will just have to enjoy home-made bread vicariously through you.

Excellent stuff on finishing the book. If you write lines in the book like, "Most other activities had been squeezed to the borders, like internal organs during pregnancy" it will be published. Great word picture.

rochambeau said...

Dear Eryl,
Bravo bella on completing your novel and having the discipline to wait for the reread. Since you miss your time with Christine, perhaps you can make some notes for another novel, where you expand on her character or maybe a new character(s) will start dancing in your head and ask you make them come to life. I admire your writing skills and talents so much! I especially think about it now, as my theater is almost complete and I'm toying around in my head with the stories I want my puppets to tell, It's no easy task, but I'm up for the challenge.

Your bread looks ravishing!

xox
Constance

Eryl said...

Parsnip ~ you could probably bake bread, or anything at all, by putting it in a tin and leaving it out in the sun, in Tucson.

I've never tried beer bread, but it makes sense, must find a recipe and try it!

Carole ~ knowing how hard to shift that last ten pounds is, I wish you luck and will power. And will try not to post pictures of cakes for a while.

Constance ~ I suspect my discipline is really fear in disguise.

I have another book in process, but it's not fiction. A new story, though, is beginning to come through like the strains of a distant orchestra in rehearsal.

Good luck with your puppet theatre, I have no doubt that you will make it sing! XXX

Eryl said...

Parsnip ~ you could probably bake bread, or anything at all, by putting it in a tin and leaving it out in the sun, in Tucson.

I've never tried beer bread, but it makes sense, must find a recipe and try it!

Carole ~ knowing how hard to shift that last ten pounds is, I wish you luck and will power. And will try not to post pictures of cakes for a while.

Constance ~ I suspect my discipline is really fear in disguise.

I have another book in process, but it's not fiction. A new story, though, is beginning to come through like the strains of a distant orchestra in rehearsal.

Good luck with your puppet theatre, I have no doubt that you will make it sing! XXX

Rachel Fox said...

Pah, the Guardian! What do they know...
x

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