Deleted scene: the Students’ Union general meeting

Picture doubly relevant to this scene. Or half relevant. Or something.

Picture doubly relevant to this scene. Or half relevant. Or something.

I take you to all the exciting locations. Actually, this happens after the SU meeting; it follows straight on from the current chapter 2 of the Lent term. Had it made it into the final version I’d have made a couple of changes, but it… didn’t. So I’m not.


Will was ranting to some other Fellowship members. Peter thought it best not to interrupt, and so walked home with Olly, who was accosted at every pace by people congratulating him on his speech.

‘I didn’t realise you were going to speak in favour,’ Peter said, once they were out of the Venue. ‘Not that I expected you to speak against – I mean, I hadn’t thought you’d be interested in the question at all.’

‘Yeah?’ Olly smiled. ‘I dunno, it just seemed like the thing to do…’

‘I mean,’ Peter pursued, ‘I wasn’t surprised at Tim speaking, because he’s such a stereotypical Catholic with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s been threatening to do something like this for years, but you’ve never seemed to care much, when we’ve talked about it at home or whatever…’

‘Just because I don’t talk,’ Olly said darkly, ‘doesn’t mean I don’t listen. And if it comes to it, it’s not so much about… well, it’s not so much about taking a side swipe at Evangelical Christianity, as it is about seeing things properly labelled. It’s the rationalist in me.’

Peter wondered what Olly had been going to say that it was not so much about. He would not have been so surprised had it been something to do with impressing Georgia.

‘Which wouldn’t help,’ he said, out loud. Georgia was still seething about the Camilla episode.


‘Sorry. Just thinking out loud.’

‘Oh… I thought Tim was very persuasive on why the Statement of Belief makes the Christian Fellowship a specifically Evangelical organisation, which I didn’t really understand, before. Not, like, living and breathing this stuff, the way you do.’

‘That’s a Theology degree for you,’ Peter said.

‘Do you really think,’ Olly asked, ‘that the existence of something called a Christian Fellowship results in you being misrepresented as a Christian?’

That had been a contentious point in the debate, and had been misunderstood in all directions. ‘Um,’ Peter said. ‘No. Yes. All the time.’


‘Well.’ He paused. ‘OK, think about the person who tells you they’re a Christian, you know, quite early on, when you’ve just met them. Think about how you react. You take a step backwards, discover you’re late for your lecture, run away screaming…’

‘You mean Will. At least, the way he is now.’

‘You knew him before he was like that?’ Peter said, momentarily distracted. ‘I mean, I know you two were at school together, but I got the impression he sprang fully formed from some church leader’s forehead… Did he used to be a leftie feminist atheist, or something?’

‘Oh, he was always an over-privileged toffee-nosed git,’ Olly allowed. ‘But the Christian thing is new. He used to just fidget through the services up until his voice broke and he left the choir, and piss around in RE, like the rest of us. All this in-your-face Christian stuff has developed since we left school, so far as I can tell. Maybe something got him on his gap year…’ Going by Olly’s face, he was hoping it had hurt.

‘I hope he’s not following us… But yes, that’s my point exactly. It gets to the point where the rest of us are almost afraid to introduce ourselves as Christians, even to people we know quite well, because we know that we’ll then have to spend half an hour explaining that we’re not Bible-bashing, homophobic, anti-woman bigots who have no interest in them beyond converting them. I’m not sure if I get more people assuming that because I’m black… Anyway, that’s what Tim means by the Christian Fellowship misrepresenting other Christians.’

‘Evangelical Christian Fellowship, now,’ Olly corrected him.

‘Indeed. I don’t think, by the way, that it’s going to make any difference. In ten years’ time I will still be describing myself as a socially liberal Anglican on the high end of the candle…’

‘That’s a mouthful.’

Peter snorted.


‘Sorry. Just imagining the way Becky would laugh at that.’

‘Oh, well, Becky…’

They were turning the corner into Alma Road. Peter scrabbled in his pocket for his keys, but before he found them Colette had the door open. ‘Did you drop my card off?’ she asked, anxiously.

‘Hello to you, too.’

‘Sorry. Hello. And congratulations, Olly! Becky was refreshing the forums every five seconds until the result came out. But Peter, did you drop Lydia’s card off?’

‘No,’ Peter teased, and watched her face fall. ‘…I gave it to her in person.’

‘Oh! Did she like it?’

‘She didn’t open it when I was there. But…’ Peter frowned, trying to remember, ‘I think it was a nice surprise.’


Colette’s smile made his heart turn over twice: first with wistfulness on his own account, and then with dread, on hers.

Eights and tens

Eight cars

If each car signifies one thousand words… we’ll need a bigger car park

A pedant’s definition of ‘decimate’ is to dispose of one tenth of whatever one’s seeking to dispose of. I don’t know whether there’s an equivalent expression, to produce one tenth of whatever one’s seeking to produce. It would be quite useful at the moment.

On Thursday night I typed up several pages of longhand, and was immoderately pleased to find out that it tipped the word count of the new novel over the eight thousand mark. Eight thousand and seven, to be precise. This is particularly satisfying because Speak Its Name ended up at ‘about eighty thousand words’. And some basic maths will tell you that 8,000:80,000 translates neatly to 1:10.

This does not, of course,  mean that the new book is one tenth finished. Speak Its Name went up to 115,000, after all – though I hope that I’ve got more of an idea of what I’m doing this time round. The current eight thousand and seven words don’t feel like a tenth of a book.

What I’ve got so far feels too nebulous, too insubstantial to be the backbone that ‘a tenth’ implies. That’s partly because I’m writing, as I always do, a scene here and a line there, a page from the beginning and a conversation from the end. I get one little snippet down on paper and it spawns three or four in completely different places in the plot.

At this stage I don’t think too much about structure; I just hang on as best I can and catch as much of it as possible. I’m not reading these words yet, because I don’t think they’d stand up to it. I’d either destroy them or get depressed. It doesn’t matter. There’s time. There’s plenty of time.

All the same: eight thousand words are down. Eight thousand out of eighty thousand – ish.

Deleted scene: some more awkwardness

We begin with Will deciding not to convert Olly at this particular juncture. Good plan, Will. He is not really relevant to this scene, which is more about the regrettably absent Camilla. I miss her.


Tonight was not the night for such a daunting undertaking, even if Will had known where to start. He had other things to do: a Teaching and Study committee meeting, followed by dinner at Jake’s house, finishing up at the Royal Oak with the rest of the Sailing Club for Frizzo’s birthday. Becky was out as well, having dinner with Adam to celebrate their first anniversary. Peter, therefore, was left to feed only his two fellow finalists and Colette, who was even more quiet than usual through the meal, and slunk off to her room at the earliest possible opportunity.

When the silence grew oppressive, Peter asked, ‘Any plans for the evening, Olly?’

‘I was going to go to Liam’s party – you know, Liam in Maths, used to hang around Morley in first year, sometimes? But something’s come up.’

‘Something?’ Peter was curious.

He looked shifty. ‘I’m going to the cinema, actually.’

Georgia tilted her head and looked at him sideways, accusingly. ‘Oh. You might have told me you were missing Liam’s thing. What are you seeing?’ (Angling for an invitation?)

‘I don’t know, yet. We were going to decide over a drink.’

Peter raised his eyebrows. ‘We?’ he said, and, seeing Georgia’s face, regretted it.

‘Me and Camilla.’ He was turning red, clashing increasingly with his sandy hair.

Georgia had gone from neutral to beetroot without warning. She said, dangerously calmly, ‘You’re seeing her again, then?’

‘That’s right,’ Olly agreed.

Peter considered the distance between himself and the door. Trying to change the subject as unobtrusively as possible, he said, ‘I hear what’s its name, the new Tarantino film, is meant to be very good.’

‘She didn’t look to me like the sort of person who’d be a Tarantino fan,’ Georgia said.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Olly asked through a sudden glacier.

‘Oh, nothing.’

Peter made one last effort. ‘Seriously. It’s had very good reviews.’

‘I shall see what Milly thinks.’

Georgia muttered something about what the rest of us think, the details of which Peter did not catch. Olly, however, did. ‘I don’t care what the rest of you think,’ he stated. ‘I’ll admit to a certain sordid interest, though. Do you have a problem with Camilla, Georgia?’

A swift harsh sigh. ‘No. Of course I don’t. I’ve barely met the woman.’

‘Then I’ll thank you to refrain from making snide remarks about her.’

Georgia rose, which gained her a temporary height advantage. ‘If you choose to interpret a perfectly neutral comment as snide, that’s up to you.’

Olly also stood, stiff-backed as a guardsman. ‘Georgia, if you object to my occasionally enjoying the company of the opposite sex, could you do me the favour of saying so to my face?’

‘Oh, so that’s what they call it these days?’

Peter groaned. They turned to face him, wearing comically similar expressions of outrage. ‘What?’ Georgia demanded.

It was a bad idea, but he said it anyway. ‘Can’t you two just shag and get it over with?’

He took advantage of the appalled silence to get up and leave the room. He just heard Olly say, mildly, ‘Fuck off,’ as he closed the door behind him.

He only got half-way down the stairs before Georgia caught him up. ‘No, we can’t, and you know it,’ she hissed.

He turned back to face her. ‘You can’t stop him going out with other girls, G.,’ he said.

‘I know.’ She had herself under control. ‘I know. It’s not fair. I could just do with not knowing about it, that’s all. And she’s so bloody gorgeous and posh. What the hell do I look like next to her?’

‘The one he’s in love with, that’s what you look like,’ Peter said, gentle but impatient. ‘And if you’ve turned him down, you can’t expect him to live like a monk.’

A floorboard creaked on the landing above them. As one, they froze, looked very slowly upwards, listened as Olly’s footsteps plodded all the way up to the top of the house; then Georgia said, quietly and furiously, ‘Fine. You’ve told me all the things I can’t do. What, in that case, can I do?’

Peter was suddenly sick of them all: of Olly and Georgia, stubbornly apart; of Becky and Adam, loudly and ecstatically reunited; of Lily and Ross, smugly together; of Colette, as far out of his reach as ever; most of all, of himself. ‘You know what?’ he said. ‘Do what the hell you want.’


First sight of the next book (don’t get excited)

?I’m five thousand words into the next book. Well, two thousand from the beginning, two thousand from the end, and an odd thousand somewhere in the middle.

I’m very secretive about my first drafts. Nobody gets to see them. Nobody apart from my online writing group (and whoever happens to be sitting next to me on the 0745 to King’s Cross, but they’re usually asleep, and probably can’t read my handwriting anyway). Last time round I pretended to all my friends that I wasn’t writing a book. Since it wouldn’t have occurred to any of them that I was writing a book (why should it?), this was fairly easy. I’m not sure how this is going to work, second time round, but we’ll find out. Don’t expect extensive previews, that’s all I’m saying.

Having said that, the following (completely accidental) Tom Swifty was far too good not to share, so here you go:

‘I think I’d probably wake up before I drowned in my bed,’ she said drily.

As to whether it’ll actually make it into the next book – who knows? Maybe I’ll make it a bit more subtle and change the adverb to ‘wryly’. Maybe I’ll leave it out altogether. I’m very good at murdering my darlings, but I’m also very good at disinterring the bodies, stitching them to other parts and sending a bolt of lightning through them, or, if all else fails, displaying the corpses for the edification of the public. I haven’t yet run out of deleted scenes from Speak Its Name.