The days leading up to the publication of my latest novel, Night Vision, were hectic beyond compare! Reading, rereading, checking, double checking… little things like the colour of someone’s eyes, like when someone moved house, have I used the word ‘slightly’ too often, have I described someone as white-faced too many times?
My last and final edit was to download it onto my Kindle and read it from there, and check that the chapters were the right length, and the breaks in the right place. As I was doing this last read-through, the day before publication, it suddenly struck me that my characters were forever making tea; I know my family run on tea, but really, do other people? So I set off on a tea trail, changing some to coffee, cutting some out altogether, and even forcing Neil to drink hot chocolate on one occasion.
“Let’s go inside and have a cup of tea shall we?” Annie was anxious to get them away from any neighbours.
Beulah checked her pockets for her phone but she’d dropped the bloody thing, it had tumbled from her hands as she sat up the tree. She’d intended to pick it up but had called goodbye and wandered back to her car. “It must have slipped out of my pocket when I was in the wood.”
“Doing what in the wood? Which wood?”
“Wandering around crying in Camel Wood!”
“Let’s have a cup of tea,” Annie urged.
“Right, come on, let’s go and find it!” When Neil was in this mood he was overcome with a fearful energy.
“I’m so tired, Neil, can’t I have a cup of tea, I’ve had nothing to eat or drink all day.”
I kept this offer of tea in the text, the character Annie was just the sort who when things are fraught would offer to make a pot!
The old man woke and they chatted for a while, the strange, disjointed and erratic conversation of the ill, dipping out of the present and seamlessly into the past. Beulah was tempted to ask about his other son, but that would be taking advantage of the old man’s weakness. He asked to see the paper but then said someone had taken his glasses even though they were perched on his nose and Beulah read to him until he dozed again. The tea trolley came round and she had a cup of pale tasteless tea and gave him a stick of Kit-Kat she had. In his present state he was more informal and sociable and even affectionate than he’d ever been before his accident.
OK, in a nursing home the elderly residents would be given tea, and from my experience it usually is pale and tasteless! So this tea also stayed in. There still is a lot of tea on offer in Night Vision, but now at least every cup has been carefully thought about before it’s poured!
Then I also noticed that when they weren’t drinking tea they were drinking Pimm’s; again nothing wrong with that, but would they do so quite as often as they seemed to? So another trawl through, changing some Pimm’s to wine, one to a Mojito, but also keeping some when I thought it fitted.
There were other things too which seemed repetitive which I changed, until at last I decided I could do no more, enough was enough… so publish and be damned! As I lay in bed that night, thoughts whirling I suddenly thought of one other word which I had meant to check on; I really had a strong feeling that I had used it too many times, even though in reality, real people would have used it as my characters did… but too late, Night Vision was published! And the word? ****!