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Once upon a time, there was a Small Writer with a Huge Deadline.

The Huge Deadline was still rather far away – and that was perhaps the heart of the problem. Had it been looming large, roaring nearer and nearer, the Small Writer would have been writing like mad, and piling up a nice daily wordcount, and biting her nails, and drinking tea by the gallon, and generally doing what she was supposed to do…

Instead, because the Huge Deadline was so far away, she twiddled around – there being no other word for it.

She endlessly tweaked the bit of Draft 0 she had written so far.

She wrote notecards (colour-coded in ways she forgot from one day to the next, so she had to redo them) and pinned them with pretty little magnets on the antique iron firescreen she used in lieu of a cork-board. Then she shuffled then around often.

She made lists of books she needed, and discovered that the online form for inter-library loans on her library’s website didn’t work for some reason, and so planned to go to town to request the loans in person – only something always came up to alter those plans, and so she pushed back the trip to town again and again, and meanwhile her Draft 0 had more TO BE SEENs than usual.

She kept reading up things, though, and each sent her on to other things, and oh, look, treaties, letters, minor riots (not within the story’s timeframe, but how interesting, let’s make a note of it…), and maps, and yet another contemporary narrative, and wine-making, and where would they go to hear mass, and do we know whether this very, very, very minor fellow was in late May, and what’s the distance from Paris, exactly, and local jurisdictions, and can we find the name of a few Echévins, and…

She did some writing, mind, enough to put together a reasonable set-up, and a first murder – and… and then what? Far too often the Small Writer would open her notebook and .doc files, and stare at them, and write down lists of questions, and, after a while, drift off to – you guess it – research some other not-dreadfully-relevant-at-this-stage minute detail.

Sometimes she stared at the timeline of real-life events she really, really wanted to include in her story, and wondered. She liked the timeline, she really did – so why did the whole refuse to come together?

Sometimes, also, she would give a good look at the Huge Deadline, count months and weeks, and sigh in some relief: there was still time before it all risked to become a very sad story… But still, the Small Writer could not help a frisson of unease over the fact that it was very nearly the middle of July, and she didn’t even know who her murderer was yet.

Until one day she lost what patience she had, hied herself to a solitary place, without books, without computer, without even her phone, lest the temptation to research some more arose – without anything but her notebook and a couple of pens. There she sat, and not only asked questions in writing, but tried to answer them – and the heaps of other questions that blossomed up… and lo and behold! After a couple of hours of this, she found she was unstuck. Things had moved around in her head, and two murders had swapped places (don’t ask), and some more pieces from the timeline had fallen in place, and the story in general had elbowed itself into a vastly better shape – and glory be!

The Small Writer could have slapped herself for not doing this earlier, and she still had oodles of unsolved questions, and perhaps a character of two too many, and still needed to go to town and request the damn loans – but she was unstuck, and could see her way ahead. So she promised she’d never ever dawdle in this aimless way again, and made plans to go to the library the very next day, and fixed herself another cup of tea, and then went back to her Draft 0, very much hoping to live happily – if not ever after – for at least a few days.

(Far from) The End.