Drafting a novel the easy way: days 51 to 59

Let’s draw a veil over these, shall we?

So tired. Finding that I can’t get over the activation energy barrier and into the groove. Without doubt when I’ve made that initial huge effort things become more self-sustaining, but I suppose I took my eyes off the ultimate prize – a completed draft – and forgot how good it would feel.

Word count: 3,097

Deficit: 2,803

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Drafting a novel the easy way: days 40 to 46

Hard hard hard to start again.

I read over the few hundred words most recently written to try and get back inside the narrative and noticed something interesting: the text following the scene that had been in my head for years, the one that I felt compelled to describe in minute detail, felt much freer and flowed better. Gestating the drama for so long had done nothing to help me write it well, but being rid of it seemed to have a positive effect.

Even so early in this process I am realising that lonely and despairing interior monologues are not going to power my story and the relationships I develop between the protagonists will give it any impact it has. If their attachment to each other is not felt, the threat of the severing of that attachment will feel like no threat at all. Duh.

And, by the by, I can see infelicities in word choice, places where I haven’t got the tone right, but I will not allow myself to go back to these now.

Word count: 2,954

Deficit: 1,646

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Typos in the wild no. 3 (double-barrelled not done)

Not a gratuitous one this time: “non-child bearing”. I like this because it is such a perfect example of a phrase in which a double hyphen is called for.

I used to struggle with double hyphens – whenever I came across “low-molecular-weight proteins” I couldn’t believe that I really had to use two hyphens; it seemed excessive, lascivious even – but I’m getting the hang of them now. This definitely wanted a hyphen between “child” and “bearing”.

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Drafting a novel the easy way: days 33 to 39

With the holiday I have been distracted and tired and not put together any words, but I have read the work of fiction that I thought may overlap a little with my subject.

I’m relieved to find that it doesn’t, and it was an excellent read in addition. I was a little sad when finishing it, though, that I didn’t feel any of the enormity of loss that I feel when I’ve finished a really earth-shattering book. All the blurbs promised a terrifically poignant & haunting afterglow, blah-di-blah, whereas all that I felt was a rather clinical admiration for the technical excellence of the early part of the novel. Possibly this is because my maternal feelings have not developed in the traditional way. I know what I mean.

Even though I have only put together a few hundred words for myself, I have found that the process has taken away a tiny part of the awe and wonder I feel in the face of a good story-teller. Where I used to think, ‘How on earth could that writer ever have linked these imaginary events together, or conceived of all these details?’ I now have just the tiniest inkling of how a narrative does come together in the telling. Even worse, perhaps, it’s given me a little arrogance – I felt more confident when reading this highly praised novel to say, ‘Oh, but actually that phrase doesn’t work so well,’ or, ‘That’s a little clunky,’ or, ‘You could have left that unsaid.’

The feeling I came away from this novel with was ‘I wish it had affected me more.’ It’s incredibly subjective, I know, and no story can be all things to all people. Perhaps there’s something in the way a story is resolved, but I’m not sure what it is. It could be absolutely devastating to finish a story with no happy ending, no redemption, no vindication; on the other hand, a story too neatly wrapped up may be filed in the memory banks under ‘Case Closed’, and nevermore thought upon. Probably sixteen years after I first encountered it, I have never come across a more perfect expression of what a story should be, or do, than this of Angela Carter:

“I wanted to write stories that could be read by guttering candlelight in ruins of our cities and still give pleasure, still have meaning.”

Words: 2,765

Deficit: 1,135

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Drafting a novel the easy way: day 32

I’m making inroads on my deficit but I have to remember that it only relates to a target of 100 words a day, which is a pretty lenient target.

I’ve actually reached a point where I’m moving the story along now, rather than just scene setting, and even better it’s a story development that I did not have in mind when I began this project. So it feels as though there is some organic process happening.

I’m still over-focused on points of detail, and precisely characterising each minute emotion and gesture, but perhaps this is easing up a little as I know there’s only so far that even I can go with describing a single bare room. My ‘set’ is so limited, and so much of the substance of my story is in the characterisation, that I wonder if I should be trying to write a dramatic piece instead. But, to be frank, I’d have no idea how to go about writing a piece like that. Though perhaps I shouldn’t allow that to deter me. I’d better let that idea germinate.

There are one or two books that I probably should read to inform my thinking – a couple of non-fiction, and a fiction – but I’m a little reluctant as this is not the time to be infecting myself with self-doubt and feelings of inferiority. On the other hand, I know that as I go crucial turns in the story will hinge on the smallest detail, and if these details subsequently prove to be impossible to support it will be hard to turn the text around.

Word count: 2,593

Deficit: 607

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Drafting a novel the easy way: day 31

Today was the day that I first opened up my document to compose within the portals of my own home, rather than out and about on transport. Something of a Pyrrhic victory, though, because I ended up deleting more words than I added, being stupid with tiredness.

I recall now that when I started my previous job I had a flush of writing success, that being the time when I started this blog, and I felt that things may be about to change in the area of my ‘writer’s block’ (a kind expression for it). However, this did not last, and the pressure of keeping up with that job soon nixed my enthusiasm. It is up to me to maintain the fragile momentum I am building up now.

I occasionally wonder whether it is wise to try and blog alongside the main effort but on the whole I think the time taken is worth it. Apart from anything, it is a form of publication – at least in my world! – that gives me a little boost whenever I do it. It also gets me used to the process of seeing my thoughts appear in symbols that can be understood by others. Another point is that I have been aware that my blogging is extremely random and very selfish – I only do it when I am both interested and energized, and I have no common subject. Therefore no-one follows it, and that is as it should be. I do it for myself. But I know that a successful blogger should really take one theme and stick with it, posting on a regular basis. It is good for me to practice this, as I am doing with this thread. The opening up of oneself to public humiliation and criticism that is entailed every time one publishes a blog post is something that I regard as a useful and necessary preparation for the agony of ever allowing another human to read my creative fiction.

Word count: 2,023

Deficit: 1,077

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