So, 27 days after I finished the last draft of Slipwater – the first fully functional version of my novel that there has been this decade – I completed the current one.
At just under 86,000 words this run through is approximately 3,000 words meatier than its older brother, but the important thing is not so much about the extra words, but that those words matter and add to the story… because remember: length is not everything, girls.
As I was going over the story this time I realised there are a couple of things that I need to amend. They just don’t sit entirely as they should within the ‘rules’ of the world I have presented. That being so, I’m giving Slipwater one final cleanse, but it will be (primarily) limited to those portions of the narrative that are directly affected by the changes that need to be made, so it should not take too long at all. As far as the minutiae of the editing and the grammatical tasks is concerned – that’s all done. I’m good in that department.
So, it’s back to the beginning I go, but I’m going to have a sleep first.
No, not the ironically titled classic eighties movie, but this novel I’m working on.
I’m nearly there now, and it’s equal parts exciting and frightening. I have 75,000 words in the bag with the final three chapters still to revise. Of course, once I get to the end of this draft it still won’t be quite the finished product that I need it to be, because in the process of going through it this time I drilled down and made some adjustments that do necessitate another pass.
I have this waking nightmare that every draft I do gets closer and closer to what I am looking for, but I never pull the trigger on sending it away to a publisher because there’s always something else to fix or change or edit or add.
My novel is not perfect and it never will be, and that’s where I have to use a little restraint and learn to accept that reality. My job is to find the apex of the story and then walk away – close the book on… the book. And if I can do that, then I just may have written something worthwhile.
I’ve got 63,000 words down, with seven chapters left to edit and go over, but the last few scenes have been difficult and frustrating and have seen me hit the proverbial wall.
Character motivation and common sense are important aspects of a successful novel, and I want to ensure that I can’t be called out on either of those points when the final product is completed. Characters have to act like real people and not just do or say things because it furthers the plot – thats just lazy writing.
On my previous draft I somewhat boxed myself into a corner with one of my characters, and he’s not really doing what a reasonable person in that situation should be doing… so I had to get a little more creative than I had anticipated. As it turns out, he just had to go to sleep for a few hours.
It’s been an annoying blip on the radar these last couple of days, but thankfully – hopefully – I’m now over that wall.
I was sitting in a coffee shop today for a couple of hours, where I nursed a cappuccino that was so large I could have hidden a toddler inside it. Although I was there primarily to continue writing an additional scene I have decided to slot in to the first part of my novel, I did spend a fair chunk of time looking out the window and people-watching.
…other coffee houses are available…
But despite the distractions of cute dogs, pedestrians tripping over a loose paving stone, attention-seeking teenagers, women with short skirts… and men who don’t think anyone sees them watching the women with short skirts, I managed to get a fair chunk of text down.
I’m now eighteen chapters and 56,000 words deep with Slipwater. Full steam ahead…
So that is the first part of Slipwater in the books – pun intended. That’s fourteen chapters and just over 45,000 words. I’ve amended a few things and added approximately 1,500 words along the way, but no change is an isolated thing: everything has repercussions. Fortunately most of those are a case of simply changing a line or two at another point in the story to fit the new logic, but sometimes I have to turn off the laptop and get some fresh air to save me from throwing the machine out the window.
But, deep breath… I’m halfway home.
It’s back there, behind some trees, but I can see it now.
I’ve refined the first nine chapters of Slipwater, which comes to just over 30,000 words, and I am still on course to have this completed by the end of the month and get started with the submission process in February. So thats all good. The word count has increased marginally, I’ve added some important details, and – with the benefit of having the entire plot in front of me – have managed to retrofit some nice little MacGuffins along the way. Foreshadowing is a lot more impressive when you know what you’re predicting…
I always respected the art of creating a novel – and it is an art, whether you like the finished product or not – but if I was to offer one piece of advice to budding first-time novelists, it would probably be this:
— write a simple story, and tell it well —
That’s really all you need to do. Make people laugh, make them cry. Make your words entertaining. Write what you know, and don’t have too many plot threads. Don’t go down the path that I have and try to sprinkle in a serial killer, a suicide, a toxic friendship, a misguided shot at redemption, and a theory about the multiverse.
Because that will just get messy.
So I have gone through the first seven chapters of Slipwater – tidied it up, trimmed the fat, tried to squeeze as much story out of my words as I can – and although writing a novel is somewhat like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge (in that once you reach the end you head back to the other end and start again) it’s getting to the point where I’m really happy with the story on a sentence by sentence level.
The problem (if there is a problem) is… distance.
Slipwater is the town central to the plot of the novel, but I have played a little fast and loose with its distance from other locations in the story. Ideally it needs to be further away, but then that interferes with how long it takes to get there, which also means my day/night cycle is turned on its head, which in turn doesn’t really work for the characters involved in the travelling…
You get my drift.
I appreciate all of this is without context and therefore completely meaningless, but the more of the onion that I peel away the more apparent it becomes that I will need to fix this before I can send the novel out for publication.
I could probably get away with it – most readers would likely not even notice – but I’ve been sitting with it for a long time now and these logic issues scream at me from the virtual page. If I’m going to give myself the best shot at success… I need to ensure that what I send out is the best it can be.