Well, not very much as it happens – certainly not as much as the first week of last year, when I was burning both ends of that candle and kicking out my final draft of Slipwater, but definitely more than I wrote in the final week of last year. I’m going to take that as a positive and move forward from there.
The short story I’m writing at the moment has been on the books for several years, and has gone through a number of name changes along the way, but I have settled for The 07.43 to Blackford Station, which is of course, subject to change.
It’s an old-fashioned monster story – something I’ve wanted to write for a long time – and is centred on five teenage friends as they take the morning train to school. I have over 3000 words down, and I’m probably looking at twice that upon completion. I know the beats I want to hit, so hopefully I can finally put my mind to it and put this story to bed once and for all. .. by the end of February.
So, The Girlfriend© is the first person to finish reading the final version of Slipwater, and she says that she likes it a lot, which I do appreciate very much. If her critique is anything to go by, I have managed to produce a cohesive and entertaining page-turner that left her with a lump in her throat by the time it ended. Really, what more can I ask for?
But let’s be honest, that’s a little like showing your mum your homework and having her pat you on the head and say that it’s good… isn’t it? (I’ve heard) that women can fake orgasms, so I’m sure they can feign a little glowing praise in other departments too if required.
Still, it is extremely gratifying for someone to recognise the hard work that has gone into producing it – even if she is just keeping me sweet because Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. There are worse things that she could lie to me about!
I only hope that I find an agent or editor who is as enthusiastic about Slipwater as she has been, because if I do, I’ll be a very happy little writer indeed.
A fast-paced police thriller at its core, with science fiction undertones, Slipwater is above all else, a tale of love lost, and hope regained. It is the story of one man’s blind desire to chase the second chance at the life he saw ripped away, no matter what the cost; and of his best friend’s quest to stop him.
That is part of the synopsis for Slipwater that I have sent off to five agencies over the last few days, along with either the first three chapters or the opening 10,000 words.
Agencies (and publishers, should you choose to go to them directly) dont want the entire manuscript, and that’s fair enough. I’m sure you know if you’re enjoying a book before reaching the end, and similarly, they don’t need to read every word you have written to know if it’s any good. What they ask for does however seem like a narrow window: a lot of stories are only just taking the training wheels off at that point. But, this is not my game, and these are their rules.
The girlfriend is currently reading it as well. She says she is enjoying it, but then again… she has a dog in this race, so it will be difficult for her to be completely blunt and honest. Hopefully there are no glaring plot holes or silly continuity errors that I inexplicably missed in all my edits – and I don’t think there are – but however she responds to it, it will be good to hear the opinion of someone who doesn’t know what is coming next.
87,500 words. And its finished. I don’t even want to look at it again, because i know the moment I do I will find something else to tinker with, and it’s unnecessary.
I could keep going, I know that. I could go through it again, change a few things here and there. Add something. Take something away. And theoretically I could do that for the rest of my life. But eventually you reach the point where the alterations being made are not worth the effort it takes to make them. And I think I have got to that place.
The only reason to keep editing ad infinitum, is fear. Scared of success or failure – maybe both. Once the story is done, it’s done. Let it go and move on, because otherwise the words will remain forever on your laptop or desktop or whatever else you may be using to write that masterpiece of yours.
Now I need to get it off my computer and into the hands of a publisher… and that’s when the hard work really begins.
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.