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.
I’m not one for making resolutions – be they New Year ones or otherwise. The first day of the year is a fairly arbitrary time to be changing certain patterns in your life, or to be telling yourself and others that things are going to change or this year things will be different… but today I’m willing to follow social convention and do just that.
The one thing I want to do in 2018 is to find a publisher for Slipwater. I don’t think this is out of my reach at all, and if I thought this was just a pipe dream I wouldn’t be writing about it here. The story is interesting, thought-provoking, and well-written. It’s not Dickens or Shakespeare by any means, but it is miles better than a lot of novels I’ve read in recent years! I am well on the way to completing a final draft of the manuscript, and am very happy with what I’ve produced so far, and I’ve pencilled in February as the month to start the process of sending it off for scrutiny.
So that’s it: find an editor who likes it. That’s not so much to ask for, is it? And if by this time next year I’m still twiddling my thumbs…
…well, that’s not going to happen.
Watch this space.
I really thought I was going to finish this draft of my novel in November, but as I write this the clock has just ticked over into Christmas Eve. It seems that (not for the first time) I underestimated the difficulty of the task at hand and overestimated the time I had available in which to do it.
That being said, it’s now done. As of approximately two minutes ago, it’s finished. This draft is finished, I mean. It’s cohesive from start to finish for the first time in forever and I’m extremely happy that I got this out of the way in 2017. Am I happy with it? Will it improve when I go back and tie up all the loose ends and paper over the cracks? Yes to both of the above. Watch this space.
It comes in at just under 83,000 words… a pretty decent length for what I am going for, but I think that number may grow a little in the coming weeks. I would ideally love to have the tidying up process completed by the beginning of February, and I think with a little dedication I can get that done.
I have to get up for work in less than five hours, but at this precise moment I don’t really care that I’ll be tired tomorrow, or that my day will end up dragging long as a result, because I’ve taken a step towards where I want to be and – more importantly – where I want this story to be. I can ride this high all the way until the end of the year and beyond.
2017 is certainly shaping up to end much better than it began.