I think I've got about four more chapters, or 20,000 words if it all works out, left to do.
First drafts are gruelling and sometimes so god-awful you want to be sick. FACT. I only carry on because I've promised myself I will, but the reality is, I worry it won't get any better, that no rewrite can fix the banalities and specious, navel-gazing narrative I have come up with.
Reading How Not To Write A Novel did not help. It started well (it's a surprisingly good book, I recommend it): the chapters on plot and character seemed basic enough, the sort of thing about conflict and motivation we've all read loads about, but fleshed out by examples and common mistakes, and my attitude to their advice on style is, well, it's something, after reading hundreds of books and writing all kinds of hilarious tweets, you've either got or you haven't. Don't sweat it. But the chapters on perspective, voice, setting, theme... that's when my enthusiasm started to wane.
My usual fears were prompted by edicts such as this:
A very common characteristic of unpublished manuscripts is a wildly disproportionate ratio of inner contemplation to action.
- How Not to Write A Novel, p.179
Action is so hard to write when you're not sure where you're going.
At the start, it felt like I was writing in neat concentric circles, looping the story but not getting fully immersed in it. Now, as I go beyond the four fifths mark of my book, the story is starting to come together. The end of my first draft is turning into something much denser than the early part, which is partly due to me gaining confidence in the story I'm telling. My writing starts to flex with an awareness of story and what has gone before.
Every now and then things come together, make sense of each other and spark off an idea for the beginning and early set-up. It gives you hope that there might be something in it after all.
I'm also reading Never Let Me Go at the moment, and that flexibility - a Janus-like ability to see backwards and forwards at the same time that authorial omniscience gives you - really struck me. Ishiguro's narrator gets sidetracked as she tells her story, getting waylaid by memories or running too far ahead, exactly as people do when reminiscing or retelling a series of events. And that's only something you can do when you yourself know what's going to happen! I hope that kind of confidence comes into my writing when I get the first draft out of the way and set about rewriting.
Until then, it's full steam ahead for the next few weeks to get this done.
And then there's this invocation from Ze Frank if ever I lose faith. It's the first episode of his new show, dedicated to "anyone who hasn't begun, who's stuck in a terrible place between zero and one".
Let's start this shit up.
Word count this week: 3,400 First draft: 121,512