Week 88

There are days when I think I've cracked it, and inevitably those are the days I take to this blog and write posts glowing with hope and expectation. But there are also days when it just doesn't come, I start questioning every aspect of my book, and I don't feel up to the task. I reopen up the story, the plot I've so carefully worked out, and move the elements about, until they seem arbitrary, stuck there for the sake of it, and the whole enterprise seems a waste of time. 88

My second draft is really a whole new draft. The first draft wasn't really a cohesive whole, and the story has changed a lot, so with this one I wanted to plan it better, and write it from scratch. It's not totally from scratch of course - that first draft wasn't for nothing - and some bits are worth saving and sprucing up. But the task in front of me this week was to start another 90,000+ document from the beginning.

I made some head way. The first chapter is all new, and that's easier. I've been itching to write it for a while, ever since having the idea for the opening situation a month or so ago. The third is different - it's a crucial chapter, using material from the first draft, referencing past events for the first time and introducing the real conflict at work properly. The voice has to be right. The character has to be right. And I need to know exactly what's happening.

Bringing in the old stuff is hard, however. It is a feat of memory reading through my old draft, as some of it was written a year and half ago, and those early ideas are sometimes - some times - stronger than I remembered. That sounds like it should be good. It is. But it makes me want to keep them, and prise apart my current plan for the second draft to make room.

I've been thinking about memory a lot this week. My book relies on a present-day narrative, and a past one. I'm uncomfortable with the word "flashback", as that implies hackneyed techniques (think Wayne and Garth in Wayne's World), so I really liked what Hilary Mantel had to say about memory in this interview with the New Statesman:

She gets frustrated by how novelists represent memory. A character walks down the street, for no reason starts to think about how he met his wife and 50 pages of laboured flashback later you drift back to the present. It doesn’t work like that. To Mantel, it’s all about Proust and the madeleine – something sensory will trigger a glimpse of the past, and then it will pass. “Memory isn’t a theme,” she says, “it’s part of the human condition.”

She's right, and she describes the goings on in someone's head so beautifully - the glimpses of the past shifting imperceptibly in and out of their thoughts - in Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. It's something I'm trying to emulate.

Word count this week: 5,310 Second draft: 5,310 First draft: 128,661