Welcome to the WiP (Work in Progress). You could describe it as The Thirty-Nine Steps with pantomime cows. The slog began on 8 November 2008, and by 1 January 2009 (i make that 53 days) its first draft amounted to about 22,500 words. Watch this space.
Draft One of the Slog was complete in April and I intended to write about what I learnt from the experience (apart from Yes I Can). I still intend to.
The trouble with sister blogs is that they’re more like conjoined twins sometimes. When one falls in the ditch beside the road, the other is stuck there too. In less difficult times they can step in for each other, say when one loses her voice for a bit, but not when one really keels over.
The Travel Hopefully Blog explains which ditch we’re lying in. Here, I just want to say that the Slog’s successor, which seems to call itself the Big Project – namely the next novel – has not suffocated out of existence but is having to hold its breath for a while. This one has a pretty structured plan to follow, so when I can set a start date it will know its route. The ‘Hopefully’ part will be not about where it’s heading, but the sights it sees and the company it keeps along the way.
Whenever I think about it, I get excited.
This morning it’s over.
Fifteen pages into Big Pink Book F, and just short of the 90,000 mark in twelve chapters (88,891 words according to yWriter) which counts as just over 90,000 words because there’s one early-on scene unwritten. Shorter than hoped, longer than feared.
That skipped scene is for the rewrite, as it didn’t and isn’t going to ‘just come’ so it needs building step by step, which is more an edity than a creaty process and can wait.
I’ve been expecting to feel relieved, as i have been looking forward to being rid of the thing. For some time the point has been, largely, to see if i CAN finish Draft One rather than being desperate to spend more time with my characters or find out what becomes of them. (Don’t tell Turner, my lead character!) But at this moment, i think i’m going to miss him. And it. The story, the world where it takes place, the colourful and somewhat eccentric characters, the writing of it, the lot. And that in itself is a relief.
Since i have decided not to pursue this as a definitely-the-main-ambition project – at least for the time being – it now goes into the Pending drawer. One day i may kick it into better shape, or add a thread to make it a decent size for a novel, or turn it into a longish short story. Or bury it for good. Whichever, it has to hide away for months at least before i can cast an objective eye over it. Bye for now, Turner.
Sometime (not now, i’m packing for a weekend away), i’ll tell you what i have learnt from writing a whole First Draft. Meanwhile… i’ve proved i can. What shall i do to celebrate?
Happy April, all.
I was hung up on word count in the beginning chapters, and gave it up while ago. Word count isn’t the point. Besides, when i felt the story was about halfway through, i decided to fold it up like a telescope – bringing it down to supportable length – or like an umbrella, reducing its width of coverage. (Similes, don’t you love ‘em?) After that, the number of words shouted ‘failure’ in my face because i was looking at a much smaller total than i’d originally aimed for.
Besides, it’s not the most important thing. By now i’ve even lost count of how many chapters i have, partly cos i know i’m going to re-jig the structure anyway in terms of where to break the narrative into chapters, but also partly cos it’s just no longer interesting to me to count in those terms.
This has to be a good thing?
As it turns out, the end hasn’t happened yet, though it’s close now. And the count isn’t going to stop at 70,000 words, though at 60,000 the amount of telling i foresaw didn’t look more than another ten thou. And every so often the Type A in my personality jumps up and insists on caring about the numbers again.
Today i wrote ten pages in my Big Pink Book (Big Pink Book E, actually) which i estimate to be not far short of 2,000 words as it’s small print, meaning my handwriting wasn’t in scrawly mood this morning. I am rather surprised. The old buzz was there. :) Given that yesterday i had to give up at 3½ pages, and THAT was as good as it’s got for yonks n yonks, you can understand i’m pleased.
My wrist still limits the amount i can do each day. Normally if i overdo the scribbling, i hurt in the evening, but yesterday i actually couldn’t hold the pen any more and had to stop with sentences still pecking at the inside of that shell to get out onto the paper. (Metaphor, even better than simile, you’ve got to agree.) Maybe that helped today’s output, though i usually try to leave it in the middle of flowing easily so as to pick it up the next day knowing what comes next.
Maybe, too, the physical restrictions affect the creative yield, in some subtle way such as fatigue affecting judgement. Seems plausible but i don’t know. (If that’s true it gives me a handy excuse for being not awfully productive.)
Anyway, i’m off to do a lot of typing up. I’m not telling you the current word count. Suffice to say my horizon has shifted and this manuscript may be heading towards the 100K rather than the miserable 80K which would edit down to a book far too slim to do anything with. Nor am i telling you what i’ve learnt from writing it, until i’ve written it ALL. What i’ve learnt is enough for at least a whole slogpost. And what i’m doing next… well. You didn’t expect to be told that today, did you?
This week i have made it past 70,000. The end is nowhere in sight*! So much for my estimate of 70K or a little over. I’m as bad as i ever was at judging how long something will end up, when not writing to a tight limit.
I did once come across a little widget thingummy that kept track of progress with a graphic, and you chose from a huge range of images such as thermometers, stripy worms, train tracks and so on. I think it was intended for publicising weight loss but you could use it for anything. Can’t find the site again! Tell me if you see something like that lying around…
* I say ‘nowhere in sight’ but i think i can see it. Faintly. Like the mysterious building on the opposite hill, and my useless guess at how long the walk will be. ;0)
I have started Big Pink Book E for the new year. :) So far, very nearly 68,000 words typed up (well into Chapter Ten) and another couple of pages legible only to myself.
Works for me:
I’m deliberately not keeping quite up to date with the typing-up. That way, when (not if) i have to have an unexpected break of a day or two or seventeen, i have a few hundred words to type and that gets me back in the swing. A page or so usually does it.
The mind focuses better when typing than just reading – a bit like revising for exams by copying out your notes. (Kinaesthetic learning.) The only way i can immerse myself equally well by only reading is if i read aloud, and in this house that’s not always an option.
Something about Big Pink Book E feels better than Big Pink Book D.
- It’s the fifth, and i prefer odd numbers;
- It’s potentially the last, though i do think i’ll spill into F (and i prefer consonants);
- At the moment it’s all (er, almost all) blank and pristine and not yet dog-eared.
I know dog-eared is positive, like a cuddly toy that’s visibly well-loved, but still there is the excitement of a new exercise book.
Childish. I’ve learnt: whatever works. I wish grown-up incentives worked for me but i can’t think of one that motivates me as strongly. (If it did, not doubt i’d write political thrillers or something.) So let’s go with childish.