Five weeks and counting

sourceFive weeks ago I submitted a manuscript for an assessment. For the first few weeks afterwards, I worked feverishly on something new, wanting to get as much down as I could before receiving the assessment.

Now, the fever has died, and I am waiting.

I am still dragging myself to my 500 words a day, but the spark has gone, replaced by the most fun questions ever, such as

  • what if the assessment says, you’re wasting your time
  • what if the assessment says, you’re brilliant, this will be published immediately, after which I’ll be plunged into writer’s block and will never finish anything ever again
  • what if the assessment says, meh, kind of, maybe try re-writing in past tense and third person
  • what if the manuscript was so underwhelming she has actually forgotten about it

That fun thing I talked about really hasn’t taken off.

On the plus side, in five weeks I’ve written 27,000 new words, read 7 books, been to Ireland, started jogging, discovered Netflix, and volunteered at Oxfam on Sunday afternoons, while working full-time.

Perhaps the fever is just being distributed.

Perhaps this post is a magical jinx and the manuscript is on its way to my inbox right now!

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A touch of hope

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the struggle to keep going. The novel I am working on was feeling unwieldy and misshapen, and I couldn’t get a grip on it. It was only by writing that post that I realised how long that struggle had been going on, and I took drastic action.

The next day, I cut 12,000 words. It was like losing a gangrenous limb. Those three sections had, at one time, seemed necessary. They were long, obviously, and I liked so many things about them. I had worked so hard to make them as good as I thought they could be. But I had had doubts for weeks and the relief when they were finally gone, falling away while the rest of the manuscript drifted slightly higher, was intense and energising.

I began a new plan. I moved other elements around. I streamlined, though that sounds coldly managerial, and all of a sudden I had room for the parts that had been missing. Which means I am once again writing, actually writing, and not just tweaking. Whole new scenes need to be created and, since that is the fun part, I’m in quite a good mood.

It’s easy to write blog posts about things being difficult, so I am going to leave this happy little post here to remind me: there is so much joy in creating something new, and that creation shouldn’t always be shackled to complaints of how hard it is as well.

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Endless possibilities: the unromantic side

I have been stuck for a while. I have blamed it on many things but mainly the upheaval of moving to a different city. But I was stuck before that as well, and then I blamed it on summer and it’s associated distractions – socialising, long evenings, heat. The truth is I would be stuck no matter what was going on and these are just useful excuses.

I started thinking that maybe I am done, I’ve published something, isn’t that enough? Am I really going to just keep doing this, over and over and over? It’s really hard. And apparently it won’t ever not be hard. What the hell have I got myself into?

I have a draft of a novel, and another almost-draft. This is supposed to be good. I have done a lot of work and  I’m reasonably proud of both of them. I should be elated.

But I’m not. After weeks (months) of tinkering, changing a word and knowing deep down the change did nothing, I did what we all do when we get stuck these days and I asked google. I found this:

A first draft is the beginning of the end. But the end lasts for ever.

Forever is a long time. I feel like I should be seeing a finish line for at least one of these drafts but instead it is like I just got off the plane at the foot of the Andes, and now I have to actually climb the bloody mountains. All of them. Do I restructure? Change the tense? (If you have ever changed the tense of more than a page, you will know what an intimidating thought that is.) Will it actually be better if I drastically change it or am I so tired that anything different will seem fresh and interesting? Do I just throw in the towel and start something else from scratch, something that might be good enough with only one draft? In the words of Mr Bernard Black, don’t make me laugh bitterly.

The worst thing, by far, is that there is nothing for it but to keep going, at a snail’s pace, with lots of cursing and wine, with the knowledge that even if the end comes it might not really be the end, there might be another eight-hundred drafts behind it, and the constant toddler-like foot-stamping changes nothing. This is it, and you better believe it just keeps going.

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At least there’s Bernard.