How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How do you write a novel? By redrafting until you want to hurl it at the wall. Writing the Wish Bone is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Compared to childbirth or nursing my daughter through cancer this may seem ridiculous, but at the moment it feels like I’m wrestling with daemons inside myself, an inner psychic drama.
Like Caroline in my book who shreds her husband’s trousers I want to attack it with a large pair of scissors. Why this anger?
I endured a major critique on my novel today, from a writer I respect, and I’m still reeling from the implications, hence why I feel so violent towards it, (or should I say I feel violent towards my lack of ability to be as good a writer as I aspire to be.) Like stamping my feet in the playground I feel like shouting ‘f off’ and marching away defiantly. But ripping the whole thing up would be self-harm and petulance. The alternative is more hard slog. The patient nuturing of the thing until it breathes with a steady, powerful heart, that it lives as fully as it can.
|I was aiming to finish editing this year. If I have to do another major redraft it will take another age to reach the end. I want to move on to other writing projects. But when you’re redrafting 80,000 words that’s not going to happen quickly.
All I know is that the book needs to get finished. It’s been four years. Four years of ignoring my friends inviations on walks, gatherings, four years of solitude, the persuit of this thing rather than relationships. I’ve nurtured, re-written, re-drafted, worried at it, it’s been cossetted, debated and kicked, by myself and generous souls in writing groups, until I’m sick of the doing of it.
The issue now is gathering the strength for another major edit, and once that’s done I need to know when to abandon it and when it’s ready to be sent off into the world. You, lucky readers, can see some of my draft novel, and so far, I’ve been getting very good comments, so I could just ignore my friend’s advice, which could be wrong, after all.
My next novel won’t be workshopped chapter by chapter by my writers group. It will be written fast, day after day so the momentum is kept up, with no long gaps where the ideas or narrative thrust have a chance to fade. It will be done at speed so it is one coherent whole. Like Stephen King suggets, in his excellent book, ‘On Writing’, the next book will be written with the door closed at first, written just for myself, and only once the first draft is down will I let others see it.
But back to my dilemma and disappointment. I am committing to writing the best novel I can, and like someone said on Radio 4 this week, you have to fall in love with your own book. I need to work out which of my friend’s critique I agree with and then approach it again, edit it again, until I am satisfied with it, then I can rest easy sending it to an agent knowing that it is the very best I can do.