Monday, February 4, 2008

Phew! That's over then....

It's February, isn't it? I'm not entirely sure where the last three months went, but they've certainly gone. I blame all this on the fact that Christmastide coincided with an avanlanche of family visits. These started in November and ended mid-January, and all this means that life is only just starting to settle into its equilibrium. And life, of course, means the novel.

I actually got a fair amount of work done when they were here, but only in short bursts, and as soon as they left I got to get straight back to work, working full days and nights, and have been buried under drafts ever since.

People often ask me how to write novels, but I have no idea how to write, although I know alot more than I used to. I can tell you however, how I wrote each of my own novels: and they're all as different as children. Having written two novels I thought I knew something about how this one would go, but it's coming out in quite a different way from all the others - just proving the point that there are a hundred ways to reach the same destination.

But there are a few things that unify my novels:
  • My first chapters inspire me throughout the rest of the book
  • I have a strong sense of what I want the book to be: and when I'm far far out to sea, this is the light by which I navigate
  • Confidence: there is nothing as valuable as having confidence in what you're writing, and it's a hard thing to get when it's not there. This is especially hard when you're writing about a time and place you're not familiar with, which is what I'm doing. But a couple of years into researching and writing this novel, I feel I'm starting to get my confidence about my work and it feels great to come at my draft and decide what stays in and what goes
When I started work again this year I had about 80,000 words, and had only got about 2/3 through the book. This was clearly too long, and I'm currently going through the novel something like a dot the dot exercise, leaping to the critical scenes and cutting out the bits between. This is making a much tighter and more confident reading. So far it looks as though I will cut about 20,000 words from that when I finish the draft.

One of the reasons that this novel is quite different to the others is that I know what the second half of the book will be like, and paused 2/3 of the way through to assess if I had enough characters to get me through this second half. The first time I got there I was well short. About 7 drafts have followed, and as soon as that 2/3s was working as a group and got me to the point I wanted to be at, then I've started cutting it to retain the best writing.

Novels have long planning times, and most of March I am going to be attending lit fests across China, so March will be a bit of a miss. My aim is to get this draft finished and then start drawing up detailed plans for the last part of the book. I'm always impressed with the way Desperate Housewives delivers their stories: they're bold and confident - and I rarely plot my novels much, but this time I'm going to try and plot the last chapter out much more closely. It'll be interesting to see how it works, but I'd like to try and treat each chapter like a poem: so that it's intense and concentrate.

Well, I'll let you know how it goes.

No comments: