My novel: not going so well. I’ve been writing diligently, but I’ve hit a problem, and the biggest problem yet at that. I’m having to consider whether I should throw it all away and start again.
Broadly, my initial plan was for a novel between 90k and 120k, with the knowledge that it would end up nearer the higher total, and maybe nearer 150k. I think I’m now around 60k in, and to say that I’ve written a third of it would be optimistic. It may be closer to a quarter of it, if that. So instead of 90-120k, I’m looking in the 180-240k region – and being realistic let’s say 200-250k.
Why is this happening? Well, partly it’s bloated writing. I’m happy about that. I can go back and pare it back once I’ve a better idea of what has to be where. But partly it’s because my view of the novel is in flux.
The novel has a fairly simple structure, so my initial thought was: tight, brisk, get it all over with before too long. Go on to something else. [And remember, I’m probably going to rewrite most of it before I’m happy with it anyway]. In practice, however, I find myself going a lot more slowly. A few days ago, I wrote a chapter where, literally, nothing happened. Arapho sat on a bench and thought about things, and the narrator opined. This all takes space.
So, naturally, my instinct, on realising that this is what’s happening, is to pare it down, and probably even start again. Get rid of subplots, get rid of this idea of trying to flesh out side characters, get rid of a lot of introspection and reflection.
My second thought, however, is: then what’s the point of it? The structure is… unusual… but not so unusual it’s meritorious on its own. The plot, given that structure, is straightfoward. It looks as though its set in a genre, and not even a genre I know about. [For those who haven’t been following: it starts out looking like a detective novel or conspiracy story (which I don’t know much about), but the whodunnit is resolved halfway through, making it more a whattodoaboutit]. The three virtues it could potentially have are its character studies, its setting, and its themes. Paring it back would mean cutting a lot of the character study, which might well make the plot stop making sense. It makes it harder to show setting, and makes the themes less clear. So I shouldn’t cut.
But then I thing: you can’t write well, so you think that you can say something meaningful simply by throwing words at it. That doesn’t make it more meaningful, it just makes it turgid. And backing up that thought I think: I know you SAY you’ve no intention of even trying to publish, but how much is that just a tool to let you get through this without worrying to much about editing, and how much is actually real? Because a 250k character study in a weird setting, disguised as a whodunnit that has little mystery and that doesn’t even observe the traditions of whodunnits, will never get sold to anyone, even if you magically turn into the reincanations of Wilde, Tolkien, Borges and Conrad all rolled into one.
And I also think: if I had stuck to making this 90k, I would be 2/3rds through it by now. If I go ahead as it is, it will take me years at this rate… and I do, you know, have to get a proper job very soon and things.
Soooo…. I don’t know. I’ve taken today away from it, and tomorrow I’m going to look over it and try to see how much I could fit into a shorter book and what would have to be dropped, and whether it would be worth it.
EDIT: well, for some reason I can’t quite fathom today has been the busiest day ever for my blog. I say I can’t fathom it because although I know I’ve recently started posting at a board I’ve been lurking at for ages, that didn’t get me a big visitor-count yesterday, only today… and relatively few of my visitors have actually come from the link in my sig there anyway, apparently. Mostly it’s people reading about deixis – and that’s been there since Saturday.
Ah well. Thanks for reading, all you silent secret people. The mysterious of blog stats are truly inscrutable.