Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Open Road

Back in early October, I set myself the goal of completing the first draft of my novel by 19 December. That day is under 48 hours away and I am not yet in sight of the end, but I still feel pretty happy with what I've achieved recently:
  • Winner of National Novel Writing Month - joining the thousands who completed 50,000 words in the month of November.

  • Developed a much more structured and disciplined writing practice.

  • Passed 200,000 words on my first draft.

Two hundred thousand words is a hell of a lot of writing (and waffle) and by my calculations, that makes me 80% of the way there. I'm expecting the last twenty percent to be completed quite quickly, anticipating that rush at the end that many authors talk about, when everything starts to come together, when the finish line is in sight and where I will be bounding out of bed in the mornings into my study, eager to keep cracking on with it. I haven't reached that stage yet, but I have caught glimpses of it, especially as I am now thinking a lot more about how to end this book.

Mark Billingham uses the analogy of driving through fog when talking about writing and plotting a book. He knows his destination but doesn't know how he will get there. He can only see into the fog as far as the reach of the headlights. The rest is unknown.

My approach to writing is similar, although, for this first novel, I do have a map. The fog is still there but I know pretty much the route I am taking. However, I still find the writing difficult. To take the analogy one step further, firing myself up to sit down and start typing is like starting a car engine on a cold morning, taking numerous attempts before it roars to life. Even with a map, the first few miles are sluggish, as if I know where I am going but I am stuck in slow moving traffic. I become bored and distracted and wonder whether it's worth making the trip at all. Then I see a gap in the traffic and I take it and end up on an empty freeway, with nothing hindering my progress, not even fog. I step on the accelerator and push the car to its limits, speeding along that empty road. That is the moment I really enjoy and I hope, as I approach the end of my journey, that the speed and exhilaration continues.

In other news, Borders booksellers in America have signed a deal with pubilsher HarperStudio that no longer allows the retailer to return unsold books back to the publisher. My first thought was that retailers would order a lot less books and steer clear from unknown and untested authors in order to reduce the risk of being stuck with unwanted stock. This would be bad news for authors all round. Sandra Ruttan, however, takes a more optimistic and informed view here.

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