A lot of writers talk about how novels are ‘like a marathon’, but what I don’t often hear them say, is just how long novels can be with us. (And I’m ignoring here the ones that hang about for a decade or more!)
Now, I know a lot of novelists will get through a first draft in weeks and then maybe the edits also in weeks, so that they output multiple novels a year. Most writers I know, though, don’t get through them so fast – particularly not writers who have full time jobs.
Many of my projects span years. I’ll do a draft zero one year. I’ll do a first draft another. I might do second and third drafts in a single year because that is redrafting from feedback. As a result three or four years isn’t an uncommon lifespan.
It’s so common when I remember the year I started a project that it’s been five, or six years that I’ve started to think in “novel time”. I think it’s a bit like geological time, but for novels. (It feels like geological time compared to most things in my life!)
Of course, I also multiproject, so while I’m not working on one thing, I’m working on something else and all these projects end up overlapping.
Interestingly, I figured out that I’ve done seven scratch drafts, four first drafts, two second drafts, and two final drafts in the past five years, with a few third/fourth drafts along the way. From a productivity standpoint I’m fine with that.
And while I’m doing numbers (at least I didn’t spreadsheet it!) that’s about 541,000 new words including my screenplay. There’s no sensible way to work out the edits. Probably a good thing!
Blurty – which I am currently proofreading – was never intended to be part of a series. Now it is!
Or I should say, it’s on the way to being so, as I’m currently working away on a sequel. It’s probably more fun than it should be getting back into the world of Blurty and I gotta say, I’m enjoying it immensely.
After picking at a start, on and off for quite a while, the past month has seen work commence properly and we’re now at 10K. Writing daemon is feeling very pleased with himself.
It’s also the first time I’ve truly multi-project-ed for a while. Blurty’s Sister (as I’m going to refer to it) is running in parallel to continued work on Indestructible (as this year’s other new novel is called). I’m flipping between them effortlessly, which is nice.
Just to mix it up, I also re-read PAR again! Mind you that’s so a friend and I can project swap for some unusually early draft feedback. I do need to take out some notes-to-self from the text before I inflict it on someone else…
I have had a productive winter.
I’ve been resisting the Poldark TV series. While I like period dramas this one sounded more like a melodrama so I held off on the watching. Finally – maybe inevitably – I caved. It’s a period soap, but Poldark manages to skirt the edge of melodrama very elegantly.
Which got me curious about the books the series is based on, and a trip to the library followed. Well… It was such a strange book (Ross Poldark, by Winston Graham) without a plot, with a lot of characters and a very odd structure.
Does Ross change in the course of the book? No. Should someone else be the protagonist? Maybe.
Was it an enjoyable read? Yes. Which is the benefit of having a lot of characters and a lot of life happening to all of them. It just might have been better for having an actual plot. I found that weird.
They eked out a bit of plot for the series. Thankfully.
I only realised today that I didn’t actually post about the most exciting writing thing for the start of the year… A new novel! Yes, I saw in the new year with a new novel sized idea.
It isn’t gushing like Blurty or PAR, but I’m doing that deliberately so I don’t aggravate my shoulder, which was bugging me at the end of 2018 a bit. Slowing myself doesn’t seem to be hurting the process – I’m nearly 27K in already!
Another sci-fi, but lower on the sci this time, it’s essentially a futuristic gangster story. Writing daemon is very pleased, and I’m having a lot of fun in my usual “pantser” fashion.
The other writing-y thing of recent weeks (in fact, in time to welcome the Year of the Pig) was that I re-read PAR after, what, 10 months maybe of drawer time? That was interesting. The early chapters are a bit sucky – “was I drunk when I wrote these sentences?”- but the rest was a blast to read! Given it’s due another two drafts before it’s done, I’m not at all unhappy with that.
Not that I’ll head back to PAR until the new project is well underway – maybe even at 1st draft – but it’s nice to think on it while I wait. Speaking of the new project… it needs a moniker. Can’t call it “new project” forever… hmm… the “not very sci-fi”… the “ganster-sci”… still working on it.
I have a soft-spot for Mr Chandler because he does a few things very well:
- He takes two stories and makes them relevant to each other over the course of each book (sometimes they intertwine and sometimes they only touch right at the end)
- His protagonist (private detective Philip Marlowe) is not always too bright, but believably pig-headed and well intentioned
It is sometimes hard to ignore the eye-watering racism of his character descriptions, but these are books from the 1940s so you are either going to roll with it, or not read them I guess!
The magic for me with Chandler’s writing is that, in Marlowe’s voice, the world is all metaphor:
- The man in the back seat made a sudden flashing movement that I sensed rather than saw. A pool of darkness opened at my feet and was far, far deeper than the blackest night. I dived into it. It had no bottom.
- She reached into her bag and slid a photograph across the desk, a five-by-three glazed still. It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.
- He snorted and hit me in the solar plexus. I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor.
- The minutes went by on tip-toe, with their fingers to their lips.
Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s clever and sometimes it doesn’t quite work, but there’s a rhythm to the text when it is so heavy with metaphor which is easy to slide along with.
The stories are perfect movie fodder, but while I like some of the film versions they can’t give you all the first person narration and that’s where the gold is.
As I mentioned a few posts back, I’ve taken a look recently at the oldest of my novels and – probably inevitably – I am still tweaking. Tweaking turns into… well… editing I guess, but in a very small way. And it has been an absolute blast!
I think I’m almost done. But then I probably think it will take longer than I think. *shrug*
I think I’ve written about this before on Lamellae, but back when I was getting beta reader feedback on my sci-fi novel, one of my readers was dead keen on the idea that I should write short stories showing the background of some of the characters. He was the kind of guy who liked having lots of inter-related bits around a book or movie – like that graphic novel that sits between Firefly and Serenity – so I could see why it appealed to him.
It intrigued me as an idea.
The problem has been that I’ve wanted to work on other worlds, rather than go back into that one. (And the one time I toyed seriously with the idea I couldn’t see those stories at all.) Now I’ve spent time with the novel again, I’m interested to try it and I also think I’ve found what those stories could be.
Haven’t 100% decided to do it yet, but I am thinking of giving it a bash and seeing what happens.