I’m starting to wonder if the first draft of this novel is ever going to be finished. To say that progress is going at a snails pace would be an insult to snails. In a previous post I predicted that the novel would end up overshooting 150,000 words. Well we’re a fair way beyond that and still the finishing line shimmers in the distance and each step closer turns out be a mirage.
It’s extraordinary, in a way. A common fear that puts many people off trying to write a novel is a lack of confidence that they can produce the requisite number of words. You can say it’s a word at a time, and everyone starts with a blank page, but it’s easy to believe that the great writers can reel off a book without too much trouble while the rest of us struggle to remember how to structure a passable sentence, let alone a paragraph. Indeed, I used to have this fear. Part of the reason I wrote my first novel in my early twenties was to prove that I could have the discipline to sit down every day and and write, and not be overawed by the dreaded word count.
Now though, I seem to have gone to the opposite extreme. I can’t fucking stop. This is not to say that I’m not afflicted with self-doubt and paranoia and is this all just a waste of time syndrome, because those foibles speak louder than ever. But thinking 80,000 words was a daunting prospect? Well those days are over, my friend. 80,000 words seems nice and cosy and comfortable. 500 words a day and you’re there in less than six months. That would be lovely. In a couple of weeks time I will have been working on this for a year and written over double that. And at risk of getting it totally wrong again, I could be looking at 200,000 words on completion. Which would run to about an 800 page paperback. That makes Tolstoy look concise. I’m quite embarrassed by it, genuinely. It’s absurd. I’m in new territory, alright. A whole different universe. 200,000 words that will probably only be read by a handful of people. I’ll probably break my arm just carrying a copy of the manuscript around.
So how did it get this way? I really don’t know. I think it’s fear, as most things are when deep in a first draft. Maybe I’ve lost the ability to construct a concise sentence. Or be able to show emotion with a look or a line of dialogue rather than reams of obvious exposition. Simply, that I’ve lost my touch. That whatever tiny spark of competency I had has been swallowed up by pretentious waffling. But now I’m hacking through the jungle, it’s persevere or be consumed by the shadows. I just hope that the daylight will break through soon.