That title is, or course, based on the paradox of Achilles never being able to catch up with the pondering tortoise. Which is a pretty apt metaphor for the never-ending state of my still untitled, third novel.
As you will know from the plethora of posts I have made on this subject, this novel has turned into something of a behemoth. Deadlines have been trampled on, any attempt to reign in the characters a bit has been firmly resisted, and the whole thing has turned into what might be called with some understatement, a bit of a mess.
For the trouble is, when I feel I’m about to hit the last yards and ready myself to breach the tape, something happens and the line moves a little further off. I don’t want this to happen. The over 200,000 words already written are unwieldy enough as it is. I worry constantly about keeping all the strands coherent and realistic. I’m certain there’s continuity errors piling up by the hundreds. And behind it all, a great fear that the whole project will turn out to be a waste of time.
How so, you might say. It’s a big achievement, writing that much. I guess it is. But what will come of it? A difficult re-write which will show up all the deficiencies, then probably a couple of rounds of rejections, than thrown in the online dustbin never to be seen again. And I’ve garnered less enjoyment of it than my previous novel. I remember smashing out the last 5,000 words of that in a single afternoon, and that was the closest I’ve ever felt to the sheer magic of it, when there really is a muse fluttering on your shoulder and whispering sweet nothings in your ear. That feeling has been sadly extinct this time around. And my output has never got anywhere near those dizzy heights. Hence the interminable slog, and the finish line always out of reach.
I realise this all sounds horribly whiny and self-indulgent, and I can only hold my hands up. It does. I wish I felt more positive about the whole thing, rather than allow myself to become frustrated. Writing is like any other job, and most days in any career can be pretty ordinary. You have to show up and get your head down, regardless of how you feel. The work may be tentative and flat, but at least it’s there. It would be nice to be swept away by it every once in a while, though. Because if that did happen more often, I might be able to smash the paradox and leave the tortoise trailing in my wake.