Finally, finally. It’s over. The first draft of my third novel is finally complete. Given how long it’s taken to get here, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would never happen. 462 days. Enough time to sail around the world and go back the other way to make sure you didn’t miss anything. And somehow, 220,000 words have come of it. Readers will know that I’ve been obsessing over the length of this novel for months, and I can believe the final word count less now than ever. I don’t know where it has come from. I’m surprised that I have that much inside I want to express. I’m amazed the characters had so much they wanted to say. I’m less surprised at my capacity for talking bullshit. Somehow it’s all added up to the shambolic mess that makes up my still untitled, third novel.
It’s not even as if I had much to go on. I sat down that cold November afternoon with a vague idea tugging at the back of my mind. It had come from a song lyric. Not one I’m going to reveal, for that would be a plot spoiler, but it planted the smallest of seeds. I did as I always do, started writing with no fully-formed characters, no idea of plot, only the very loosest ideas about what the story was going to be about, and went from there. Writing in what some might call a reckless manner means you run the risk of flailing badly, especially at the beginning. Down little back alleys that lead to nowhere, overwriting, emphasising aspects of character that turn out to be unimportant once the protagonists start to emerge from the shadows, and all that. Only this time these problems seemed to rear their ugly heads throughout. On a virtual daily basis, as it happens. My great fear is that the re-write will bring all these flaws sharply into perspective, and the whole thing might be irretrievable. So in a sense it’s over, but the real work is only just beginning.
It’s safe to say my emotions on having it finished are mixed. I ploughed through the conclusion yesterday, smashing out 4,500 words over the course of an afternoon, but I never felt exhilarated by it. It is as the whole manuscript has been – a battle. I’m relieved that I don’t have to devote hours of my life to it anymore (not for a while anyway) as quite frankly, it has consumed me whole for far too long. I got caught in the snake’s belly, that’s for sure. There’s a certain amount of pride, and a sense of amazement that I have managed to sustain, for good or bad, an output that would run to about 800 pages in paperback. I’ve read many a book of that length and often pondered how the author did it. Well, now I know.
And yes, I do feel a bit sad that I won’t get to write about the characters every day anymore. It’s always a privilege when they let me into their lives (this is genuinely the way I feel it works, no matter how stupid it sounds) and I just try to run and keep up. They surprised me along the way, angered me, and made me laugh. Yeah, it feels bereft without them. Already they are starting to retreat into the distance, but I’ve just got to let them go. They’ve got lives to lead, and so have I. I wish they’d bothered to help me with a title, though. Would have saved me a few nights laying in bed thinking about it.
But the show must go on, as they say. Besides, there are always more tales, right?