Friday, 7 August 2015

The glow on the horizon

It's there - right there, like a shimmering glow. A point in the distance surrounded by a golden halo lighting the sky ... the glow on the horizon.

For me, it's the end of the book I'm currently writing.

Now, before I get too carried away, this is, as yet, only the first draft, of what will be many, many drafts, and one or two more for good measure.

Or to put it into greater perspective, I have written roughly 130,000 words. The process that works for me is to write around 200,000 words, then pull it back, tighten the language and kill a few darlings. The finished, published product will be around 140,000 words.

So to be at 130k is exciting, I'm more than half way; not only do I know there's a horizon out there in the distant reaches of prose and punctuation, but I can see it ... I can see the glow!

The first draft of a novel is always, for me, a very spasmodic process - lots of stalls, rethinks, research and oh that's not going to works.

That's probably the first 20 - 50k words, while I'm still bedding down the plot and getting to know my characters.

And they're still trying to get to know me too - they don't fully reveal themselves until we've known each other at least 50 - 70k and then suddenly - whoosh! They're there with all their human loves and hates, grievances and desires.

Once they've truly begun to show themselves, we can get down to the nitty gritty of working together. And suddenly it all begins to flow.

That's why I go through so many drafts - because once the characters have established themselves, I like to go back in and round them off so they are full-bodied, all-singing, all-dancing stars of their show.

For the last couple of months, that's exactly where I've been. Unfortunately, the hours which I can devote purely to writing my book are limited due to my day job - I write technical documents for large organisations, and currently I'm working four days a week doing that.

But that leaves the weekend and Mondays - three days - for my book. Last weekend Stuart and I went to Cobram to visit his parents. Cobram is a great little town on the border of Victoria and New South Wales. It is about four hours by car from our place in Mornington.

Take eight hours out of my precious writing time and I'm ready to chew my hand down to a bloody stump. But this particular weekend I hit on a brilliant idea - and I mean brilliant!!

I have a lap desk - you might have seen them in office supply shops. It's this proper desk that rests on your lap and is big enough to hold a laptop computer and mouse, with space on the side for a block of chocolate. I used to use it occasionally in my office at home sitting on a fit ball - not necessary now I have my standing workstation - but don't get me started on that because I love it!

Anyway, so there I was, four hours straight on Saturday, working in the car while Stu drove, and four hours straight on Sunday on the return visit. And what bliss! I was in heaven.

I could write and write and write, productive time, that was not interrupted by phones ringing or cats pleading for attention or washing to be hung on the line. The time was all about me and my gang of characters.

Road trips will never be the same again.

And that's when I saw it. I looked up from my screen, and there, framed by the Australian bush, at the end of a long stretch of Hume Highway, was that ethereal, long awaited glow.

The end is in sight, dear friends and fans of Torn and Inviolate!

Once this first draft is complete, the hard work is done and the shaping and refining begins - along with a writer's typical doubts and insecurities: What if it's terrible? What if no one likes it? What if the publisher hates it What if I hate it!!!!???? 

Oh god what am I doing????

I'm writing a book, and that glow on the horizon could be fireworks!

Or it could be my credibility exploding and slowly sinking beneath the earth's crust, never to be seen again.

Until next week look for your personal horizon ... if there's no glow, plan something exciting.

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