Book Update: Writing it Anyway
I don’t like talking about a novel in-progress. Talking about it feels like I’m breaking a pair of cardinal rules. For one, I’m doing something that in no way adds more pages to the novel. It also feels like painting the nursery for a newborn in ICU. I have a name picked out, but I dare not speak it for fear of attracting the Reaper’s cold stare.
That said, I’ll cautiously chance an update on the process, as well as a recent revelation.
In my last update, I discussed at length why I’m writing the novel by hand. I have a growing tower of pages sitting in my bookshelf, slumbering with dreams of a red pen. I’m not counting words. I have no idea how many “pages” these pages actually represent. I can speculate that the word count lies somewhere between “a lot” and “enough.”
I typically think of a story in terms of “what’s going to happen next?” where “next” extends no farther than the following paragraph. I recently tried to measure, with a nautical eye, where I stand in the broad scheme of this journey. I’ve read enough stories to objectively judge that I’m about halfway through this novel. The operative word being “about.”
That admission was humbling. I feel great about this story, but I also want to think of it as a whole – not as a pile of paper with as much publishable potential as dog vomit. Maybe I also felt like I was further along. I’m glad that I recognize this fact, because it offers an abstract sense of how I’m going to approach the second half. The story has a leaving and returning, “you can never go home again” sort of tone that plays out against my original intentions. It took me considering the story in broad terms to figure that out.
I can say with certainty that I’m writing a different novel than the one I set out to write. Plenty of the early pages will have to evolve or perish to fit the story’s needs. Entire conflicts, that seemed critical at the time, are no longer blips on the radar.
On a more optimistic note, I can admit that I’m excited about the world I’m cobbling together – the things I know, and the things I don’t. I’m also assembling a “story bible,” a repository of facts and events that keep pace with the story’s evolution. I recently described my world to a writer friend. For me, this typically goes as well as describing my internal organs. I managed to not make a mess of it. I managed to sound like I had my shit together.
I’m frustrated, I’m overwhelmed, and I don’t feel remotely qualified to write this book. None of that will stop me from doing it anyway.
I came across this quote attributed to a couple of sources, so I won’t say for certain who owns it. These words have represented the “permission” I give myself to continue this project:
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”