I am exactly halfway through my current project — I have two projects demanding attention — and I need to write something about it for posterity.
I completed Version IV of “2011” last October after some heavy summer slogging. It is a curious process, writing a novel. For each scene I read, edit, and repeat until happy, then move on to the next scene. It’s the happy part that is curious. Each pass through when I re-read a scene after much time away, I think, “My Jesus you suck, John. You write like a middle schooler.” But of course I see the errors of my ways and correct them.
This process has happened without fail. Well, there have been some temporary failures. I’ve read scenes and been happy enough to make only minor changes. I’ve never glowed with delight after reading them, well, I lie. Yes I have. But eventually I come back and return to the John-is-a-shitty-writer realization.
Sometime during last summer and fall’s edit, I recall hitting a point where I said, “You need to write like this: this is your structure, your style, and your voice.” So I changed. This January/February I read Bell’s Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure and Wood’s How Fiction Works, two fairly advanced writing-craft books. As I worked through them, I almost continually remarked, “This is how I write; this is what I do; I know this stuff.” I have felt totally confident in my writing since I finished both. This week I hit that point in my novel I had reached last edit. I have edited about six scenes in a row where my re-reads excited me.
Of course I am editing; which means changing some things. I needed to build the threat of conspiracy, so I have been weaving that in. I have also enhanced some of the goings-on with gesture, tighter dialogue, and cutting some of the excess. There is always excess in my writing.
The 40% prior to this week, February to end of April, has been a struggle. I have used the big knives for this one. This has been the grand sacrifice of virgins and wayward travellers. I have killed so many darlings, I just about need mass graves. And I have invested much time in transience. I’ve walked, sat in coffee shops and played AlphaBetty, chatted with Tina and Bill, written poetry (see my PAD posts), and tinkered with many things not “2011” related. Yet about once a week I’ve received epiphanies. I have fed my Muses with thoughts and troubles, and I have given them long leashes. I think they have delivered. I’ve been able to pare this thing down to a level of tightness I currently feel pretty happy with.
My current word count is 125,500 down from 133,500. I’ve cut 8,000 words from the first half of this novel. Yeah. I do see some more cuts, maybe, but there are no scenes dangling in front of me like there were in the first half. I have only 1/2 a scene to cut and maybe a whole one, but I’ll decide when I get there.
This may seem like a large word count, especially if you are an agent or publisher wanting to give me a large contract, emphasis on large, but the story demands it. Seriously, it does. I won’t say much, but it is a cross-country journey. If you’ve ever travelled Canada, you know you can’t do it quickly. You know you can’t do it justice in 70k or 105k words. 145k feels right to me, but my editing skills are so good, I am now well below that. BFG 😉
So I’ve come full circle again, and this time it feels good. This time it feels very good and very right. Every day I am laughing and crying, and it’s at my work, my story, my characters. I sure hope I can get it ready sooner than later. Canada and maybe the world need to read this story 🙂