Friday, 27 November 2009

Long String Author

How long does it take to write a book?

How long is a piece of string?

Floundering for years trying to teep up with Book in a Month schemes, reduced to a wreck by competitive friends annually hitting the
November Nanowrimo 50,000 words novel target, I have at last realised this is not for me.

Hurrah, my life is now my own. I am in control. No longer in thrall to an excessive daily word count, I shall have time for work, housekeeping, family, friends -- and not in that order. Since when did housekeeping ever loom large in my vocabulary?

I am a longstring author, relieved of all the pressures and guilt caused by setting impossible targets.

As a journalist, I was always a deadline junkie. I write best under pressure. And at the start of my bookish aspirations, I needed to set daily or weekly targets. I needed to think I could complete a book in 30 days or less . A year seemed far too long to invest in one project.

I would be bored. I wanted to see a resuilt. I wanted to hold my book in my hand. Time was ticking on. I could be dead in a year.

I had not taken into account the steep learning curve needed to write a novel or non-fiction book. I read books all the time. What else was there to know?

Quite a lot, actually.

I have now written four manuscripts, all completed, all of which I am heartily ashamed of.

Would I read them?

Yes -- but then I read anything from marmalade labels at breakfast to dire student essays on Lady Macbeth that would leave her demoralised beyond redemption if she only knew.

Would I ask a friend to read my manuscripts? Never.

So why can't I get it right?

I have at last realised that when I wrote to deadlines, I had collected the material, mulled it over and had an angle I knew was right for that particu;lar story. It was an instant snapshot of a situation.

My fast-baked novels cannot work for that very reason. They are a series of snapshots, not a film. The stories are incoherent, the characters inconsistent.

The answer of course lies in the editing --but why edit over and over for months? I could be taking these months to allow the story to evolve in a more leisurely fashion more suited to the way my brain works.

Yesterday I told myself I was just making notes to remind myself of an idea. ( I am one of those people who talk to themselves and play out whole scenes of dialogue as I do the dishes then promptly forget them or else lose interest.)

I wrote two pages which ungummed my boots from the muddy mire in the middle of book five. I switched off the computer, went to work happy and have stayed happy all day. I don't have to write 2000 words a day or even 1000 words a day. I just have to write something that helps my story along.

I may find myself thinking about my book every day but I don't have to switch on my computer every day.

I have to do the living too or else my characters end up as bookish caricatures who have no place in my world or anyone else's.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comment here: