Writing a novel is hard. Have I mentioned this? Writing a novel is like running up a mountain of razor blades in an Antarctic blizzard while wearing high-cut Richard Simmons shorts and a pair of barefoot toe-shoes.
I was reminded of this particular brand of anguish these last couple of months. See, back in the summer, when I was younger and happier and the birds sang more sweetly, and my house hadn’t yet begun leaking and needing $87,452 in repairs, yes, back in those halcyon days, I sat down and wrote the first 70 pages of a new novel.
It was an innocent time, and the words flowed like honey, like an Iggy Azalea song really, and my potential publisher was encouraging about the direction of the project. Not so encouraging that they offered me a book contract. It was far too early for that. Still, they were warmly supportive, and they offered lots of feedback and guidance, which is, frankly, more than I deserve.
Anyway. I asked this esteemed publisher a very important question. If they did, potentially, one day, wind up publishing the book, when might it theoretically appear in book stores?
Potentially next fall, came the answer.
And if that were to happen, I went on, when would you need the full manuscript?
The publisher sat me down on a comfortable chair, and then said one word: Christmas.
NOTE: At that time of this conversation, Christmas was 58 days away. The novel was not even half written.
No problem, I said.
Seriously? the publisher said.
No problem, I repeated. I work best with a deadline.
So it began. I had 58 days to write half a novel. I determined that I would somehow accomplish this, in spite of having a full-time job and (more importantly) a full-time relationship.
NOTE: If you harbour any dreams of becoming a writer, you may want to STOP READING THIS BLOG NOW. The following journal entries detail some personal thoughts from the 58 most exhausting, most infuriating, most miserable and most euphoric days of my life.
9 November: Wrote all weekend. Like, every single moment from Friday night until now. Every 20 minutes my opinion of the book changed. It’s awesome! It’s a crap sandwich! It’s awesome! It’s a crap sandwich!
I hate the names of all my characters. I want to change them. Possible new names: Paz, Kap, Coley, Philly, Saba, Sab, Constant, Paquette, Skyforce (a dog)
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20 November: Ermagherd it’s cold. I have to work upstairs because the main floor of this doofusy house is so frigid. I just sent chapters 10-14 to my trusted reader. Just to see if I’m on the right track. The novel is currently 113 pages, 33000 words. I just need to write another 20,000 words, or roughly 80 pages, in the next 35 days.
* * *
28 November: I heard back from my trusted reader. She had questions about the floating island section of the novel. Not questions. Problems. Yes, I think it’s fair to say she had problems with that section of the book. Basically, she was confused by the time-stopping business. She didn’t understand how it works. Admittedly, I’m not sure how it works either. I’m an artist, not a physicist. I’ve been putting off dealing with the mechanics of this issue.
Anyway, I read her email a few times, and then I threw a bunch of plates on the ground, and then I phoned Jian Ghomeshi and hung up on him (that’ll teach him!), and then I did some quick brainstorming, and came up with a handful of elegant solutions.
I called my trusted reader and told her that I agreed with everything in her note.
I need to make some hard decisions, I said.
I do not need those glimmer lines, I said.
Finn does not need to be parachuted into some alternate reality when he’s already in a perfectly good alternate reality, I said.
Why pile complication upon complication, I said?
Why give Finn X-Ray vision when normal vision will do?
I need to simplify, I said.
I’m going now, I said. I need to write.
30 November: Drove out to the Dundas Valley today. Ran 33k on trails under gorgeous blue skies. I should have spent the day writing, but I needed this, needed to drop a pain bomb on my quads and glutes and calves. One needs to live.
The valley was more beautiful than I’d remembered. I ran for nearly four hours, up and down zillions of hills. I barely even felt them. I can’t account for this. I haven’t done much training lately.
When I got home, I felt inspired, and hammered out 4000 words. A few of them were good words too. I figure that, for every page that gets published in a book, I need to write 20 pages of crap. It’s a 20: 1 ratio; like maple syrup. Therefore, a 200 page novel actually requires 4000 pages of writing.
Here’s a thought:
With running, success comes from mileage. That is to say, if you bank enough miles, you’ll run a fast race.
I think the same is true of writing. If you read enough good books, and write enough words, eventually you’ll compose something of value.
I’ve booked the week after next off work entirely. I’m going to run away to the cabin by myself and write for 9 days straight.
Hey, new Tove Lo song!
MORE TO COME