I’m about 25k into my next novel, I expect the first draft to come in around 140k*. It’s taken me about a month to get this far, for someone who was banging out whole first drafts in 8 weeks** only a year or two ago this is kind of appalling.
You know how it is: you take an interesting day-job because you can’t bear boredom; your commute is a massive time sink; your life doesn’t stand still just because you write; you stop submitting because there’s not enough time to look at the markets because your free time is inexplicably shrinking and so you need to focus on writing; writing has ceased to be composition and has become endlessly editing because – dammit – you know how many other people are submitting and you’ve got to be better; friends stop asking how the writing is going because it’s gotten “awkward”. Pretty soon it’s easier to just flump out in front of the telly rather than reach for the keyboard.
This week the cold kipper of realisation struck and I feel a bit like I’ve emerged from some kind of waking coma: confused as to how I got here; a bit shaken and with the slight odour of fish hanging in the air. I may have overextended on that. To clarify: I realise that I am slipping into the trap many aspiring writers fall into: ceasing to produce finished new material, endlessly tinkering with existing stories and promising yourself you will send out those manuscripts tomorrow. Tomorrow, naturally, never arrives. I remember a published writer – I forget who – describing this very scenario to me and my reaction of: that won’t be me.
Lest I paint to dire a picture I should point out that I got a damned fine sale this year (due for publication next year) to Murky Depths. It’s a fine publication of discriminating taste and you should subscribe. But: I can’t say I’ve been overworking either my email client or the post office with my submissions since and, frankly, I should be far farther a long with my untitled project. The Scarred God – the first novel I have actually worked into a readable form – sits on my shelf patiently, waiting for me to decide what to do with it. I am letting go, inch by inch.
I have seen the future: and it will not do. Time to make good on those goals I keep posting.
While I am pleased I am writing regularly again, the absence of a deadline is leaving me a bit like a rudderless ship and so I am setting myself a deadline of two months (28th October) to finish the first draft. Moreover, I am ashamed to say I have a complete short story that read very well with my test readers just lying around on my hard drive, as well as a couple of lingering pieces of flash that I’m happy with. I shall be submitting them as soon as possible and for certain before my forthcoming trip to Australia. I still aim to hit my original short story target for this year (including submissions) but in order to do it I need to get at least two done while I am on holiday – probably on the flight to and from. The ideas are there: I just need to step up.
I’ll let you know how I get on.
* That’s possibly a little long for a contemporary fantasy but I’ve learned from previous projects that it’s easier to take out than put in. At least for me.
** 8 weeks produced a 98k novel that had a coherent but pulpy storyline. I opted to file in the complete rewrite pile or trunk-for-now. But you get the point, I hope.