Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Beyond the third




OK, so I boasted last week about how I've reached the 30,000 word mark of my novel; that's half way through for a long novella and over a third way through for an average sized novel. But it's not about filling in pages with words. It's how long it takes to tell your tale. When I was writing my thesis and I asked my supervisor how long a chapter should be, he would always answer, "how long is a piece of string?" which is not very original nor helpful but he was of that age, a grammar school student of the 1950s, where there is an idiom for every occasion. I found it more useful when I would say, "is my writing style a little clumsy?" and he would say, "don't worry, it's not the nobel peace prize. It's just a PhD." Apparently all supervisors say that to their supervisees. And now I'm supervising someone's PhD myself, maybe I should start saying it too. He is a rather worrysome student, I have to say - but I can relate to that. Anyhow, a novel is not a nobel peace prize either. But perhaps it's a little closer in that direction. You can convey many messages with fiction and you can convey them subtley or latently and without having to constantly falsify or verify them. And at the same time, you can imply them beautifully. And this is not about systematic chapter structuring, culminating in a neat and decisive conclusion. (Or is it?) I've decided I've got to focus on the sentence, on its nuanced formation and thoughtfulness. And so the fact that I've only written 642 words since the 30,000 mark doesn't really matter. What matters more is that they're not very convincing. And so I ask why they are not very convincing?

Well, it could be for the same reason that they're not very abundant and that's because I've been doing a lot of drinking and socialising over the bank holiday. I told myself that it would be good material but, all in all, it's only really worked to dull and numb my thoughts - and not in the way which encourages an active flow of unconsciousness to govern the page. It's in a way that now I actually have a few hundred less brain cells with which to work. There's also the post hangover panic thing. I'm wondering how my story is going to pan out. I do have a plan - as people seem to enjoy asking - but it's vague and I do rely a lot on unravelling. It unravels as it's written. Sometimes new characters crop up, unexpectedly, and navigate a strand of the narrative for a while, and it's actually quite a delight. I wrote every story, essay and dissertation the same way. My thoughts don't seem to evolve in the format of a detailed plan, they only filter through via the creative process of telling the tale itself, tapping the twists and turns as they unfold. But I'm concerned that one day they'll come to a standstill. Does anyone have any tips? Did writing the novel get harder or easier after the first third? If it gets harder is that a bad sign?

I just watched Derek Acorah for inspiration. Inspiration of sorts. I'm going to go swimming and hope that some of my brain cells grow back due to the gesture of healthiness. This paragraph is looking a little short. I noticed earlier when I was writing an email that my paragraph construction was failing its mission. Sometimes I just don't think in paragraphs. They don't always serve their purpose. la la la la la la la la la bit more to go la la la la la la la la nearly there I think la la la la la la la la there, that'll do.

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