This is the penultimate post in the blog-as-I-write-a-novel series I started back in January. I’ve written twenty posts on the subject so far, and I’m nearly at the end of the first draft. Output’s dipped over the past few weeks (I’d make excuses but they’d all be feeble). However, I’m ramping up again now for the final push.
When I do reach the end, I plan to stop blogging about this particular project, for a while a least. That won’t mean I’m done. Far from it. It’ll just mean the hard work of rewriting is about to begin. To keep properly focused on that critical stage, I’ve decided to maintain radio silence.
As I approach the end, I’m reminded of a quote I read years ago and haven’t been able to find since. If you know where it comes from, do tell me. It goes something like this: ‘You set out with the intention of writing the best novel ever written, and end up desperate just to finish the damn thing.’
In my experience, that’s not so far from the truth. As with most artistic endeavours, the best part is just before you begin, when anything seems possible. The novel stands tall in your mind’s eye in all its imagined splendour, as perfectly proportioned as Leonardo daVinci’s Vitruvian man. After agonising months spent trying to turn that fantasy into reality, the first draft resembles Frankenstein’s monster. That’s not all bad. It’s got arms and legs. It walks and talks (well, grunts). It’s alive, goddammit. It just doesn’t look very pretty.
That’s why the rewriting is the hardest part, and why most writers never show us their first drafts. There are prodigies out there, I suppose, from whom flawless narrative emerges fully formed, like a Persian rug from the loom. The rest of us have to face the monsters we’ve created and try to tame them into submission.
I should make it clear that actually I love the rewriting process. The story’s in place. I’ve got a beginning, a middle and an end … possibly even in the right order. And here’s the best part: I get to learn all over again that words are made of clay. Once you’ve thrown your story roughly down on the slab, you can start to mould it into something resembling that old Vitruvian man. You can take all those parts you so crudely stitched together and smooth out the seams. The end result won’t be without scars (is there anything worthwhile in life that is?) but if you’re lucky your creation will do more than just lurch about the lab. It’ll open its arms and sing.
All that’s still some way off. I’ve got maybe six more chapters to write before I can call the first draft of The Dragons of Bloodrock finished. The reason it sounds like I’m signing off now is that I want to get that part out of the way. Those of you who have patiently tracked my progress here don’t want all this introspective nonsense, do you? You want hints and spoilers and, just maybe, an extract or two. If you’re lucky, in a month or so, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Until then, I’ll be continuing to write. And blog, of course. Just because Bloodrock is moving into the next phase doesn’t mean I don’t have other projects on the go. There’s one in particular I hope to be reporting on in the near future, fingers crossed. I also have another 43 issues of Cinefex to review before I hit my self-appointed target of 50. So I’m afraid you don’t get rid of me that easily.
Remembering that quote I used earlier reminded me in turn of something the late, great Douglas Adams said about the way he wrote. The process, he remarked, was mostly about avoiding deadlines, and the best way to do that was to take a bath. I’m right with you, Douglas. In fact, I must go and turn the water off before the tub overflows. Now where did I put that rubber duck?