Monday, March 19, 2007

700 More Words

I added 700 more words to my novel today: the first page and a half of Chapter 10.

I don't really like thinking of my novel progress in terms of "words written." My drafts tend to be long and rambling; with revision, a 1,000-word piece of my writing can shrink by half. I've estimated that my rough draft will be 100,000 words (this is a number I pretty much pulled out of the air), and that my final document will be more in the neighborhood of 80,000 words. So it doesn't really mean much to me that I've written 38,628 words as of today. It does mean something that I've begun Chapter 10, and that I have a clear idea of the structure of the novel as a whole, and of Chapter 10's specific role in it.

This is hard, though not unexpectedly so. Writing a novel takes a lot of focused effort, and I need to be focused for the long haul. That will have its challenges. The characters seemed so real and vivid at first, and now they've become a part of my psyche. This is good in that I feel like I know them really well and have grown quite fond of most of them; but it's not so good, in that they're not vivid the way they were when I first "met" them. I'm not too worried; I guess the novelty had to start wearing off at some point. (There's a pun in there somewhere.)

I knew this would be a lot of work, and it is. My draft contains 38,628 words, but I've probably written as many or more in my notes, outlines, summaries, character studies, and development of "backstory" that, though it will not show up much in the novel, is still necessary for my understanding of the novel's structure. Also, sometimes I need to do what I call "explorative writing" in a spiral notebook before I work on the actual chapter.

For example, in Chapter 10, the main character is going to deal with grief. The scene will be short, perhaps a page and a half, and more understated than not. But before I write it, I will probably produce several handwritten pages on grief--grief that I've suffered, grief as I've seen others suffer it, and how I imagine I might feel, were I in the main character's situation. I'll think about what I can remember from reading Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and read a few of the "grief scenes" from some of my favorite literary works. I think it really helps to see how Better Writers Than I have done it. Tolstoy, Shakespeare, etc., are the best teachers.

So, I'm off to visit George the Piano for the second time today (we'll be having mini-dates all week), then I'll get back to work on the novel, or at least on my grief notes. My hours are about to increase significantly at the bookstore, and I may be starting a new tech-writing job before long, so these leisurely days for writing will soon be a thing of the past. I need to get as much done on the novel, and with piano, as I can.

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