Monday, February 02, 2009

HERE'S HOW BEING ME WORKS...

Back in May, I sent an email to the agent who was interested in taking on my first novel, saying I was exhausted by the travails of trying to get a publisher, any publisher, to look at the damn thing without getting into a tizzy over the elemets of Aboriginal spirituality and demanding I take it round to all the Aboriginal elders in my State and ask for permission to write about this sort of stuff, or other, equally stupid requirements, and that I just couldn’t face trying to work on it any more, that thought made me physically sick, and I’d rather shelve the whole damn thing and work on my next novel, and that I’d let her know when I was near the end, and that I wanted her to have first look at it as she’d been so good at shepherding me through what had been a horrible experience trying to move on this first book.

Last week, I realized just how long it had been since I sent that email, so I set aside this week to go back and edit the first three chapters of The Corpse-Rat King, so I could send her an email this coming weekend to say “Heya! Remember that promise I made in May? I wasn’t fibbing! This is what I’m doing! Do you like it? Do you? Do ya? Huh? Huh?”

Yesterday, I printed out the firsty twenty-one pages of 1 ½ spaced, Times New Roman 10 point-fonted printout, the format in which I prefer to edit. I stapled it, removed my laptop from my backpack, and replaced it with the crisp, shiny white pages, so that I could lay the WIP aside for the next 5 days and start working on the edits during my lunch hours.

This morning I took my much-lighter backpack, and caught the train to work, as I do every morning. I opened my current book (China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, for those who need to know such things), and began to read.

Exactly three pages later, I blinked, and stared out the window, as that gap in the plot that I’d moved past because I couldn’t quite make it work and needed to keep the narrative going-- the one between the point where Marius is opening the locked cabin on the ship he’s sure contains contraband that the Captain is smuggling out of Borgho City, and the natives of the Dogcrap Archipelago rowing him out, naked and bound, into the ocean and dumping him overboard in twenty feet of water— the one that takes place something like 40 000 words earlier than the chapter I’ve just finished—the one I wasn’t going to work on until I’ve finished the entire narrative and was ready to go back and spakfilla all the gaps I’d left along the way-- came to me in one instant of insight.

And it’s perfect, and elegant, and gracefully twists the following chapters so that Marius’ motivations for continuing his actions are both undermined and reinforced by his change in emotional focus.

And there’s no way I can leave it the month or so until the full narrative is finished. I just don’t work like that. The heat will be gone, and the words will have dried up, and writing it at that point will be like trying to suck spit from a corpse. So I have to do it now, or lose all that elegance and fire that will make this section work it’s pert little arse off for the narrative. Which means I have to put the edits away, and hope that the agent in question is just another week more forgiving, and hasn’t decided to forget I exist and move on to other, more dependable newbies.

Shit. Fucking shitting shit.

4 comments:

Carol Ryles said...

But still....writing while the muse is on fire is just the most satisfying way to write. Enjoy it. I'll reckon the wait will be worth it!!! Woohooo!!!!

How do ya like Perdido so far?

Stephen Dedman said...

Looking back at my own work, I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that the longer I take to write a novel, the less satisfied I'm going to be with the end result. If a first draft isn't finished within a year, it possibly shouldn't be.

YMMV, of course.

Lee Battersby... said...

Carol: Perdido took about 250 pages to get anywhere near the point, and I only stuck with it that long because it was Mieville and I was hoping the payoff would be worth it. If it was anybody else, I wouldn't have bothered.

Of course, at page 251 it suddenly became astonishing and incendiary and all that Mieville stuff that does make the payoff worth it, so I'm grooving along very nicely, now :)

Stephen: As long as I'm working, I'm happy. It's only afterwards that the misery sets in. What's YMMV mean, btw?

SarahP said...

Your mileage may vary