Wow. So, yesterday’s blog post seems to have touched a chord with a lot of readers. I’m glad to have written something which so many people identified with, but also sad that it had to be written – if that makes sense. I wrote yesterday’s post filled with a potent mixture of anger, sorrow and confusion, and I was glad to have the escape of ‘Emmeline’ to take my mind off it. Nothing helps me to refocus better than throwing myself into whatever I’m working on, and getting out of my own head for a while.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to read yesterday’s post about crime rates in Ireland and the parlous state of our small nation; I really hope that, very soon, I’ll be able to write a blog post about how wonderfully we’ve progressed and how Ireland is well on its way to becoming a Utopian dream.
But I’m not going to hold my breath in the meantime.
Anyway, today’s post is back to ‘business as usual’: it’s time to talk about ‘Emmeline’.
Writing continued apace yesterday. In fact, it was a little too apace. I had an upper word limit for this project, which – as of yesterday – was smashed, and I sailed right on through like I hadn’t a care in the world. That upper word limit, for the curious, was 80,000 words. Anything above this – as I’ve learned through bitter, bitter experience – is straying into the realm of No Longer Suitable For Children, apparently (even though I often read longer books than this as a kid, but no matter.) I am not finished with the story yet, though I am almost there; I’d hope that within 5,000 words, I should have it nailed. That means – if the Great Spirit is with me – I’ll have draft 1 done this week.
It also means I’ll have a heckuvalot of edits to do.
But that’s fine. All in good time, and all that.
Something strange occurred to me yesterday: I realised that I have basically pantsed this whole novel. By ‘pantsing’, of course I mean ‘written it without a pre-arranged plot’; I’ve just sat down and copied out whatever the voices in my head told me to, pretty much. Most of it has been made up on the spur of the moment. I haven’t done my usual thing of laboriously working out family trees for each character, and setting out plans getting to the heart of their ‘motivation’; this, I suppose, is a consequence of it being a NaNoWriMo project, in essence. I began it in a burst of inspiration, and it has continued that way. All things considered, I think I’ve done well in getting it to over 80,000 words, with an end in sight. It’s been exhilarating, if a little exhausting and nerve-wracking, particularly in the last few weeks; certainly, it’s exciting to be at the helm of a writing project which feels like it’s steering itself instead of one which feels so hemmed-in by plotting that the life gets pinched out of the story.
Where it may pose a problem, however, is in knocking the whole thing into shape. I’m sure, much like my knitting, that when I look back over the entirety of the project all I’ll see will be loose threads and gaping holes everywhere crying out to be fixed. However, I do feel, as first drafts go, that ‘Emmeline’ is fairly strong; I’ve been lucky, insofar as I’ve been blessed with rounded characters and clear voices, and they help to carry the structure of the book. That doesn’t mean that my work in editing the story will be any less – in fact, I feel the need to do a good job even more keenly, because I love these characters and I’m committed to this book, and I want to do them justice.
As the story stands at the moment, I have eight main characters, all vying for their own ends. Several of them are looking for the same thing; several others are looking to save their own skin. Yet more are determined to save the life of someone they love, whatever the consequences. At stake are Great Things like the fate of the world. The drama in which they are enmeshed is taking place in a frozen wasteland, sprung entirely from my imagination, in which the characters encounter strange creatures and nefarious goings-on and mythical horrors.
Sounds like I have a handle on it, right? Well.
I have a vague, overall idea of what I want to happen, but what I don’t have is a cast-iron plan of ‘Event A will happen, and Event B will happen as a consequence of that, and then either Event C or Event D will take place, depending on my mood’; I’m pretty much just writing, and seeing what happens. It’s like being snowblind in the wilderness, or – in my case – walking about without my glasses on. Things exist in a general sense, but the finer details are invisible until I’m right on top of them.
I can’t say I entirely recommend writing a novel this way, but I feel like it has done me some good to learn how to loosen up a little and trust myself. I’m not entirely there yet; I still find it hard to open up the file of a morning and cast my eye over the twisty mess I made yesterday in order to sort it out today, but one thing’s for certain: it’s never boring.
Wherever you’re wandering today, may your path be smooth and may wonders be around every corner.