It has always been one of my Great Aims In Life to write a novel. Always, ever since I was six and wrote a story about how my best friend and I had gone rollerskating on the rings of Saturn. I didn’t care that the rings of Saturn weren’t solid, and that we’d have issues with gravity, and all the other stuff my incredibly unimaginative teacher pointed out to me in her critique. I was going to write, and nobody could stop me.
And yet, despite this early enthusiasm, it took me another twenty years to actually get around to attempting to write a novel. I always claimed that I had no idea what I’d write about, and that I wasn’t sure I had enough life experience behind me to write one anyway, and that maybe it was better left until I was older.
And then I realised that I was just going to keep on making these excuses forever and ever until I fell down and died, and that I never would’ve written the thing.
So I plucked an idea out of my arse, and I bought a new Macbook, and I downloaded Scrivener, and I started writing. I figured I’d just put some words into a document and then I’d go back and edit them and eventually I’d have a novel. After all, all writing is re-writing. I just needed to get the actual writing done first.
And at first it was simple. I made a little plan and I just typed and typed and I got to 15,000 words in about 20 seconds. And that was great; I was going to have a novel in no time at all! Yes, it might be a rubbish novel, but I could beat the thing into shape eventually.
Then I fell headlong into the Pit of Writing Frustration.
Because it turns out that it isn’t just a case of sitting down and putting letters in order and that Jack Kerouac was probably lying. Writing is hard bloody work. Ridiculously hard work. I open the book up, and it’s taunting me with how much I still have to do. My notes are becoming longer than the manuscript, my characters are developing huge backstories – which will never go into the actual book, but are vital to the foundation of their personalities anyway – my plots are getting all confused in my brain and the whole thing is irritating the crap out of me.
I know where I want it to go. I even know how I want it to get there. But then I’ll have another idea and I’ll have to go back and make sure it fits in, and that I’m not accidentally dropping in details that don’t make sense, and that my characters are all acting in coherent ways and that my settings are consistent and OH MY GOD IT IS MELTING MY BRAIN. I thought writing a 20,000 word dissertation on holocaust literature and postmodernism was tough. That was fuck all compared to this.
But I am boshing on anyway. I am 30,000 words in now. It would be stupid to abandon the thing. And even more stupid now that I’ve blogged about it and everyone knows my as-yet-untitled-and-bloody-annoying novel exists. It’s a sneaky psychological trick that I’m playing on myself, you see. If I say I’m writing a novel, then I actually have to.
I just wish my characters were still rollerskating round Saturn.