I’m at an encouraging point in the writing of my next novel. It’s been hard going for a while, because for the first fifty or 100 pages it seems like the writing is about pushing a rock up a hill, with no idea where the summit is. The page is essentially blank, and you’re making all the stuff up.
But after a while, details—characters, situations, complications—start to accumulate, and while I don’t like the phrase “they start to take a life all their own”, they certainly begin to point the way. “If Gabor has done that and that and that, then it’s obvious he must do this next.”
So you write. Though it sometimes feels like it, the story isn’t writing itself—you’re writing it based on the way you see storytelling and the world in general.
But then, for me, a crisis often looms, particularly in this book. I’ve got around 5 main characters, each acting independently, and the strands are stretching thin—the pacing becomes chaotic and a single day of action seems to go on forever. So now, about 220pp into the book, I’m going back and slashing everything possible.
One character, Imre, had a foolishly untenable subplot concerning a murdered prostitute. I got rid of the dead hooker and sent Imre on vacation—literally. After the opening scenes he’s off in Hungary, on Lake Balaton, with his family.
Another character, Gavra, was to have a fight-to-the-death with one of baddies, Frenk Talbert, in Stockholm on “Thursday”. That wasn’t a bad idea, but it occurred at the same time as, back in the Capital, other stories were breaking out into extreme violence. It made those 50 or so pages into too much of a blood-drenched Thursday.
So instead, earlier in the book, on Tuesday, Gavra has a fight-until-someone-gets-knocked-out in a shopping mall in Virginia. Good thing too, because placing an East European spy inside an American mall is bound to lead to some hilarity.
At least, my kind of hilarity.
But my point is, this is often the most happy time during the overall not-so-happy process of writing a novel. The material is mostly there, and if you can get the proper perspective on it, solutions are not so hard to see. And cutting, almost always, strengthens writing.
I wish I could say that this means I’m nearing the end of the novel. In fact I’m kind of just starting, since this section, which’ll be around 300 pages and is essentially a complete novel on its own, is only the first third of the book. I have two more of these rollercoaster rides still to go.
(Originally posted at the Contemporary Nomad)