Ten Day Book Challenge: Day One
I’ve vowed to write an entire draft of a novel in ten days. Now read on;
I’m already off to whatever the opposite of a flying start is. I just checked my tickets to find I’m leaving the UK for a week, not ten days, so the word count has to rise dramatically if I’m to deliver at the end of my time away.
On my main computer, just as I was about to head for the airport, my Word software didn’t so much crash as swan-dive off a cliff, wiping several research files which are too complex to recover and compare in their various editions. I don’t have time to rebuild everything now; the lesson learned is Don’t Over-Complicate Things.
The physical books are packed (so my backpack weighs a ton), the rest are on Kindle, and a set of physical notes has been printed out so that I can scribble. I like to keep a large layout pad with me – a habit from my old day job as a ‘creative’. Sometimes it helps to draw what you’re trying to describe.
I like to take my time at airports and potter about a bit, rather than hurtling to the gate. The wi-fi at Gatwick is good, and Easyjet is on time. The flight is packed with children; does nobody keep their kids in school during term anymore? On the flight I try to read my notes but…fall asleep. Ooh, suddenly we’re here! Actually 1hr 45m has passed, but not so you’d notice – if Easyjet ever want me to provide customer testimonials for them I’m totally up for it.
The first setback occurs and I’ve not even started. Apple changed the cables on the MacBook Air again, and although I brought the right one with me I forgot to change over the fitting on the end to a European plug. I contemplate going to the Apple Store in Barcelona with horror, and punt about for a bodge/fix. I manage to hotwire the end of the flex to a plug and I’m away.
Page one, chapter one. I usually start with quotes but have so many this time that I’m spoiled for choice. This should be an in-and-out kind of decision. Instead I dither and waste the first hour deciding which one to go with.
Here’s what I’m working with. I started with a ten page synopsis. Then the initial draft was written, but it only made partial sense. I tend to plough on with first drafts, letting nothing stop me. At this stage the book is massively truncated and about getting the characters from one end of the plot to the other without being run over.
So, first draft completed, I go back over and tackle a second one, expanding scenes, reordering, and in this case, cutting out an entire plot strand. It was good but felt as if it belonged in a different novel. Trouble is, it has left a peculiar hole in the middle of the story that has thrown the whole timeline out of whack.
My first problem is how to resolve the opening, which is painfully over-explanatory. I throw away the first four chapters and get to the point a lot quicker; that helps with the pacing, but the book is getting shorter, not longer. Losing the character of a young girl hurts – I’d loved writing the scenes with her, but sometimes you need to ‘murder your darlings’.*
Practicalities kick in. The flat is devoid of food. It’s warm and pleasant outside so a trip to the market for fruit and vegetables is in order. Â I tend to nearly get killed by trucks while I’m wandering across main roads thinking about the book, so I resolve to be careful – as the official Most Accident-Prone Man Alive I’m trying to compartmentalise my thinking more and keep my wits when I’m near things that can kill me.Â I’ll return and work until midnight – if I can manage to stay awake.
*Dorothy Parker – great advice.