Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Final Swan Song

That's a wrap, folks. I've just finished the first draft of my next novel, a retelling of The Children of Lir.

At 123,457 words, it's the longest one yet. Rosy Hours previously held that record at around 100,000.

This one's been hard slog. I don't know why. Had a lot of RealWorld(tm) work to attend to lately, which has beckoned me away from the creative. It could also be that, apart from my own spin on things, the ending, and the overall arc of the story, were already know. I love this legend, I've always wanted to retell it, and I've done so with quite a flourish of originality in terms of characters and their relationships, but overall - it's the same story. 

Rosy Hours was a retelling of sorts - inspired by a story within a story. Yet the degree of creative freedom in that was far greater. There was no ending, there was no explicit outline of what happened, when and with whom - just the hint of intrigue. 

My nephew wrote a story outline recently. He's a young lad who will hopefully keep up his love of a good story, his poetry and inventiveness. But my advice to him was 'never start a story with the outline - start with the story.' An outline gives the impression of having already told your story. Your heart has already started to disengage. Also, by outlining the synopsis first, you run the risk of missing those quirky twists and turns you'll take on a road less well defined. 

The joy of writing a good story is that it can surprise you along the way.

Rough plot markers are fine, but too much detail and you suffocate creativity beneath a blanket of narrative conformity.

I think that's possibly what happened here.

Yet I refused to edit as I went, so I honestly have no idea what lies between pages 30-263.

Maybe it's very good. Maybe it needs a serious rewrite. Maybe it's somewhere in between.

All I know is that I felt a definite sense of relief when it was over. 

I'm very much looking forward to writing something shorter now. I thought Rosy Hours would be my last long-write, but this one sort of crept up and tapped me on the shoulder. For a while I've wanted to switch to shorter books, possibly a trilogy. Around 80k max. Shorter, sharper bursts of creativity. Prolonged ones can really take it out of you. 

Work is going to be full-on now until the end of August, then I'm planning to head back to the UK for a few months. Perhaps I'll start editing then. It's hard to catch the ambiance of an Irish legend when sitting in the middle of Africa. Bananas and 26c heat don't quite evoke Iron Age Éire. Provided I don't freeze to death, it might just add a little creative perspective.

Still, I'm proud of myself. It's the second novel that's proved a real challenge to finish writing (the first is in a draw somewhere). It's the test of a writer to keep writing even when it isn't easy. It was at 10,000 words last October, so it's taken me eight months to complete. That alone is encouraging - even when I don't feel like I've been very productive, I have been.

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