Has it really been three and a half months since the last update about my novel? Yikes. I don't mean to be secretive. I guess I haven't shared anything with you because I haven't reached any big milestones. But for those of you who asked, here's how it's been going:
I typed up everything I handwrote on those yellow legal pads and am now working exclusively on my laptop. On a bad day I'm uninspired and unproductive. On a good day I can write a new scene from start to finish. My manuscript has 64,328 words. It's still a big mess plot-wise, but quantity-wise that's roughly 250 pages in a typical book. I have a separate document titled "unused" with 40,488 words – stuff I've edited out but can't bring myself to delete yet. Yes, it's somewhat discouraging to have written so much that is going in the trash bin, but you can't write the good stuff without working your way through the bad. I used to think that writing a book was about translating the story in your head onto the page; now I think of it more as starting with a nugget of inspiration in your head and using the process of writing to navigate through it and discover it and unfold it. All the hard work is done on the page.
I'm struggling most my ability to gauge what's interesting and what's not. I'm struggling with how to make the small pieces add up to something bigger, and how to do that subtly and lyrically. I'm struggling with believable dialogue. It's a strange thing, being able to read a story written by somebody else and so clearly understanding its structure, its strengths, its faults, and yet not being able to do the same with your own work.
Despite all the frustration and slow progress, the last nine and half months that I've spent working on this book have reaffirmed my lifelong feelings about dedicating myself to fiction. I've never stuck with a story for this long before, so that means something. I have never, until now, written anything so close to what I have wanted to write. Every so often I write a paragraph that captures the mood and crispness and fluidity of what I have been striving for, and when that happens, it is so very wonderful.