When she said, The darkest hour is just before the dawn.
My wonderful flow on my new novel To Capture the Light became slightly sticky over the last few days as I worked frantically to prepare my first novel, Shakespeare’s Tree, for submission to the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair.
Although the novel is complete, the contest rules stipulate the chapters’ word count cannot exceed 10,000. Mine came to 13,640. Of course, I could have just submitted two chapters, but it’s a ghost story and the first eerie encounter is very important and I felt I couldn’t leave it out. Which meant taking an axe to some lovely pieces (in my opinion, anyway!) of descriptive prose.
It might have been painful, but it was also an education. Although a lot of what I cut I mean to put back – especially those passages that foreshadow later events – I shall also keep out about a thousand of the words I deleted. I can see that my prose is much tighter without some words or passages.
The slight detour from NaNoWriMo will be well worth it if I get selected to present my novel to publishers and agents at next March’s novel fair. Even if I don’t (steadies trembling lower lip), I’ve learned so much from the exercise, that it was worth it.
So now I get to catch up on my NaNoWriMo word count. I didn’t completely drop it – I managed about 600 words over each of the past couple of days, but it’s difficult to focus on two novels at the same time. Not only are the plots and characters completely different, so too are the styles and the genres.
I often find that one of the most important elements of a piece of fiction is voice. Imagine Bridget Jones telling the Amazing Mr Ripley’s tale. Or Jane Eyre narrating Lolita. Doesn’t work, does it? And what is curious is that voice is, for me anyway, so instinctive I couldn’t begin to tell you how I do it. But I know when it works and when it doesn’t. Until I tried to
work on both novels during the same day, I had no idea how different were the voices of the two stories. I felt positively schizophrenic by the end of the day.
So it may not be exactly just before the dawn – closer to 2am, to be honest – in terms of my NaNoWriMo progress, but now I have my first novel tenderly put to bed, I can stay and play coo-chee-koo with the new one.
And as Mama Cass also said, ‘It’s getting better…’