One of the things I have learned over the last few years – especially recently – is that, when trying to write the concrete things we call ‘books’, they have a dynamic all their own.
Sitting down and writing a short story or a poem off-the-cuff is probably the most relaxed kind of writing there is; after all, there is no commitment other than to fill the page or get to the end of the story / poem. But writing a book involves a whole different set of disciplines.
At some point – even if it starts out innocently enough as a couple of stories and a few poems – there is a need to plan. For me planning a book is when the first commitment is made, the first obligation arises. In the early days, it is still just a nice idea, and it is the idea that warms you.
After a while – maybe as early as a quarter of the way through – I start on the cover design. I find this gives the book an identity, a form. You start to imagine what it might look like, or feel to hold in your hand. This ups the ante in terms of your stake in the game.
Somewhere between a third and a half way through I find is the most dangerous time; that period where the writing can become more of a chore and you can feel a slave to the plan. It is a time when you can easily chuck it all in. I have, somewhere, at least three ‘novels’ that made it to about 30,000 words and then I simply stopped. This is when you need belief.
And then there arrives – suddenly and almost without realising it – that wonderful moment when there is so much momentum, so much thought, dedication, effort, that you suddenly realise that you will finish the book. There is suddenly no doubt. You will finish it because you have to, because you owe it to your characters to see them through to the end, over the line.
I’m over 80k words into a 100k novel and have recently arrived at that sublime tipping point. I will finish it. I know there are weeks of revision and rewrite ahead, but I will cross the line. I can almost feel my cover dressing the pages, the weight of the thing in my hands. It may still be six months away, but that day will come.
Glorious feeling! Isn’t that why we do it?