NovelRace Week 5: The Lone Runner
Okay, weekly NovelRace update time. First of all, congratulations to Angad Chowdhry and shomeshome for having completed the race at 1,67,934 and 74,000 words each. These are the first novels to be completed and they signal the start of a new phase in the race.
A conversation with my dad earlier this week made me rethink what I was setting out to do with this race. It isn’t a word race where the more words one has, the better it is. And then there is the pacing. Obviously different people write at different speeds. Mine has been going up and down and I’ve been agonizing over it. But really, it was just a matter of getting my own individual pace right.
I’ve always been an organized person and the whole ‘creativity doesn’t follow a schedule’ idea is one I don’t really buy into. My one terrible late-nighter boosted my wordcount by nearly double but I couldn’t write a word for nearly 4 days after that. It is probably true that at least in the start, when the ideating is happening, you need to give yourself the flexibility of time. But now, I’ve got the ideas more or less in place, it’s about getting them down on paper. For the past few days, I’ve been following a loosely-set time schedule and find I’m quite happy with the way things are progressing.
In terms of actual progress, I’ve managed to ‘tighten’ the book a bit. Some people seem to be going all out to write and plan to edit later. However, my style always involves alternating write-edit-write-edit patterns. I use it in everything from blogposts to presentations and I don’t see why it shouldn’t work now. Each time I return to my draft, I re-read some section of it and rework it in parts. This usually extends a string of thought that I can pursue and write even more from there. It ensures continuity at least in my mind. It is probably the reason why my progress chart goes up and down while most other people’s (yes, I’ve checked!) goes straight up.
While on the progress chart, here’s one reason the NovelRace is really great. It’s not so much about benchmarking myself against others, since writing is a craft and individual to each person. But this is giving me a certain discipline to follow by providing a frame of reference. The deadline, the wordcount and the other players in the race are all part of what’s keeping me going, even if I don’t follow what they’re doing. After all, you need a track, a starting and ending point and other runners to be able to be an athlete. Else, you’re just running.
In terms of what I’ve learnt (isn’t there always a lesson?)…firstly I had a sudden revelation in the form of a new character. This character, the creation and integration into novel of whom took up the better part of my late night, has given my entire novel a new spin. The story and theme don’t change but somehow this person’s inclusion has added a whole new quality to my novel. I’m very happy with it as I’m aware that inspiration does strike suddenly and can be like a jackpot in its results. Still, I’m not going to run after jackpots, I’ve had one already and that’s as much luck as I hope for.
I’ve actually spent far less time writing this week and much more talking about it, thinking about it and just walking around. Walking seems to stimulate my brain processes while also de-cluttering them. And I found when I came back to the draft, I was approaching it with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. What’s more, it is not important to keep writing all day long and all the time. A major part of story-telling is letting the story grow in your own mind and that’s just like gestation. Sometimes you don’t do anything, you just have to wait and let it grow. The actual doing or writing is only one of the many activities associated with the creation and expression of a story.
And finally, a nugget of wisdom again from my father (subject to my “I can’t do this!!” panic attacks and quite used to having to steer me back onto the path after all these years). At one point of time I found my morale really sinking (it must have been burnout from that single late-nighter) and I said,
It’s not like I’m writing a Lord of the Rings. I mean, I’m not bringing the world something really new. And what’s more, I’m not creating most of these characters. They’re all inspired by someone or something I’ve seen in real life. Where’s the creativity in that?
He just smiled and said,
Even Einstein said, “I stand on the shoulders of giants”. No one person can be responsible for any major shift of consciousness or thought, no major endeavour can succeed because of a single person. There are some roles that are more visible than the others but almost everything is done by the collective effort of a group of people. It’s difficult to say why a book turns out well but brand new ideas are not the only reasons it does. Sometimes you just like the way something has been said, some stories you like because you can relate to them so well. You need to decide what it is you want to say and you need to write because it is your passion to, not because you’re trying to please an audience or reach a goal.
Thank you, dad, I really, really needed that. I was approaching the race the way I approach work, with goals and competitors in mind. I had forgotten that I write not because I have to but because I can’t help it. There is a shade of a difference and actually it makes a world of difference in the experience. And I’m not writing this to prove a point, I’m writing because there are stories to be told. Even if they’ve been told before, they’ve never been told in my way, before.
And lastly, my own status. I stand at No.16 with a wordcount of 17,625. After much agony over the unrealistically huge cast, it’s come down to a manageable 13-15. The order of chapters is also falling into place. The best part is that most of these things created themselves. That is to say, certain characters were just not strong enough so they faded away and some emerged stronger than I had conceptualised them. I only really know ‘how the story ends’ with two of these characters and even how they get there is hazy. The others, I’m now just going to trust since they shaped themselves, will go through to the end of their stories as they get told.
Other NovelRace updates:
Couldn’t help nitpicking. It was Newton who said that not Einstein, the words being “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”
PS: 17625 is much better than 0. 🙂
This is so reminiscent of my novel race in November (the NaNoWriMo). It was so exhilarating, knowing that I was going to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. Of course, post-op was pretty depressing, coz I had written the novel and even though I followed the write-wedit-write-edit pattern, i hated what I had produced. But you seem to be putting a lot more thought into your characters and plot, so i HOPE I get to read your novel someday 🙂
@Hyde: Umm, we stand corrected.
@Sharanya: I signed up for this year’s NaNoWriMo after your comment. Will you do it too? And by the way, this support really, really, REALLY helps. I mean it!