A Year of Writing Dangerously

On the 24th of August 2020, I began writing the revised version of The Magic Cloak. I had a prototype version already completed. All I needed to do was flesh the plot out a little. How hard could that be? It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks. Two months, tops.

As it turned out, I finally finished on the 22nd of August 2021—364 days after I started.

So, what went wrong. And what went right?

I hit the ground running and dashed off over 8,000 words in 10 days. Then I wrote absolutely nothing for the next 80 days.

After that, I became inspired and managed 12,000 words in just under two weeks. Then I took a month off.

On the 2nd of January, having made an ill-advised New Year’s Resolution, I wrote 20,000 words over the following two months. After that, for a full three months, I did sod all.

As the one-year mark began to approach, I became so disgusted with my slacking off that I wrote the final 30,000 words over the next 80 days, finishing just one day shy of a full year.

Since finishing, I have been so pleased to not have to look at that f@#king manuscript that I am actively avoiding the re-reading, re-writing, revision, and editing. In fact, I have been loath to write anything at all, which won’t do because I need to have an actual book ready for Christmas.

But I think, perhaps, I really do need to give it some time. It’s been a tough year. Just ask my wife, who lives through this with me every year, and every year it is the same (though this year, for some unknown reason, it was a little worse, in that it took longer than usual): brief periods of manic activity, followed by weeks of soul-searching, teeth gnashing, self-flagellation and endless hours sitting on the balcony with a pipe staring into the distance, hoping the plot solutions will reveal themselves.

And you know what? Eventually, they do.

I was so certain I had this book sussed that I took off with great enthusiasm, certain I would be done by Christmas (Christmas 2020, that is). But then the flow of words turned to a trickle, and I felt mired down, and slowly realized that, somewhere, somehow, I had gone wrong. I am getting better at recognizing this feeling, but no better at battling my way through it, as this book has so thoroughly demonstrated. When this realization does hit, I know there is nothing I can do about it except sit and wait for the solution to present itself.

Chart of the Ups and Downs of Novel Writing

Unfortunately, the presenting is terribly slow and painful and generally leads me to the brink of despair. But when it arrives, it is a revelation. The solution comes in a flash and is generally so obvious that I am surprised I couldn’t see it right away. In this instance, I ventured so far from the original plot that, about a third of the way through the book, I tossed the outline and proto-plot away and wrote the rest of the story from the ground up. Along the way, I introduced three new characters—one of them was a horse—and although they were created to fill an immediate need in a scene, they all continued to influence the story and became integral to the plot.

Once all the new features were in place, I rushed through the final 30,000 words, which comprised half of the 60,000-word book, which was my target. (These are short novels, which do not, I discovered, translate to quick and easy novels.)

My animosity toward the manuscript will, I expect, wane in a couple of days, allowing me to accomplish the tasks required to turn the pile of words into a coherent, error-free (so much as I am able) story.

Then I can move on to Book II: The Roman Villa, which, as it is already fully written, will be a lot easier.

But where have I heard that before?

Amazing how close this is to real life.

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