Sitting on my deck this morning with keyboard and coffee at my fingertips, I reached a milestone, wholly arbitrary though it might be. I have (I think) written half of a novel.
I sketched out the first rough plan for The Ghosts on the Glass a little over a year ago, so that I could get something together for the Trident challenge. I outlined 24 chapters and estimated 50,000 words, which was too short, so I magically bumped the number to a still-short 70,000 words and crossed my fingers that I’d find them along the way.
I’ve got 45,000 words right now, and with my updated, more precise outline, I think I’ll land around a respectable 90K. It’s chapter 20 I just drafted. I hadn’t counted planned chapters in a while, but as I ticked through them, it looks like I’m presently slated for 40. All of which is to say, if my novel follows my plan precisely (it won’t), I’m precisely halfway. I’ve only attempted one novel before, years ago, and I didn’t make it nearly this far; this time, I’m really going to do it.
The unwritten pages no longer feel like a yawning void. I pick through my notes once and again and add to them, inserting fragments or tying future chapters to earlier threads. They’re slivers, but I have a feel for those chapters, and their emptiness no longer intimidates me.
That’s what I’ve learned the most about during this endeavor: working through the emptiness. Starting a fresh chapter, an empty Word doc feels vast, and copy/pasting my piecemeal notes helps only a little. I think through more interactions and narration and jot them down, come up with a line of dialogue or six, and I rearrange and remix it all until there’s a basic flow from start to end. Hopefully one of my drafted phrases can open or close the thing, but if not, I’ve learned not to worry about it. My first job is to fill the pages. I can perfect structure, phrasing, and transitions later. There’s no need to torture the newborn paragraphs to extort meaning: nuance emerges as I revise, organically. Michelangelo said the form already existed in the stone so that he only had to bring it out, but I’m no Michelangelo and I’m not whacking a chisel with a hammer. My writing requires shaping and smoothing and occasionally wholesale remolding just to find the form, and that’s alright.
Several of you in Proseland have mentioned an interest in reading the novel, and I appreciate your encouragement more than I can say. It’s not ready yet, but I’m working on it.