Starting over

I’ve finally managed to overcome the aversion to puke every time I look or even think of my novel. I have been spending the last few weeks redrafting entire sections. Too early to tell yet if it is salvageable, but so far I’m enjoying the process. When I don’t drive myself crazy with questions, that is.

It doesn’t help that my main character has about 5 voices (one of them painfully passive). In every other chapter she sounds like a different person. Also, my unreliable narrator has disappeared again and my antihero has now become much darker than I hoped for.

Some days I think it would make a better collection of short stories than a novel. But most of the time I just think: BLECH. I wish my poor attempts at a novel didn’t resemble a bottomless pit where I’ve randomly thrown in half-baked ideas, stream of consciousness posing as dialogue and an unrealistic helpings of expectations. I should have chosen a more linear, less chaotic form. Something not so experimental for my first time out.

It stared off initially as non-fiction and for years I collected data and carefully recorded countless conversations and interviews. I stopped being virtual sometime around the year 2000, so picking through old emails and chats has been a laborious, sometimes frustrating prospect. Especially trying to revive some of the earlier concepts. Most of it is so abstact, I’m having difficulty with the balance of story versus ideas.

Someone should warn you about trying these things at home. Eventually, I’ll have to address the more pressing issues of structure and plot, but I can’t be bothered to think that far ahead. For now I’ll just keep rewriting and see what happens. I can’t figure out if that’s a mature attitude, or a defeatist one.

Moving on, I have started making notes for novel 2. I won’t say yet what it is about, as I’m not quite sure myself, but I can tell you that it will be a complete departure from the metaphysical chunkiness of the unfinished novel. I’m hankering for the tangible right now: for smells and tastes and atmosphere. I don’t know if this will make numero deux an easier book to write, but I have a feeling it will be more enjoyable.No doubt after a few years, I’ll be yearning for the abstract again.


  1. jamie

    I’m in a similar place with my novel and have so many ideas floating around and things that I keep remembering that I wanted to include in it. But when I read what I’ve actually got down on the page (or screen) it seems so far from how it exists in my head. I think it’s very easy for these kind of projects to become very abstract and intangible and you have to tie them down to words on the page. And to answer the issue of pushing ahead with it or worrying, I think you have to push ahead. I have a signed copy of Martin Amis’s Experience that my mum picked up for me at a reading and told him I wanted to be a writer. On the inside front cover, he has written “Get to the end and then worry.” I think only at that point will it become clear how the voices have to work, how the structure should work etc. Good luck!PS I found your blog through Julia Bell’s site; I’ve just finished my MA in creative writing at birkbeck (as you must have done a few years ago) and am now left to struggle on alone…

  2. jamie

    yes, in MIR3: 4 is the one that’s just out.MA was good for lots of reasons, and I did it part time which I think was useful as a lot of the value is in learning the routine of writing and it’s good to pick this up over a longer period. I have some niggling complaints, but nothing serious.Let me know if you ever want to swap chapters and have a reading from a fresh pair of eyes, etc…

  3. Kallie

    I like what Amis said about writing till you get to the end. But it is a little scary, like jumping out of a window and hoping you sprout wings so you can survive the fall. Still, a lot better than driving yourself crazy with countless worries.I enjoyed what I read of your MIR3 story. More please 🙂 And swapping chapters sounds great – always good to have a new pair of eyes. Do you workshop with anyone at the moment? Were you in Mariko and Harriet’s year? Questions, questions, questions. Say the word and I’ll send you an email.

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