Death by paper

paper pileWord count: TOO MANY

I’ve been working non-stop on my novel for the past few months, and while it’s going well word count wise, progress isn’t being made.

Let me explain. The writing is solid. Inspiration isn’t a problem and I’ve been disciplined, sitting at my desk from the wee morning hours until the natural light is no more. But instead of going forward, I’m moving laterally – like a crab. I spend hours inflating my word count. Conflating really, as by some bizarre twist both novel 1 and 2 have merged.

Some days I feel as if I’m writing short stories. Other times it’s an all out POV war. Even my outline is starting to resemble the Peruvian Nasca lines, but I’ve stayed cool, ignoring the problems, pretending I’m a whimsical laid back writer type who goes with the flow. In reality I can feel the knots in my neck tightening.  I’m at that crucial stage where panic hasn’t set in yet, but I’m already looking around for a paper bag to breathe in.

I have all these words. So many words. If I printed them out, the pages would spread across my desk, under the stairs, across the hall, to the dining table to overflow my bookshelves, cupboards, wardrobe. I would be inundated by a serious paper trail leading nowhere.For my own sanity. I’ve decided to step back and take stock.But this is the tricky bit. The part that makes me squirm and grimace. You see,  I’m not a big reader of my own work. The first draft of my novel was printed and hidden in a desk for over a year. This time around, I began revisions without rereading.

Before you say it. I did try. I sat down with a strong cup of coffee, a pencil and two red pens. I couldn’t get past the first page. And by that point it was so covered in red marks I couldn’t read anything anyway. It went back in the drawer. As for novel 2.  I wrote it for Nano 07, finished it later that year and then put it away intending to let it marinate. That was over two years ago.So, now you know where I stand.

I’m trying to write a novel in the weirdest way possible, blindly relying on memory and perception. Instinct. Not actual content. No wonder my structure is so confusing. But these are the drastic measures I resort to so I’m not faced with reading my own work. It’s not that it’s particularly ugly or dissatisfying. I just became overwhelmingly neurotic about improvements. I’m a take no prisoners perfectionist when it comes to my own material. Inner editor is one mean, unforgiving little harpy.Things are at an impasse now. The choice is to brace myself and read what I have or continue writing into infinity. Or until the words strangle me at my desk and I’m found lying in a pool of my own ink.


  1. Well, I’d say, “whatever works for you”! We’re artists (not to sound to pretentious, but it’s true), and you can’t tell one artist to create like another.Eventually, though, you’re gonna have to suck it up and read it. If you can’t get through it, a reader might experience the same thing, and you don’t want that.But when you’re in the middle of the process, don’t worry so much about rules!

  2. A tip for reading your own work without editing:DON’T TAKE A PENCIL AND TWO RED BLOODY PENS WITH YOU!!!Seriously. If the items needed to make changes are there, you’re going to make changes! Take the manuscript somewhere quiet, make a coffee and just read it. No pens, no pencils, no phone/laptop/pad to scrawl notes on. :-)Remove the temptation.AdamPS – Hai! *Waves*

  3. Adam: just wanted to say that I tried your suggestion and it worked. I went somewhere quiet and didn’t bring a pen. It took a while to do it, but I was able to look at it more objectively. More as a whole and less as a page on a screen. Big difference! I’ve since deleted a big section and am moving on more optimistically. :)India: thanx for the comment. I feel the same way and am loathe to tell people what ‘works’, except occasionally, as a suggestion if they are stuck. I don’t think the problem is with me boring my readers, as I do read my work aloud and frequently – it’s just that I hate reading my own work when it’s printed in front of me. Like hating the sound of your own voice, or the image of yourself in a photo. Alas, I finally bit the proverbial bullet and did it.

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