Arts & Culture

A Writer’s Tale: Heading for the Finishing Line.

Monday 17 December
A Writer’s Tale: Heading for the Finishing Line.

- December 17 at 8:54 AM

by Lizzie Ward

Week four in NaNoWriMo land is the sprint to the finishing line. What it means is pushing through your determination to procrastinate – when anything – Christmas shopping, doing the dishes, tidying your room – seems more exciting than writing the last 4,000 words of your novel. I’m lucky in the sense that I know I will reach 50,000 words – I’ve written 45,460 – but at the same time, it saps at your energy. I’m already thinking about my birthday, Christmas and even starting a new novel. My mind is everywhere except the task at hand. Well, that’s not strictly true, since I’m still figuring out how to get my character from talking about doing things to actually doing them, but you get the picture.

There have also been strange nightmares these past few nights. Nightmares in which I wake up in a cold sweat, still somewhere halfway between dreamland and a waking state. I forget them as soon as I wake up, but there is still a feeling of dread, that some giant monster is chasing me towards the finish line. My frustration at my character insisting on doing a lot of talking – pages and pages of dialogue where she tries to work things out – is amplified by the fact that by now, I’m meant to have an ending. A neat ending, with ‘THE END’ at the bottom.

These past few days, I’ve ditched the linear storytelling and have gone back and forth through the novel adding a scene here and there to bulk up the word count. It’s just another form of avoidance. My character does need to rob a museum to get hold of a mysterious box in which resides the ghost of one of her ancestors, but she also needs to figure out her priorities, save the day and then go into hiding. Except it probably won’t happen like that, because she has a mind of her own.

There is also the question of how to portray a deaf character in a novel. It is something that I’m leaving for the second draft, because the first draft is always a mess, something that will never see the light of day. It’s a skeleton, a frame on which you put the meat and bones of storytelling. It includes silly clichés and glaring plot holes. The first draft is basically the time when you write like the wind and get the story down before you lose interest. It isn’t the part when you agonise for ages about whether this character is showing what it’s like to lip-read or if it seems as if she can hear everything.

So what happens when you pass 50,000 words? You keep writing, of course. I’m not going to carry on with 1,667 words a day, unless I think I can. It just means that I’ll keep going until the novel is finished. Most novels are over 70,000 words long. I’m going to break out a celebratory drink or two come THE END.