Applying the brakes

1026 words

I’m into the last 10-15,000 words of this novel. I can feel the shape of the book; I understand its length now. I reckon I’ve got another 40-60 pages or so before it’s finished. I’ve hit the climactic final stretch. The third act. The resolution pages. So why is my character taking time out to think about tender moments with his girlfriend? What is he doing? There’s a crime or two to be unearthed, a tragedy to be averted (or not), a number of inevitable deaths… so why is he wasting precious time fannying around with memories? More importantly, why am I fannying around?

One of the subjects of the classes I occasionally run is to do with pace. It’s important to trim your narrative of any fat that’s likely to fur your story’s arteries, clog things up, slow it down. We all know that. We all recognise it in the books we’ve read, the films we’ve seen; we apply it naturally to the stories we tell at the coffee point at work… But here, because of the nature of the novel, and, more importantly, the nature of the man who is telling the story, I have to allow him time to come to terms with certain events that inspire his behaviour. He’s damaged. He’s physically wrecked. He’s mentally wrecked. He’s addicted to analgesics. He can’t think straight, never mind walk straight. The narrative is his, so it has to be like him: tortuous, unreliable, unhurried.

It’s a risk I’m taking, perhaps, but I have to go with it until I’ve finished. Then I’ll let the novel rest for a week or two and return to it, see if I’ve made an unholy error of judgment…

Listened to: Ghosts I-IV, by Nine Inch Nails

Sgool

1018 words.

I found a piece of paper recently. It was something my son, Ripley (6) wrote, or is in the process of writing. I don’t think it’s finished. Or it might be. You can’t really tell with kids. Anyway, I won’t tell you what was on it because I want to use it in the novel I’m planning for next year.

What I will mention is the spelling. Children are taught to spell using phonics these days, whereas I grew up using the ITA system (another phonetically based system, albeit with additional symbols to represent certain sounds). The modern method helps children to blend sounds without worrying too much about the correct letters. Which means that the spelling is diabolical, but cute at the same time. Ripley, for a while, thought his brother’s name was Efun, because that’s how it sounded to his ears. And he used to go through a phase of writing and illustrating booklets starring Marvel superheroes, or Indiana Jones, or Star Wars characters, in which the protagonists went around ‘fartin bad gaz’ (fighting bad guys).

An early idea for the title of next year’s novel was Nice House, but I wanted to feed it through Ripley’s internal spelling machine first. Which turned it into Nys Hows. I kind of like that, but it isn’t immediately obvious what it means. So I’ll be using that as a part title instead, if only to placate Rippers, who now expects to see his words somewhere in the finished manuscript…

Listened to: Sex, by The Necks