So despite all of the crazy busyness of the last couple of weeks, the novel has managed somehow to hold its own. In fact last week I was flying – on Thursday and Friday alone I managed five thousand words, which helped me get my head well and truly back above the water.
It wasn’t just about the words, either: plot points fell into place, my characters led me through some tricky resolutions, and my head was bursting with ideas about where I wanted to take things next. Out of nowhere I had found some much-needed momentum, and just for a while it felt as if the story was writing itself.
But of course that didn’t last; I knew it wouldn’t.
The downhill cartwheels that were powering me through were gathering speed as I grew closer to an ending: the end of my protagonist’s childhood, and also the end of the section of the novel that is set in the (not so distant) past. But it is not the end of the novel. My task now is to get to know the adult she has grown into, and that is a whole new challenge.
Yesterday, I mainly scribbled notes – adding to the initial ideas I’d had about those almost-present-day chapters and hovering my pen over emotions and actions that suddenly didn’t feel right. I thought I knew her, adult Catherine, but it turns out that maybe I didn’t.
I suppose it is only right that having spent several months (and sixty seven thousand words) travelling through her teenage years the woman who I am faced with now at thirty three is different to how I had imagined. She’s much more rounded, which is good. Initially when I was planning I only had the outline of the tumultuous events that had shaped her, I didn’t know exactly how she would respond. So I am almost starting again, in some respects, mapping out those future echoes with a preciseness that was previously beyond my reach.
Much of the details will come out in the writing itself. I began a scene today which, when I let it, filled in the gaps for me. It’s slower work though: finding a character who is changed and yet consistent, a tone which is complementary and yet not just more of the same.
I’m trying hard not to get frustrated.
I can see that 24th May deadline that I set myself looming up fast over the horizon, and I suspect I might not meet it. I don’t even know right now whether ninety thousand words are going to be enough to tell the story I want to. There’s definitely going to be some serious editing when it comes to the next draft, but I suspect the raw material may spill over once I’ve found my flow again.
And ultimately, I have to remind myself what’s important. The deadline was only ever a cursory one, the word counts plucked out of the air to give me something to aim for. Part of me is impatient for the next stage. I want to see how all of these parts are going to fit together, how the story will weave its way between past and future. But I know I need to get the whole of the story down before I can do that.
So I will carry on, listening hard to the voice of this damaged and disillusioned woman at the dawn of the new millennium. After all there is nobody else that can tell me the rest of her story as well as Catherine herself.