A writer friend of mine who did the same graduate London City University Certificate in Novel Writing course as I did last year has been commenting on his blog about the dilema which must face all novelists - especially novice ones.Essentially the question he raises is - how do you balance the need for constant refinement of the material you are producing with keeping to a time frame in order that you can see an end point and the novel completed. I got to bed very late last night after dancing on the roof of an old apartment building at a queer tango practica and when I got in had difficulty getting to sleep, so have been musing on this isssue raised by Mike Clark on his blog.
I think that the readings we gve to literary agent/industry profesional at the end of our course WERE DEFINATELY a good idea, for me, atleast. The fact that I had interest from four agents and that I went to see one and they allowed me to talk freely through my ideas for the book- acknowledging that it was no where near ready at that stage to show more – I found inspiring. It’s no garuantee of course that publication will follow but the fact that I know the story I am writing is of interest to someone who doesnt otherwise know me has been a great kick start. The situation of having agents who have told me “send it to me” when its completed has spurred me on.I have printed off the email from each agent and put these up on my white board at home. Similarly emails from a couple of writers from my local writers group who are published novelists already and have made nice, encouraging comments about the qualities they see/like in my work.These are carrots have to dangle all the time and especially when I feel the task before me is insurmountable. The road which Mike describes I know well ; it is a hard slog , a balance between constant refinement and achieving a satisfactory end product. I believe that its important to be able to visualise the end of the process in order to succesfully move toward it. Having the agents waiting is a good motivator but also setting a structure within which to work is equally important to me. The targets I set do move as the novel evolves but the end is now clearly in sight and I know where I am going and by when. If you do not set a time frame to complete then it will make things harder.
The monthly check in with Emma/ my mentor is proving invaluable. She sees almost everything new I am writing and discusses with me the stage I’m at, encourages me to linger or leave and move on. And my writing has got better with this constant practice and challenge.
Sometimes I have found the presure of it extremely weighty – thats why I write scenes/chapters in sections and not in any start to finish order. Every now and then I look at the bigger picture and where things should all go, what needs to change , what further work needs doing and what new research I need to undertake. But once you have this thing in you, it just has to be let out in its entirety – and – Mike I certainly get this sense from you too about Kim et al in your novel The Angel. So make a plan, keep going – even if the plan changes – set yourself a time frame, even if you have to reset the clock occaisionally. And give yourself a break sometimes – read, do something else for a few days. The story of ones novel is always there and when the time is right will resurface and cry out for you to begin again the telling of it.