85% (Stay On Target)

It occurs to me that it’s been some time since I posted any sort of progress report on The Project.

The Project, of course, being Novel Alpha, or the reason I started this whole crazy blarg thing which is by all accounts growing faster than my toddler’s vocabulary and spiraling out of control.  As I close in on my hundredth post (seriously, this is post 86, which fargoing astounds me) it seems a good time for a status update.

The novel is at 85% as of today at about 75000 words, give or take a little.  The fact that I’ve made it this far continues to shock and awe me.  I feel like an Aboriginal Tribesman who has never heard of planes, trains, or automobiles and suddenly gets on one of those Japanese bullet trains and travels two hundred miles in like ten minutes and gets off the train saying, “I came all that way?  Impossible.”  Or, to use a metaphor that’s more immediate and familiar to me, like the thirteenth mile of a half-marathon; I’m aware that there was a lot of work involved to get to this point, but the fact that it was done and that it was all done by me is just sort of eclipsed by the lactate burning holes in my calves.

I’m fargoing burned.  Say what you want about writers just sitting at their computers and typing up words, this sharknado is hard work.  Especially now that we have two sprouts tearing up the house (okay, the second one is still essentially immobile and therefore incapable of domestic disturbance, but still, she’s there and she’s a factor, and you know what, screw it, her big brother causes enough mayhem for two anyway), finding A) the time to write, B) a clearheaded focus with which to write, and C) the recall and tenacity to make sure that what I’m writing makes sense anymore becomes a task of Herculean proportions.  What I’m trying to say is, I feel the tank emptying out, I feel the cabin pressure dropping, I see a line of defenders standing square-shouldered in my path on the ten-yard line.

In my dreams, a common theme is spinning out of control.  This is, I’ll say, 40% of my dreams from I dunno, college onward.  I’m driving a car, everything is hunky-dory, and all of a sudden the car is in a skid.  I feel it swing wide, the tail end overtaking the front as the vehicle careens sideways down a road (sometimes icy, sometimes not), in a perpetual slide that never seems to end, just skidding, spiraling, and I’m unable to regain control or even stop the car.  I just spin out endlessly through the oncoming traffic, obviously missing the turns I was supposed to make.  Or I get dreams of flight; I take long jumps, longer than should be possible, then I’m gliding over the ground against the pull of gravity and suddenly I’m zipping through the treetops and skimming the tops of building like some crazy UFO, and then all of a sudden gravity turns me a blind eye and I’m hurtling away from the earth into the stratosphere, all the features of land growing tiny and the air growing thin as I drift into low orbit.

So yeah, that’s what the writing feels like over the last week or so.  I’ve spent seventy thousand words spinning up what I think is a pretty good story, building some good characters and conflicts and ups and downs, and now all of a sudden it’s time to start bringing the thing in for a landing but the controls are locked.  The landing gear won’t unfold and I can’t disengage the autopilot.  Not only can I not land it, but I can’t even sort out for myself why I’m having trouble with the ending.  It could be that the story has changed so much from my original imaginings that the ending I’d planned no longer makes sense, or to be more correct, is no longer good enough.  It could be that I simply, honestly and truly don’t know how to end it and I’m stalling for time.  It could be that I’m afraid to end it because once I finish this first draft, then the Grand Experiment is over and I have to move on to a task which my Ego-Writer knows will be much more drudgerous (pretty sure I just invented that word): editing.  Maybe it’s all three, I dunno.

So my notes to my future self are coming faster and more frantically than ever, and my draft is a patchwork of comments like “Did I explain that before?  FIX IT LATER” and “MAKE SURE TO GO BACK AND PLANT THIS IDEA EARLIER IN THE STORY” and “SHARKNADO I DON’T LIKE THIS BLERGGGG FIGURE IT OUT”.  Yes, those are actual notes I typed to myself; I know because I reviewed my draft and extracted them using my handy-dandy handheld word extractor.  Yes, I type those notes to myself in all caps.  I like to think it will make things easier on Future Me if he can look back at Present Me’s (then Past Me) work and notes and say, “god, that guy was a jerk, I don’t feel bad at all about feeding his work into the incinerator of a first edit”.  You know, if things were friendly he’d feel obligated to be nice to me, and I DON’T WANT THAT.

Nevertheless, the writing presses on.  As my dear departed grandmother used to say, “it’s off like a herd of turtles.”  Some days it really does feel like I’m clearing the path of three feet of snow before I can tread, wobbly-kneed and dizzy, across the uneven, icy ground.  But it’s at 85%.  Less than fifteen thousand words to go.  If I stay on schedule, that could be just three weeks away.

Three weeks until the draft of my first novel is completed.  An uplifting and also terrifying thought, because then the real work begins.

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