I set a goal for myself to finish the first draft of a palimpsest before AWP, but I think I’m officially giving that up right now. I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because of a few trying personal matters and now, today, I feel simply exhausted and will fall farther behind where I need to be. To reach this goal before AWP, which I leave for in like ten days, I needed to keep a pretty high words per day level. Like, at least 6,000. I was doing pretty well, hitting 5k Monday, 10k Tuesday, and 7k Wednesday, but none yesterday and sitting at about 3k today puts me well short of where I’ll need to be unless I have a huge day tomorrow. And so I think I’m going to relax, let it come as it comes. Also, this first draft is coming out very rough in certain ways, so it’s no real issue to slow down a bit. I posted something the other day about the writing of this novel and I’ll copy it here:
Do you ever feel like what you’re writing is only a sketch of its final iteration? I’ve been getting that feeling a lot during this novel. In fact, it may be the driving force behind this first draft: to get all the sketches down so I can finally lay down the canvas and start painting. This novel is incredibly complex and gargantuan in size and scope, so it makes sense for the first draft to come out so shabbily, but I’ve never experienced writing like this. Where the first try is so rough. And that’s not to say bad, because I think what I’ve been doing is pretty solid, but it’s just not the way it needs to be. It’s good but it’s not right.
If you’ve read any of my posts in here, you know I’m writing a huge polyphonic novel consisting of 101 perspectives ranging from 1920s Berlin to 1940s Mexico to 1970s Japan to 2000s France with just about everywhere else in between. It’s a novel that takes place over 90 years and across six continents, told by 101 different characters. It’s about art, poetry, rebellion, revolution, sexuality, violence, history, economics, politics, dreams, hallucinations, drugs, war, expatriation, adoption, mental illness, criticism, literary theory, philosophy, religion, multiverse, evolution, terrorism, cultural identity, personal identity, travelling, gender, loneliness, feminism, apocalypse, and on and on. I’ve written 62 of the 101 perspectives and while some of them have come out mostly just right, many more feel like simple character sketches.
It’s almost like this whole first draft is a very detailed outline for the novel it will be. 101 narrators doesn’t mean 101 characters but more like 300 characters, all of them needing to be alive and unique, if only for the few sentences they appear. Also, these narrators, each voice needs to be its own. Distinct, but not necessarily so distinct, because people from the same regions speak similarly and people who are friends speak even more similarly, but still. I’m nearing 130k words and just pushed over 460 pages and so I’m guessing the first draft will be somewhere around 200k words and who knows how many pages, but this also means the final draft may be as much as 400k words, though that’s unlikely [I hope], but it will probably be around 300k words, since each perspective needs to be fleshed out by probably at least 500 words. And 500 words for 101 characters adds up pretty fast and some of the perspectives need to be completely rewritten and maybe doubled or tripled in size. It’s likely to be the first thing I write that expands on a second run through.
Because of the massiveness of this, it’ll probably take me at least the rest of the year to get it all right. But I also think it will be the last novel I write in this way. Polyphonic, I mean. Every novel but one has been narrated by more than one character [1: 26, 3: 3, 4: 13, 5: 3] and so I’ll hopefully be moving back towards more centralised and focused novels. Most of the novel[la]s I have planned [have had planned for a while] will revolve around one narrator or a third person perspective and I think that kind of writing will be kind to me. Hopefully I can sneak a shorter one or two in this year between editing/rewriting this big stupid mess of a novel.
I don’t know why I’m sharing this. It’s just strange to be writing something so large. Already it’s longer than anything else I’ve written [1: 47k, 2: 40k, 3: 52k, 4: 63k, 5: 95k] and it’s possible it’ll be longer than all of my previous novels combined by the time it’s done, which is absurd.
I’m mostly just hoping my talent matches my ambition for this novel. Writing a brick sized novel is so different from writing a normal sized one. It’s about as different as a short story is from a novel because a gargantuan novel is more, I think, about creating a world and allowing the reader to inhabit it. If your novel is 600+ pages, that’s a book that will take a while to read, possibly even a few months for some people, and so you need to go about it in a different way. I mean, even a 300 page novel can be read in a single day, in a single sitting, but it’s unlikely most people read a 1,000 page novel over the course of a single week. And since I’ve never been big on reading huge novels, it’s that much stranger to be writing one. Funny, too, because this was the year I planned on reading a bunch of these huge novels I have the ones that could be used as a weapon. A part of me wishes I had started this novel a year from now when I had become more familiar with the way these novels are written, but, alas! Here I am amidst titans hoping to not be crushed beneath their heels!
But, yes, I guess what I mean to say is don’t write a very large book and certainly don’t imagine that writing a first draft of it within two months means anything beyond making your edit/rewrite almost hopelessly herculean a task.
But, really, 130k ain’t bad for six and a half weeks of work and 200k over eight weeks will be just silly if I can get there. But, as I said, all the work that comes after that will likely take me at least the following ten months of the year, if not more. Probably more because I actually need to do some serious research to make this novel really thrive. For example: what was life like in Mexico City from 1940-2010 or Kyoto from 1970-2010 or Berlin in the 1920s. I mean, I know, in general, what it was like, but generalising that often about that many places and historical events is just beyond sloppy, even for me, and I make everything up!
But, yes. Current thoughts on a palimpsest, my in progress novel.
Anycase, thought I’d just dump that here. Going to relax, watch a movie, maybe play some more Final Fantasy VI, and just let the novel come as it will.
Also, since I’ve been writing reviews around the internet, I’ve had some people reach out to me over the last couple months. Typically I’m pretty into whatever they’re willing to send me but I received an email yesterday from a man named Michael through some sort of server proxy thing that I can’t reply to. He didn’t leave his last name or any contact information so I’m not sure what to do about it. He mentioned that he’s visited this site, so I thought I’d post this here in hopes that he sees it. I’m down to read your novel, Michael, but you should email me at gmail or The Lit Pub or comment here or send me a message through facebook or goodreads or some such thing. As is, I don’t really know how to contact you.
Also also, I need to do some things about a novel I submitted. Figure out what’s wrong with the server thingymadoodad.
But, yes, weary. Going to just relax.