A follow-up to My Novel in Progress: A History (Part 1).
The Author Abroad
2016: In September I begin a year of studying abroad in Norwich, England. Within a few weeks of arrival I’ve found my favourite grocery stall at the market, toured most of the major sites, and signed up for a library card. I might not do much writing this year, but the culture and history of the city gives me a lot to research.
I take a class in poetry writing and churn out pages of villanelles, free verse, sonnets and sestinas. Apparently my brain really needed a break from all that prose. In my spare time, I forage through the library for books on early modern history.
The poetic passages in the NIP feel more and more contrived, so I change them to regular prose. Without the line breaks they still have a strong rhythm, and a consistent style – my style? – begins to emerge.
2017: On holiday in January. The amount of medieval architecture still present in France and Holland astounds me. In Germany there really is a type of doughnut called ein Berliner, and there is snow. I missed snow in Norwich.
Back at University, my most challenging class is feminist literature. We discuss historical context, rhetoric, intersectionality. It occurs to me that no matter what the author’s intent may have been, readers will always scour a text for its meaning. I’d rather be deliberate than accidental about message and metaphor, so I work specific themes and events into my writing.
For the final project in June, I submit an excerpt from my NIP with a lengthy analysis of its feminist components. This time, I don’t shy away from the complications of adding a new element in the middle of a draft. If I have no obligation to take my writing seriously, who does?
Riding the Waves
2018: I’m now back in Canada, and my productivity has diminished. I complete the last uninspiring credits of my university degree, then return home with barely a scrap of the mental energy I sustained in Norwich.
Instead of writing the story itself I tinker with its system of magic. It’s finally dawned on me that elemental magic (which I’ve used in the NIP for years) is hardly unique in fantasy fiction, so now I have to invent something equally compelling and figure out how it will affect the characters and societies I’ve invented. Should I use senses? Music?
I’ll decide later – right now I should find a job. And possibly start a blog.
August: I’m offered a full-time position at a local historic site. I have a bunch of new skills and new names to learn. This means no time for writing, but that doesn’t bother me much. I’m earning money for the first time in years.
2019: Still working, now part-time, which lets me play around with blogging (apparently a blog is a great way for writers to promote themselves). The results are aimless and almost too embarrassing to share. Is it a travel blog? A book review blog? Either way, the effort it requires is effort I could be putting into my NIP.
So long, Giraffes on My Bookshelf. Your nine followers probably won’t miss you.
By August, I’ve got that familiar feeling of dissatisfaction with the NIP. I focus on a simpler project for a few months, hoping that my confidence will renew itself in the meantime.
Late December: I experience a post-holiday flood of inspiration. The NIP is nearing two thirds’ completion. 2020 actually stands a chance of being the year I finish draft two.
The End of the Early Years
2020: In January, distractions abound. A trip to Spain is suggested, researched, and later scuppered by the pandemic. I wonder if I should get a Master’s degree, but in which subject? A second degree would cost money I don’t have. On the other hand, if I only have a BA, won’t it be harder to find a decent job?
February: Still comparing different graduate school options. When the self-congratulatory websites become too much, I switch to audiobooks and sewing. Sock toys are my new passion. Maybe I can sell them once life gets back to normal.
March: Enough sewing. Everything is closed; I can’t go to work or visit a café downtown. Might as well look over the NIP again…
By mid-month, I have something of a writing routine. It involves many late nights, a few rewrites, and a bit of secrecy (I don’t want to hear “Have you finished yet?” every day). I remind myself that motivation is fickle –it probably won’t last.
And then on March 20, 2020, I write the final words of draft two.
A holiday from writing. Revision. The beginning of draft three. More revision.
The story of the NIP continues…