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The Loneliness of Long-Distance Novelists

Today, something a little different. In quieter spells I tinker about on one or other of my novels that are in various stages of readiness for the world. I mentioned one of them to somebody a while back and they said ‘oh, how many pages is it?’ After a small pause I said it was around 80,000 words – a standard paperback novel size, more or less. After a considerably longer pause, during which I wondered what I had said that was so incomprehensible, I had a reaction. ‘Wow. I don’t think I could write that many words’.

Image credit: radiantskies / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: radiantskies / 123RF Stock Photo

Well – if you are going to write a novel and do it properly, unless you are exceptionally talented such a size of novel will involve more like 250,000 words by the time you think it’s finished. Okay, there are exceptions – an American, best selling author who lives in my town is not only the nicest and most interesting person I have met, but she admits that she ‘writes clean’ – her first draft novels are pretty much ready for the publisher. You can go off people. For the rest of us, the process is more like this. You write like mad to get the story down, get distracted by family, work and social demands, give up for a while, go back to it and become disheartened. The word count is about half what you hoped it would be, so you write some more and set it aside for a few months so you can view it with fresh eyes. Then you look at the story arc which looks a little wobbly, find plot holes, discover that characters change their eye colour part way through, their house has somehow turned round or had a storey added and their pet has changed its name without warning. More writing, then comes the more critical editing and gremlin-zapping before you leave the project to one side again for a few months, then do it all again. And again. Apart from technical challenges, it boils down to a long slog where you are likely to overdose on caffeine, lose several friends and key members of your family, your health and your sanity. For many, trying to be a novelist is a lonely lifestyle and a LOT of hard work with no guarantee of reward. This before you contemplate using a proofreader or editor, as you really can’t do it yourself effectively if it is your own writing.

16732653_s woman thinking
stocking / 123RF Stock Photo

The good news (for me) is that after years of fiddling about, throwing it into a corner, thinking it will never be good enough, typing my fingers to the bone with more re-writes than I care to admit and dealing with the results of having it independently proofread, novel #2 is, well, ready. I think. In a mood of daring and possible over-confidence I have submitted it to a publisher and am now tapping my fingers waiting for the response. No doubt that will involve yet more re-writes, sleepless nights and a conviction that one of my other novel writing projects is a better bet. Novel #1? Rejected and undergoing yet another edit. Ho hum.

It’s a good job I live alone.


By Gill Pavey

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