So The Free-Range Writer went cold turkey. Five months which I’ve spent extruding novel, a strange, lumpy substance of highly variable quality and texture.
Now I’m down to the final month, writing against the clock as I attempt to crank out a full first draft by the ‘thesis’ deadline of 4 November. I spent the middle part of the year convincing myself that a full first draft by deadline day was completely impossible, and that I was best to hand in a reworked partial draft, so I wasted weeks trying to restructure the first half of the manuscript, rearranging deckchairs on what might still turn out to be, at the rewriting stage, a doomed vessel.* But a few weeks ago my supervisor, who spent the first half of the year terrorising me about the terminal flaws in my project and has recently become disconcertingly enthusiastic about it, told me to put my head down and finish a full draft.
So now the pressure’s on. Now it’s not about word count (I’m already well over the thesis maximum – ‘Don’t worry about it!’ says my supervisor) but about ticking off the chapters – five new ones in the last two weeks, seven (maybe) to go. Under the exhaustion of the sustained effort is elation – an end in sight, the sense that soon, very soon, I’ll have a big, messy, imperfect complete draft to hold, squalling and bloody, in my arms. Then the real work starts, next year and probably the year after that, the cleaning up and sorting out, the ruthless cutting and shaping and smoothing (it’s not actually a baby metaphor, okay?).* One rewrite for structure, one rewrite for theme and one for language. At least.
So the impending deadline is just one milestone in the whole marathon* – but definitely a significant one. And together with a little recent critical success, it’s got me on a bit of a high. I think I can actually knock this bastard off.*
* I promise my novel doesn’t mix metaphors so terribly. But what’s a blog for if it isn’t self-indulgent metaphor-mixing?