Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 26 April 2010

A giant step for WfW

Novel: started in early October, finished today. Last chapter (4992 words) plus the previous 21 chapters comes out at 99,407 words. Say 320 words to the book page and I have a 310-page book. “Finished” is a nonsense. There are weeks of editing at all levels. I do not know how it reads end to end, whether it is has rhythm, vitality, surprises and all those intangibles whereby a string of words becomes a novel. Most important, do my two precious creations live?

The blog suffered. In defence, much blog stuff appears in the book which follows two people working in manufacturing industry and – unfashionably and possibly indigestibly – there is much engineering detail. Whether it finds a publisher or not, or whether I publish it as a vanity project, it discharges an obligation I feel towards engineers. They are my heroes and I feel bitterly that so few people give a toss about them.

The plot outline changed. The second main character eventually occupied half the story and chapters intertwined. Eventually the characters meet for a final chapter intended as an elegy of their professional concerns and their natures. Only recently I realised the plot structure resembled a rather more famous work – the progress of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through the dense pages of Ulysses which culminates in Molly Bloom’s wonderful soliloquy. Entirely sub-conscious, I swear.

Along the way I started writing verse but cannot think why. In my opinion writing verse is easier than writing a novel: one is like torturing a beetle, the other like riding a python. This opinion is worthless if it turns out both are done badly.

15 comments:

The Crow said...

Hmmm...I never thought of my favorite childhood summer pastime of tying a length of thread around a June bug's neck was tortue, but, then, I wasn't the June bug, either.

I've never ridden a python, BB, so you are one up one me. There's still time left, though, so perhaps I'll add that to my list of accomplishments yet.

(Nor have I completed a novel yet, either, so there's something else to add to that bucket list.)

marja-leena said...

Congratulations on completion of a major stage in writing a book! These words touched me deeply and I think you may know why:

"....an obligation I feel towards engineers. They are my heroes and I feel bitterly that so few people give a toss about them."

christopher said...

Hooah! Marine for victory. I agree, though. You are probably somewhere near two thirds done, but the last third can easily mushroom should you discover some disjoint or more.

I have always felt you have to trust your own capacity throughout because the scope is too large to contain all at once, but in my own experience, a work of 283 pages to finish a degree, there are large sour notes that easily slip past first efforts to be picked up later. My prayer for you, they don't (if they exist) change everything. That's what happened to me partway through, and everything was rewritten.

That's possibly indiscipline, though. When I start a rewrite it often leads away from the original path too easily and I often cannnot retrieve the original from this better (??) position.

What the heck? Torturing a beetle? Surely that's the novel. Riding a python feels much more poetic.

herhimnbryn said...

Congratulations for 'finishing' the work. Good fortune with the editing .

Rouchswalwe said...

Banzai! Banzai! [3rd to come after editing!], BB!

And a hurrah for engineers!

Barrett Bonden said...

All: If this novel fails it could well be because I fell in love with both the main characters. Perhaps I should have caused some blood to flow at the end, betrayed them, disappointed them, looked for parallels in some of the great literary tragedies. I couldn't. But let me pass the buck. In the end Ulysses ends on a life-affirming upbeat and if, as seems possible, I was subconsciously aping my favourite work of fiction then this may be the reason. I think I enjoyed myself too much even though I injected some reasonably horrible moments en route.

I'm sorry my beetle/python metaphor fell on its ass. What I meant to say is that ultimately poems are controllable on most of their levels whereas the relative shapelessness of a novel defies total rigour. Too many options. But since I'm very much a debutante versifier I bow to Chris's view on this. Certainly he's right about the editing stage. If you truly open your mind to improvements the whole tubful of Jello could spread all over the table and flop on to the floor.

As I end this comment I turn back to the MS and one great step forward. Presently the chapters are all in individual files and my first act will be to combine them into a mega-file. Why? because of WfW's search function. I am dissatisfied with the surname I gave my leading lady (though it is, of course, that of her husband and that complicates things). But when I have found a satisfactory replacement I'll be able to tick "Replace all" and the computer will work its magic. Thanks for chatting.

The Crow said...

I thought your metaphor worked just fine - I got from it what you've said you intended.

I think the torturing beetle comment opened a tiny window on a childhood guilt. It's kept in the same closet with the one about rubbing butterfly wings on my arms because I was told it would make me fly.

Oh, God! - now they're all tumbling out, like the junk from Fibber McGee's closet.

I salute your accomplishment, friend, and wish you continued success with the next phase of your creation. (I'm glad you've fallen for Clare. I did, too.)

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow; Hatch, too, I fear.

Plutarch said...

Verse may be easier but I wouldn't be sure about poetry. Some verse is poetry; some isn't. Ulysses has been described as an epic poem as distinct from a novel. Novels are more complex than most poems. I can see vicariously through your experience just how difficult it must be to balance the various elements of a novel.

Occasional speeder said...

How pleasing to have reached this significant milestone. And where better to celebrate it than Cinderford?!

Julia said...

Yay and congratulations! It's been one of the pleasures of reading Works Well to watch the novel's progress tick by tick at the bottom of each post. I'll miss that ever so slightly but look forward to the greater pleasure of reading the book.

What do you think about Victorian novelists and their engineers? Elizabeth Gaskell springs to mind in this regard. Later on, Monet seems to me to make a case for them too. Are we just inured to the magic of mechanics these days? Or maybe they are just too well hidden.

Hattie said...

Congratulations!
Yes, it's true, engineers get no respect. References to hairy ears must be noted.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: I didn't really say writing verse and/or poetry was easier than writing a novel. I said it was more controllable. All the elements of verse/poetry are there in front of the writer, no need to go trawling back to check earlier details, etc. Less likelihood of fatigue.

OS: You will have baffled everyone with your reference to Cinderford. The celebrations there are now over and the raw material garnered may make things slightly clearer in a forthcoming post.

Julia/Hattie: There would have been no need to write Con Rod during Victorian times since engineers were then deservedly celebrated (Brunel, Telford (a bit early), the men who designed and made the London water-pumping stations, the sewers, etc) in public and, as you say, in literature. Paintings too (Think "Rain Steam and Speed" and other Turners). Now if engineers are mentioned at all in books their achievements are not thought remarkable. Nor is their profession honoured.

Duchess Omnium said...

I've come late to this party, but not too late to add my congratulations to the others'

Barrett Bonden said...

DO: Welcome to Works Well and thanks for your good wishes. I take it your blogonym is from the Trollope political novels. Several years ago, having read the politicals, the Barchester series and one or two of the big ones, I decided to read the lot. This was a mistake. The quality tapers off horribly and there is much padding. A shame given the punchiness of the earlier novels. Got about halfway (and that's about twenty titles) before I went on to better things.