I have finally finished my novel. Actually it was finished on the 15 November so I am very slow about posting this.
107,000 words, all done; redrafted several times, edited and edited again. It’s a great feeling to be finished- probably something like the feeling of achievement after running a marathon. It is the first time in my life that I have devoted myself exclusively to writing for almost a whole year- or eleven months to be more precise. When I say exclusively I mean that I have done no art work to speak of, and I have entered no writing competitions or submitted my work to magazines. (Except for one, which I knew I had a good chance of and which paid!)
I was listening to Mike Mc Cormac on the radio just before Christmas – he’s a wonderful writer and the author of ‘Solar Bones’ which won the novel of the year in the Bord Gais energy awards. He said that when you write a short story you know that you might be able to achieve whatever it was you intended, but that a finished novel never manages to match up to the perfect one that was in your head. I think every novelist probably feels like that – compromises have to be made and the final product is a distillation of your ideas into as perfect a form as you can make them but it probably never quite matches up to what you thought you might achieve.
My novel has several different plotlines, each requiring a certain amount of research and sometimes I felt as if my brain was fried trying to go from one to the other of them and make them coherent and related properly to each other and to the timeline. At any given time there were at least five word documents on the go – the main narrative, the who’s who, the chapter summaries and page numbers , the timeline of events, some of the parts of the minor narratives, bits to add in, bits taken out to put in somewhere else…and so on.
A friend asked me last night if my novel had a message. I think it is about the resilience of the human spirit- that despite tragedies and disappointments in life it is possible to pick ourselves up and get new energy and direction in our lives. The two main characters have hugely contrasting backgrounds and interests; an architect in Dublin who becomes involved in a virtual reality site and sees a business opportunity in the online world and a retired farmer in Maam cross who has lived all his life in an isolated valley, experiencing the wider world through his love of reading. When they meet and interact it is an opportunity to create a dialogue between their disparate worlds which is beneficial to both of them. There are several other strands and subplots but more anon….
‘Another Life’ is the working title I used. When I was researching drug addiction for one of the characters I read several blogs where people described the first time they took heroin and what that felt like. One of the phrases that one person used was that it was like hearing the sound of beautiful bells. I used this phrase ‘the beautiful bells’ in a short memory piece I used between chapters- (There are six of these inserts altogether at various points in the novel and they are all from the memory of one particular character).
This is the piece:
One minute …….two…………. It begins.
A warm blanket surrounding you, massaging you, getting you ready as the wave of pleasure rushes at you, sweeps you away.
Church bells in your ears, blotches of rainbow colours,
Ring your bell
The beautiful bells.
After wards the cold, puking, crashing to the earth.
Remember the bells
The beautiful bells.
After I wrote this I thought wow, that would be a great title for my novel- ‘The Beautiful Bells’ but when I asked a few friends that idea was shot down and the consensus was that ‘Another life’ was a better title. I’ll be thinking about this again in the New Year and maybe will come up with another alternative. No doubt if I ever get an offer of publication the publisher will have something to say about the title as well.
I have given ‘Another Life’ to five people to read to test the initial reactions and to see if there is anything glaringly obvious that needs to be changed and then it will be time to hazard sending it out into the world. I have no illusions that that will be easy, but this time I intend to leave no stone unturned.
Hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and get a chance to step back and have some quiet times as well in these pre New Year days.