Or, in my case, the slow and lazy. In other words, dear reader, I won't be having much of a Christmas holiday this year as I only have two months left of my contract as writer in residence at Canterbury University (read: two months left of my office and salary). Next year, from March, will involve a lot of juggling - childcare, earning money to feed my family (hubby going back to study), finishing my novel. No pretty office of my own. No salary.
So I think you can undertsand why the next two months are critical to make as much headway as possible. I intend to finish the first draft of my new novel (working title The Collectors) in the next two months, which means around 5000 words a week and much more concentration than I have been able to muster all year. I think it's achievable. The reason I have been slow of late getting words on paper (apart from monstrous distractions) is that I have been immersed in research and planning, so the time has not been wasted. In fact, it was time well spent, because it means I am now in a position to put my head down and churn out the rest of the story. In theory.
This novel has so far been a constant source of surprise, delight, irritation and frustration. The Sound of Butterflies knew what it wanted to be right from the start. The Collectors did not. That is, it thought it did, which is why I bashed out 30,000 words in the first few months of my residency, but then I had to stop and re-think the whole thing. It necessarily got more and more complicated, and ambitious and wild, and just when I thought I was getting a handle on it, last week it decided it wanted to be something else entirely (same characters and basic plot, different raison d’ệtre). I have stopped being surprised by this novel and am going where it takes me.
Previous to writing this novel, I would have said I was the kind of novelist that more or less has a plan when the novel starts, but now I know I am not any one kind of novelist and every book I write will have a different process (just as every child one has is different I suppose, despite the same basic recipe). This first draft has been very much the 'exploratory draft' as described by the wonderful Laini Taylor in Not For Robots.
So I wish everyone a great Christmas break, but I will not be joining you, apart from maybe a couple of days to stuff myself with delicious food and drink. Already I seem to be the only one haunting the English department halls, and I quite like it. Watch this space.
Wang Anyi Wins 2017 Newman Prize For Chinese Literature
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