At some point this year, I will reach the ninth anniversary of having started my novel. Nine years, thirteen drafts – still plugging away. ‘It’s like a zen exercise,’ said my sister, when I last met her. Pretty much. Each time I feel I’ve got to the end, there’s another reason to start again. Usually feedback from an agent or an editor.
In this latest draft, it has lost fifteen thousand words. Maybe more. The last one was over seventy thousand words, it’s now at fifty-three. I might eventually get it published as a short story.
But I’m still learning. Most of the loss has been the flashback chapters that the current editor felt held up the pace of it. What is interesting, is that having removed them, they aren’t too much of a loss. I’ve cut a character and bolstered up another. I feel like some bloke in his shed, tinkering at something mechanical that will never quite be finished.
Though, this draft feels close. I think one more read through and I might be ready. And if I get asked to do another draft? Maybe. My friends and writing colleagues seem to be past the point when they asked me if this was really the last version. They may even have forgotten that I’m writing.
I have in mind a sea wreck, jutting up from the tide, some mad bloke running up and down the shore shouting, ‘It’s nearly done! Nearly done!’ It’s not me, of course. I’m just nine years into writing a short novel: on my thirteenth draft, which I’m calling a fourteenth because I think it might be bad luck.