The pains of surgery

No, no, I’m fine. Recovered from my illness with a new determination not to drink any Coke Zero and generally to live healthier. And, after a long time away, returned to my story. To my 23 000 words. Only to find that a good percentage of those words were the wrong ones.

I can thank my magnificent literary agent for pointing out the bleeding obvious to me; that the first six chapters were bristling with extra scenes, ideas, and characters. I finished the phone call to her psyched up to do the cutting, rewrite the new, better, tighter, more engaging scenes, and return to the new writing with focus and vigour. But having just cut 7000 words from the MS, I feel rather despondent. It’s demoralising to see that word count at the bottom corner of the screen fall below 20 000– and well below 20 000, at that– when my imagination had prepared me to be at 40 000 or so this week. I have a research trip to Tasmania booked in a few weeks, and wanted to be vastly more advanced in the MS by then. It’s the literary equivalent of walking miles in the hot sun to the store, only to find you’ve left your purse at home. Except more exhausting. And there’s more of a longing for alcohol. And a tad more self-loathing.

So, once more into the breach, my friends. Onward to the new and improved 20 000 mark, and so on and so on. As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

Managing illness: epic fail

One thing I am very, very, very bad at is being sick. When sickness comes to my door, I tend to deny it for a while. Then I acknowledge it grudgingly. Then I go to bed and spend hours on end being really angry about it. Finally, I admit that I’m sick and get teary and tense, thinking about (a) how much I’m scarring my children by not being with them and also by being some Victorian figure of a pale, sickly mother (‘kiss Mamma’s withered cheek, my darling, and perhaps we shall meet again if it is God’s will!”), and (b) how much I have to do that isn’t getting done. I have been ill this week and so I haven’t written a word. This particular illness, or the medicine I’m taking for it, has made me vague and confused, so I haven’t even really been able to think about my book. I have a chapter outline that hasn’t been developed beyond what I’ve already written, and only an incomplete sense of where I’m going to go next. Of course, any extended time away from the story makes it that much harder to get back in. And I was going so well! I was past 20 000 words, which is usually a bit of a milestone for me.

I’m always pressing upon my students the need for contingency plans. Life does intervene in the writing process, of course it does. But I realise that I have no such plans for myself. I am such an unforgiving taskmaster. My boss totally sucks!