Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions


The 20 Day Novel: Day 10

Nelson-Mandela-playing-small“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

There are few people who would leave a gap in history if you were to remove them from it entirely. Great men and women abound, but they do so riding vast tides of change. Were they to vanish, another would have been there to take their place. Details would change, but the greater whole would be as it was. Nelson Mandela was the exception, because it is not only the things he did that changed the world beyond all recognition for the better, but who he was over decades. He changed the world in ways that stagger the imagination, and offered a portrait of compassion, dignity, and extraordinary courage you cannot examine without in turn reflecting on your own inadequacy.

I nodded when I woke this morning and was told Mandela was dead. I searched for some reaction, but there was nothing much there. He died at the age of 95, leaves an entire planet improved, and while he was ever dissatisfied with the inadequacies of humanity he lived to see the vast effect of his deeds and life. That’s a joyous thing.

After Kirsty  left for work, i started to flick through various tributes and remembrances while having a coffee and warming up for the day’s work. The small ones are what got you. Little slices of humility and compassion, the sort of thing that don’t make the official obituaries. I welled up, surprised at myself, and then I sobbed, completely uncontrollably. It didn’t last long. Thirty seconds, maybe? And it wasn’t grief, exactly. Nelson Mandela, on even the most casual examination, was what humanity can be. Not a saint or a faultless man, for those are inhuman ideals, but the best a human can aspire to. That’s what made me cry. Being alive on this planet, and seeing what could be if only the things that made that man would somehow infect us all.

Like he has done and continues to do for millions of others, Nelson Mandela gives me hope. His death doesn’t change that at all.

“It is now in the hands of your generations to help rid the world of such suffering.”

The 20 Day Novel is currently 34,490 words long. Scriv tells me that in order to reach 100,000 words by day 20, I need to complete 5962 words a day until the deadline. If I can beat that on any given day, then the amount I need to do on following days comes down. I’d like that to happen. 5962 keeps me at a constant crisis point. It’s just a little more than is realistic, and while I pushed hard yesterday and got there it will be very easy to keep falling short too.

Time to start in on it. Wish me luck.

11:00 – 12:00. 608 words. Quite a slow start to the day, Opening up with an interrogation. There will be tears and frustration. From the characters I hope, rather than me.

I haven’t written a word since this morning. I don’t intend to write anything else today.

Instead, I’m stepping back and plotting. I realised on a break that I was starting to have tremendous trouble working out who was doing what, and where, and why. I’ve dropped so many clues and bits of potential into this first third of a novel that I’m in danger of getting lost. The book has become a gloriously intricate thing, but by charging on I’m in danger of following the big stuff and neglecting the small. That would waste many of the things I want to follow through on.

So I’ve stopped writing, and taken the afternoon to sit and make notes. I have pages for the characters who are critical, and one for the adversary. Those pages are filling up with what’s driving each, and where they’re going in acts 2 & 3.

It’s a bit of a risk, taking this time out. I’m hoping – and that’s all it is – that I’ll be paid back for this next week, and will spend less time figuring things out and more time following the map. I’m glad I didn’t try to plot the book in advance – so much of working out what it is comes from the shapes it made while I charged at it. Now it needs a bit more guidance, which is what I’ll give it over the next few hours.

But in real terms, only 608 words done. The manuscript is 35,026 words long, just over the one third mark, but I’m halfway through the time I’ve given myself to finish it.

Next week could be interesting.

While you’re here, you should note that my next novel The Flesh Market will be released towards the end of January 2014. A story of science, murder, obsession, and the walking dead, the book creeps between the slums of 19th century Edinburgh and the ivory towers of its academia. I’m telling you this now because in the next few weeks, well before the book is released, I’ll be giving everybody signed up to me email newsletter a free ebook copy for their Kindles, Nooks, smartphones, etc. At the top right of this page is a ‘Newsletter Signup’ box. Stick you’re email in and you’re done. Your details will never be passed on, to anybody, ever. Thanks!

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