Perseverance

Perseverance is one of those it-depends virtues. Persevering in doing good? Praiseworthy.  Persevering in doing something wrong? Doubly wrong. Persevering in doing something stupid? Extra stupid.

i quit
So perhaps perseverance is more of a magnifier than a virtue in and of itself. “It might have been a stupid thing to do, but at least he persevered with it,” – said no one ever.

But perseverance is an important quality, nonetheless, because you won’t get anywhere without it. It is cousin to self-control and part and parcel of being a grownup. None of which makes it easy. Trust me – I struggle with this one as much as the next person.

For me, at least, it’s not a problem with quitting too easily. Not-deciding to call it quits and let go is easy for me – it doesn’t require me to do anything at all! But that’s a passive perseverance: it doesn’t actually get you anywhere (except buried under a pile of unfinished projects. Ask me how I know…).

Dickensdream
It’s positive perseverance that I struggle with. When the project sits on my desk, or by my chair, large and looming, its unfinished-ness bulging in all directions, it’s easier to just do something else. After all, with a big long-term project, what’s one day here or there? Except every day is, when you look at it, just one day.

It’s so easy to decide that the amount of work you can do in that one day won’t even be noticeable next to the enormous mound of work remaining (which may well be true) and that it’s not worth the struggle of doing it; it won’t make any difference (which is false).

Back in May 2013, I decided that I was going to get a move on with the WIP or it would take me til 2020 just to finish the first draft. Several plans later (I’ll spare you all the links, but it’s all in the archives if you’d like to watch it unfold in fascinated horror) I finished the first draft, in December 2014. It is now November 2016, and I am perhaps a quarter of the way through the second draft.

DraftingNot Good Enough. Of course, there have been distractions, delays (moving house, anyone?) and other projects, but still, for a full-time allegedly professional writer, it stinks.

I have, therefore, decided to move my perseverance from the ‘passive’ setting to the ‘active’ setting by attempting a sort-of NaNoWriMo – a PseuDoNaNo, one could call it – in which I endeavour to write 50,000 words of second draft (should be about half the total, I calculate) during the month of November. 2,500 words a day, Monday to Friday.

The provisional plan after that is to rewrite the last quarter (the easiest bit to write, the first time around) in December, give it a polish, and then get it out to beta readers early in the new year.

Johann Peter Hasenclever - Das Lesekabinett - Google Art Project
I have no idea how long the path to publication will take (editing, typesetting, cover design etc etc etc) but I am hoping that the last sun of 2017 will set on me as a published writer. (More published than I am now, anyway.)

I have been working on my preparations and creating buttresses for my weak points (most notably the dreadful twin habits of writing before I think, and writing a scene on and on til it dies of exhaustion, which were between them largely responsible for the bloated size of the First Draft) so I think I have a good chance of succeeding, as long as I – you guessed it – persevere.

“See first that the design is wise and just;
that ascertained, pursue it resolutely.
Do not for one repulse forego the purpose
that you resolved to effect,” as Shakespeare didn’t say.

I intend to keep blogging throughout November – though not, you will be happy to hear, with endless updates on the writing process – and I promise I will let you know how it all went come December.

snail-1447233_640
Wish me luck! or rather, no, wish me perseverance.

The Quotidian QWERTYUIOP

December 6th, 2014: a wonderful day. I wrote “The End” on the first draft of my fantasy novel, provisionally titled Tsifira. It was the culmination of (cough) years of work. But the work was only beginning…

Gerard ter Borch - Die Briefschreiberin (Schwester Gesine)

After spending six months on another project to clear my mind, I turned my attention to redrafting Tsifira. (I feel a bit silly calling it that, since that is the one title I can pretty much guarantee the finished book won’t have, but there it is. Working title.)

To prepare for the epic task, I had a week off, and then spent three or four weeks reading up craft books and taking notes on how to tackle it. And then I began.

Since I think best in long-hand, I had written the whole novel that way: filling seven 120-page exercise books. (Next time I shall just buy a ream or two and be done with it. I can count quires instead of volumes.) Typing it up, I assumed, would be a mere formality, a prelude to the actual work. After all, anyone can type.

ninja typist

Cats use hunt-and-peck; or rather, hunt-and-pounce.

I had reckoned without the sheer bulk of the thing. I can type up the text three to four times as fast as I wrote it, but…
I did the maths. Six pages was an average day working long-hand; twenty is a good day typing up. Seven 120-page exercise books contain 840 pages. Divide by 20 (pages per day) and that’s 42.

42 working days to type up the novel. Doesn’t sound like a lot, until you call it eight and a half weeks, and drop eye surgery in the middle of it.

Or, to look at it another way, since my typing speed is 60wpm, and the manuscript is approximately 158,840 words, typing it up should take about 2,647 minutes (and twenty seconds) – a little over 44 hours. That’s less than two days! assuming I don’t stop for tea, sleep, turning the page, or trying to figure out what exactly that squiggle says.

Sir Thomas More Hand D

Suffice it to say that I began the typing up on the 29th of July, and I still have two and a half volumes to type. I am hoping to finish the lot by the end of October. I am also hoping never to write any draft so long again. I have finally understood the brilliance of early writers who did most of the drafting in their head, and only wrote down something already shaped as close as possible to the final form.

But every time I find myself frustrated by how long this process is taking, I remind myself that I have learnt a massive amount through it, and will no doubt learn more before I have finished with it.
And then I carry on typing.