Was there ever a greater lie than “fine” and its variants?
“It’s fine” when you think it’s terrible. “I’m fine” when your life is falling apart. “Fine” is its own antithesis. It is the last refuge of those who cannot admit their own misery and desperation.
So when I tell you that not only am I fine, but progress on my project for this year is going fine, alarm bells should ring. Because neither is the case, though I am loath to admit it.
KBO as Winston Churchill would put it, yet I’ve demanded honesty in writing from everyone this year; to then ignore that for the expediency of avoiding difficult questions and admissions is hypocritical. Suffice it to say there are personal issues to do with work and well-being which have impacted on how much time and enthusiasm I have for writing.
I could tell you it is fine. I could lie and say I’m working well, and be vaguely non-specific in my claims of progress. And then change the subject, and make no progress. But I won’t. Because you don’t need to feel guilty, as I do, when you hear about how many thousands of words another writer wrote today. How someone with greater problems than you (as you perceive it) has managed to write yet another book this week, bringing their tally to 50 so far this year (or so it seems).
My project this year is to complete The Long Watch. When I last touched the manuscript it was about 2/3 finished. I wrote the opening, most of the middle, and part of the end. Then I stopped. I stopped because I lost faith in the storyline. Firstly, the focus of the story shifted during the writing. The storyline opens with a MacGuffin; the discover of five dead teenagers, apparently killed by a demon summoned using an ancient text on demonology. As I wrote, the MacGuffin changed to become significant to the plot, but as I got further it switched again to being an irrelevance as other storylines emerged.
Then I got an idea for the second book, one which is better than the first idea, but relies on the events of the first. Then I wrote a short story set in the same universe, and brought elements of that into the finale of the novel. Too many plots, too little faith in them.
What I have faith in still are the characters. The flawed anti-hero. The traitor. The rogue-turned-good. The one who sacrifices their life for the greater good. The good soldier who learns to disobey orders at just the right time. I’m not entirely sold on their names (nominative determinism is a little too “cute”). I just need to cut through the dross of poor plotting and let them shine through.
So that is my progress. In terms of words on the page, there is no progress. In terms of understanding why that is the case, I’m moving forward. And from the point of view of knowing why the project isn’t working, there are some huge leaps.
Now it’s just a case of translating that progress into manuscript words. Easier said…