Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Meet my Picometer

Meet my latest gadget: a Picometer. It's over there, in the column on the right. Isn't it stylish?

You go here to get one.
I nicked the idea from an ex-pat Zimbabwe writer living in NZ who blogs as a cat of impossible colour. The photo is a cameo (heh heh) from her quirky blog which among other things shows Andrea, the writer, in an astounding variety of thrifted clothing. Yellow, incidentally, is a favourite colour of hers. Anyway, she has two picometers: one for her completed novel and one for a novel in progress. Since I was born just north of her (Zambia), I thought I should have one too.

No, that wasn't the reason at all. I like gadgets, especially gadgets on my blog, and leapt at the chance to have a picometer.

No, that wasn't really it either. The main reason is motivational. I wanted a picometer so that everytime I open O Audacious Book I'll be reminded how much progress I've made and haven't made on Precarious, and all my blog visitors will see the same. Little or no progress will be simply embarrassing, and hopefully this -plus loyal blog friends putting the pressure on - will drive me forwards.

It's especially important for me to get on with it now Penguin and I have shaken hands on Precarious, agreed on an advance and a completion date (end of 2009 to publish in 2010.) This is of course simply fabulous news and highly motivational in its own right, but there's nothing like a daily reminder to spur a highly distractible writer onwards.

It may seem madness to think of finishing the novel in 15 months time with Precarious clocking in at only 8,900 words, but you see I've already spend 20 months (on and off) on it: shaping the thing in my head and in a stack of notebooks. I have sorted out the voice, structure, point-of-view, themes, the main characters, the plot, the climax etc and have written the first four chapters and the final one. All of these things are critical to my being able to move forward with confidence. There is still much I don't know yet, but I'm definitely on my way.

It's interesting how I write the beginning and the end first. I did the same with The Blue - although I had more of the first part of that book written before falling upon that all-important final chapter. I just like to know where I'm headed, and the rest of the novel plays out from there. I think I read Marilynne Robinson does the same.

Anyway, back to the picometer. As you can see, I am aiming for 85,000 words which is not a long novel but which is, I think, long enough. And hey, I'm 10% done. So if I work at a rate of (gulp, just worked it out) 5,000 words a month I'll be done and dusted by the end of 2009. Note, I polish as I go so when I'm finished, I'm finished, until editing begins. And right now writing Precarious makes me feel exhilarated. I am on a roll. Long may it last.


Andrea Eames said...

You were born in Zambia? I didn't know that! Whereabouts?

And thank you for the cameo appearance (har har har). :) I went thrifting again this afternoon after doing the groceries. It's an addiction.

I find the embarrassment factor really motivating when writing. If I loudly proclaim that I am going to write x amount of words or finish a particular chapter in one day, I have a lot of people who will hold me accountable for doing it.

And congratulations on having a completion date and advance for Precarious! That's wonderful.

Mary McCallum said...

Lusaka. I left Zambia when I was very young, though, and headed off to live in Bermuda and then NZ. So I have only the briefest fleetest memory or two. And I've only returned to South Africa, never to Zambia. One day...

And I'd love to read your Zimbabwe novel btw.

Vanda Symon said...

You are so brave putting up a picometer. I couldn't live with the shame of all those people going, my god that woman's been pfaffing around - when's she going to do some work!

Oh, but I'll take great delight in commenting on your progress (-;

Anonymous said...

We should do a poll of writers and illustrators who spent formative years in Africa. I spent from 5-7yrs old in Ghana, Philip Webb grew up in Kenya (I think). Does early travel experience make us hungry for something else do you think- or open our senses in a different way, or does in make not one jpot of difference? Be interested to hear from others who have had early gekhessonographical influence elsewhere.
x Fifi

Mary McCallum said...

Ghana! Did I know that? Somewhere in the pits of my memory I think I did. That is interesting, Fi, re. how early travel affects people and perhaps creates writers. I've always felt people who shift alot become good observers of other people because they notice, without trying, points of difference and they also need to know the lie of the land so they can quickly fit in. Noticing is a big part of what the creative arts is all about isn't it? I also like your idea that it makes people 'hungry.' What's this fab word 'gekhessonographical'? Love it.

Fifi Colston said...

I must be inventing new words with my poor typing! Rather proud of that one though...