I didn’t make the November 1st deadline. Once I figured out how to fix the big problems of my story, I worked day and night, every day, to meet the target. But hey, I do also have a life. For some reason I’d agreed to host a food party on October 31st. November 1st was also my cousin’s hen party (for whom I was maid of honour). A day later was the wedding. I also had to write a poem to perform during the service of said wedding. A day after that I was going to Norway. EVERYTHING AT ONCE.
I burnt out. I hadn’t had a chance to stop and reread any of my novel, aside from a fresh scene before moving onto the next. Consequently, I felt like I no longer even knew my novel anymore.
That led to feelings of “my novel is shit,” “why am I writing,” and eventually, “maybe I just can’t write.” I had to apologise to Suresh and explain, “I just can’t meet the deadline.” I was only 26 pages from the end of the novel, but there’s a lot to fix in those final 26 pages.
Suresh was really nice to my husk of a writer soul. He told me not to worry, the deadline had to work for me and my novel, we’d work out a new deadline when I returned from Norway. Thank shit.
I hate it—absolutely hate it—when I don’t meet deadlines or my own expectations. But Suresh’s calm attitude and understanding helped set me at ease. I really needed a break from my novel.
When I came back from Norway, I reread the entire book, and explained to Suresh that, despite having cut a chunk from the beginning and making it more concise, it had lost something… Something important was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what.
Until two weeks ago. Conflict. I’d cut and changed so much of the beginning that I’d cut out the true source of conflict between characters. It wasn’t until last week, AFTER CURLING UP LIKE A BABY IN MY PARTNER’S LAP, and wanting to TEAR OUT MY BRAIN FOR IDEA EXTRACTION SERVICES, that I found an answer.
For my story, the secondary source of conflict needed to come from nature, not the immediate people in the main character’s life. Awesome. I could move on, until, wait.
When I first wrote the novel, I’d introduced a problem I didn’t know how to answer. Quite simply: two characters had fallen out, I just didn’t know why. But it felt—still feels, actually—important for these two to fall out. From this problem, I spawned an answer that turned the secondary conflict of my novel into a complicated mess I knew even less about.
Upon reaching this point in the novel again I realised: I need to cut it all out and start again. Why are these two characters upset with each other? I asked my friends for advice, and amazingly, they had the perfect solution.
In Japanese culture, it’s important to think of group success before yourself, to the point of sacrificing things that would make you happy for the happiness of people around you. It stems from Buddhist principles of “sacrifice yourself for the good of others.” It’s almost the complete opposite of Western ideology of doing what’s best for yourself and succeeding above your colleagues/competitors. It’s also really hard to boil down into a few sentences, so I’m not going to.
Back to the novel: one of the characters having this fall-out is Japanese, the other is American. Understanding the cultural difference mentioned above has finally given me the answer to my very first big problem within the novel. I just had to remember that the cultural beliefs in Japan are very different to the US/UK.
This whole rewrite has improved motive, conflict, world building, and cultural aspects. But bloody hell, there’s a lot of red text and strikethroughs. I’ve gotta finish this week. I MUST, for my own sanity. Wish me luck!