Among the hundreds of thousands of Facebook reflections on ending the year and starting a new one, Brian Eno has posted a few words that provide a perspective that I think is well worth reading, so here it is.
I’ve been reasonably disciplined during the holidays, considering the amount of time I’ve been obliged to spend drinking alcohol with friends and family. I recorded a cover version of Big Star’s 1972 song: “Thirteen”, which I’ve been practicing for about 4 months, and today I finished chapter 7 of The Worm.
My word count is now 36,849. I’m definitely in the middle-ground of the story, which is exciting, but it’s also a challenging place to be. Progress is slow and painstaking. Completing chapter 7 has involved quite a lot of going back and rewriting earlier parts, especially in chapter 6. Before I finished the final scene of this chapter I had gone back and inserted 3 scenes in chapters 6 and 7. I think because this novel is growing in an organic way, it involves more re-writing than would have been necessary if I’d had a clearer, more detailed plan to start with (ie; the way you’re supposed to write a novel). I just keep having more ideas that need to be in the story, and many of them effect earlier parts. I think the second draft process – once the first draft of the novel is completed – is going to have to be pretty extensive. Also, I think it’s probably true that I’m a different sort of writer now than when I started this project. By word-count it’s so far the equivalent of about 7 of my short stories, and I’ve definitely learnt and evolved my writing style during the process. I’m going back and reading some of the early scenes and wincing. What was acceptable 9 months ago isn’t any longer.
I’m really happy with the shape and texture of the novel. As it develops, it’s assuming a more poetic, nuanced feel, and at the same time some epic themes are emerging and growing. I’m finding that a novel is such a huge project, that it’s difficult to conceive of as the work of yourself as one individual. It just seems so big! It’s almost impossible to keep a detailed handle on all the parts; on what happens across the whole thing.
Chapter 7 primarily involves moving the location of events from Virsma, the small town where the novel’s opening events take place, to Ala, the big city to the north. Viktor and Alexis are spending their time on trains and in train stations. I’ve also introduced two new characters: Lena Finks: Alexis’ aunt, and Daniel Röntgen, the police investigator from Ala who takes on the case. Also, in chapter 7 the thread involving Skaistule – the lioness – connects with the story of Anton, the injured child, in what I think is an intriguing and satisfying way.