Sophie Writes a Novel
LITTLE PARIS — Day 97 — New Beginnings
I was reading a book today, a writer’s journal, as research for the novel I’m writing, Little Paris. My next book is set in 1939’s Bucharest and it follows Lucia Smârdan, the illegitimate daughter of an unmarried woman from an old boyar family, who is lost in the ways of fascism. After her own father involves her in the murder of a high-profile character, her destiny clashes with the one of George Voiculescu, an unwilling factory owner, who actually wanted to become a philosopher. What they don’t know is that they’re connected by a secret from the past, dating back to the first World War.
Well, to come up with THAT (the storyline, I mean, not just the pitch) took me the better part of three months. I had a less than vague idea what I wanted the book to be about — I only had a few characters in mind, like George and his wife Iulia, or the fearsome princess Marina Călimașul. I hadn’t started any of my last two novels so vaguely, and, I have to admit, they were less fun to write with it. This novel has been such a journey — and I’m not done yet.
But, as always, I’m getting ahead of myself. I was telling you about a book I read today, which was the reason why I started this novel-blog. A bit late, you might say, since I’m more than 53,000 words into the novel, and more than 3 months into it. I wish I had this idea earlier, but I didn’t discover its power until I saw it… in a book. A writer’s journal, to be precise, from the period I am researching. A Romanian Jewish writer called Mihail Sebastian. The journal is extremely powerful, because it documents the transition of Romania from a democracy to a dictatorship — or, better said, several dictatorships. One of the regimes was a fundamentally fascist one, and the author lived a vivid personal drama when his life-long friends, writers like him, actors, directors turned openly to fascism. It’s fascinating and painful to see this man’s ongoing attachment to his old friends, even if they openly and often vehemently support an ideology that would see him wiped out off the face of the earth. But his journal is more than that. It’s also a writer’s journal.
This is another part that I loved. During the documented years, Sebastian writes a novel. He thinks he’ll finish it in two months — in truth, it will take him almost three years. I was hooked by this part. Totally gripped, and then I realised that I was a fool I never documented this bit when writing my books. I think I’d love to look back at some point and ask myself: Hm, how did that come about?
So here it is. Better late than never. Right now, I’m about two thirds into the book, and I wrote the ending. I did a Curtis Brown Creative course back when I was starting out — but I’ll tell you more about that in future posts. You know what they say about dumping too much backstory in the beginning!
So, after this long ado, the heart of this post — Day 97:
Worked on: A Search in a Glass of Water
Day’s Final Word Count: 53,680 words
I think the baby might be teething, because I can’t explain myself why he’s been sleeping in such short bursts in the past three days. This basically means, less time for writing. The good news is that I finally saw a crack through the middle today. It has been eluding me since Monday, when I had a super-burst of about 3,000 words (no, that totally doesn’t happen every day, and I paid for it all week with disorientation and no more than 300-500 words per day). I have about ten more chapters to go, but after I’d written the ending (save for one chapter), I wasn’t sure where to start. I started with a few paragraphs in a few different chapters, but didn’t take them very far. But I ‘saw’ a scene today, when I was putting the baby to bed by twenty minutes of rocking and walking though the house. There has to be a search in the middle, to justify the Princesses’ cruelty towards her old friend two chapters later. Also, it would make sense for the search to take place — else, why bother with all the hiding?
When I finally sat down to write, it went surprisingly well after five days of semi- to complete block. All in all, about 1,100 words managed, which is double the daily goal, and makes up for yesterday, when I didn’t write a single word. I get extra points for my cold making me feel miserable.
Plan for tomorrow: finish the chapter that sits two chapters before today’s chapter (Privy to Secrets). Estimated word goal: the daily norm of 500 words (pessimistic); 1,700 words (sheer optimism).
Photo credits: Pixabay.com