Thursday, 6 September 2007

Current project

It is entirely possible that you may have noticed a fluctuation in the word count of my current project.

It went up a bit because I took time out to have a quick read of what I’d produced to date. Correcting typos and rewording a few stand-out awkward or ambiguous phrases added a few hundred words.

It went down (by several thousand) as I took the decision to remove the first chapter and put it aside for use elsewhere. Of which, more later.

As a ‘work in progress’, Charlie Cornelius is extremely flexible. This is because I am still unravelling the story, making sense of the content, and thinking about appropriate ways to present the story. What was originally intended as a single, intense, and very dense novel has now evolved into a quartet of novels.

This is not because I have let the story get away from me or because I have started stuffing it with rambling irrelevancies. Rather, it is because I realized two things. The first is that I was looking at the initial idea from the wrong perspective. The second is that I cannot throw my readers (there’s optimism for you) in at the deep end.

The perspective problem came about because I conceived the novel in a relatively short space of time and I was writing before I had any definite idea of the scope. Rather I knew the scope, I knew the story, I knew the style, but I had not unpacked that and thought about it too deeply before I began writing. I just wanted to get on with it.

It came as a bit of a surprise when the first section which was intended to be no more than 20,000 words hit the 40,000 mark without covering half of what I wanted to be in there. That prompted the need to sit back and unpack my ideas a bit more; think a bit more about the structure.

The original concept, viewed from different perspectives, showed a greater wealth of material than I had thought possible. And whilst it was exciting in one respect to think I had a four novel cycle beginning to flower, it was daunting to think the original 80,000 words would probably only account for the first novel. A little ‘girding of the loins’ became the order of the day.

As I have already mentioned, Charlie 1 will cover the period of the Second World War; Charlie 2 the late ‘50s and early ‘60s; Charlie 3 the late ‘60s and early ‘70s; and Charlie 4 an unspecified period but ranging across the whole of the twentieth century. It is this unpacking that occasioned the rethink of style.

Charlie Cornelius has elements of a picaresque. Whilst Charlie is not a rogue or 'low-life', she is often pushed to break the law in order to survive and later finds herself increasingly in conflict with the status quo. Its episodic nature allows for a more flexible approach to narrative and to the whole process of storytelling. I wanted to do something a little unconventional with the structure, but I also wanted the work to appeal to readers who might not normally pick up a work that is ‘experimental’.

By extending the length of Charlie Cornelius I found I would be able to take my readers on a journey. Starting with fairly conventional narrative techniques, I would have the room to invite readers into more unconventional structures. This is one reason why the original Prelude has now been moved to a more fitting place as a Coda to Charlie 4.

How much of this makes sense without you being able to see the text is debatable. I post the first draft of each chapter on a closed forum where it is read by a number of folk, some of whom are kind enough to give me feedback. That there are more readers now than when I first started posting means one of two things. I am either getting it right and producing something of interest; or people just enjoy a good disaster.


Anne Brooke said...

A picaresque novel - ace! A genre definitely waiting to be noticed again.



Graeme K Talboys said...

Thanks Anne. Let's hope agents and publishers think so as well ;-)

I didn't start out with that in mind, but I soon realized it was the direction it was taking.

And what a joy to have a recognisable form encapsulated in one word. It is going to make approaches to agents etc a lot easier.

Lane said...

I have to admit ignorance here in the picaresque genre. Thanks to you I've had a read around. Fascinating. It sounds like you have an immense amount of material to work with too. All the best:))

Graeme K Talboys said...

Thanks Lane. At the moment it feels like too much material, probably because I haven't sorted it all out yet. And as I slot things into place, more things occur to me. Still, I am thoroughly enjoying it.

liz fenwick said...

Keep up the good work :-)

Graeme K Talboys said...

Cheers. It helps having found several supportive communities of writers.