Finishing The First Draft Of A Novel, by Clint Greagen
From February to June 2012, to ensure I finished the first draft of my novel Waxy Flexy, I made a commitment to write 5000 words per week.
To give myself a real shot at achieving the word count I pencilled in five writing nights per week – Sunday through Thursday.
To make sure I wasn’t tempted to ignore my four real children for this new (not quite real) child, I made a commitment to only write once they were all asleep, which for the majority of the time was around 8:30pm.
I’d start working as soon as I could after that – my ritual involved setting up on whatever computer was available with a coffee made of hot water, full fat cream, and two heaped teaspoons of International Roast.
I’d read over the last two nights of writing, making small changes as I waited for the caffeine to lift me a smidgen above chronic tiredness and then I’d sit there until the 1000 words were down.
I was getting up at 5:30am most mornings and getting to bed at midnight at the earliest. I was living with my in-laws and suffering through setback after setback on the building of our new house. I had given up a five day a week gym habit and was only eating dinner if there happened to be time between the kids falling asleep and my 8.30pm start writing time. I lost a lot weight. My jeans only stayed up if I folded the waist over a little and I had bags under my eyes.
One of the characters in my novel appeared to me randomly, usually daily. Once, when I’d found the rare opportunity for a daytime nap, Charles Livings – the catatonic schizophrenic and antagonist in Waxy Flexy – was sitting on the end of my bed.
‘You should be writing,’ he said. ‘Be careful…’
‘I’m still deciding of you live into another book, or die in this one,’ I said. ‘You be careful.’
Another time I was writing in the front seat of my Tarago because my two younger boys had fallen asleep in the back. Sacha – my main character – was sitting in the passenger seat beside me. She asked me if I was going insane. I told her she’d have to wait and see, then shovelled two teaspoons of pure Gaurana into my mouth and washed it down with a Coke Zero (I was trialling a new stimulant for that night’s writing).
She watched me spill some of the brown Gaurana powder onto my jumper and after I’d finished dry-retching at the thick curry-like paste, said. ‘If you’re insane what chance have I got?’
‘I’m not writing you, Sach,’ I said. ‘I’m just writing parts of myself.’
‘You’re a nut,’ she said.
‘Hey, I’d straighten up if I were you,’ I told her. ‘At least until the books written. There’s a lot of bad gathering around you at the moment.’
‘Yeah,’ she said, as we looked up to see a dark figure standing across the park, the face in shadow but the intent clear.
‘Are you going to kill me?’ she asked.
‘I like you Sach,’ I shrugged. ‘But the story will answer that one for the both of us.’
My baby woke with a cry behind me and by the time I’d shuffled through the baby bag for his milk, Sacha had gone.
I didn’t fret though. I knew I’d see her again that night once the kids were asleep, feeling a bit of a buzz from the Gaurana and the caffeine and floating on the edge of sleep-deprivation crazy, tapping into the glare of the computer screen, waiting for another part of the world to be unveiled.
Writing Novels in Australia