Looking back, it strikes me as hilariously optimistic that my first ever voyage into writing was a novel, an unnamed opus I vaguely called The House Project. I crashed into it with great enthusiasm, came up with some genuinely creepy ideas, then got to a certain stage and it all…just fizzled out. Too much had happened too soon; I had the uneasy feeling that it was becoming repetitive; I couldn’t figure out where it was going to go. In writing, hesitation can be as fatal as on a high-wire. My faith in the project was shaken, it lost momentum and the novel just stopped, went off the road and lay on its side, wheels slowly spinning to a standstill. The manuscript went into a rather charming drawer composed of fake books. An appropriate fate. That was 2011.
In 2013 I started writing short stories and found their shorter form tended to remove such dilly-dallying, questioning and old-fashioned, pen-in-mouth stuckness. (Except for ‘Under the Whitethorn which took two rewrites and ‘The Wrong House’ where I got stuck precisely after the free-flowing first paragraph). I’ve been thinking, now that I have the free time post-PhD, of a larger project. Being a fan of uncanny revivals and monstrous animations – the first word of my thesis title is, after all, ‘Resurrection’ – I decided to exhume the sad and misbegotten children every writer has, the half-finished tales with their half-dreamt scenarios. Some had possiblities, others went into the ‘maybe’ pile for another project (New Music for Old Rituals). Encouraged, I burrowed further into my archives. Which brought me to The House Project.
I disinterred it from its tomb and read it again. The basic concept is surprisingly OK. It needs a massive overhaul, but I can see my original ideas shining through the murk of the text.
So with the help of a short but excellent book by Libbie Hawker, Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing, I’ll attempt to redo it, starting with the outline, some brutal character ovehaul, more brutal revision of previous plotlines, and even more brutal editing, and then see if I have a viable novel outline.
Right. Time to unwrap this corpse and see if any reanimation is possible...
[rolls up sleeves].