I was stuck in the doctor’s waiting room for almost 40 minutes earlier this week. Fortunately I had the foresight to anticipate a delay (though not one quite so long) and had taken my Nexus along with me. As it stands, I’ve now read one hundred pages of my first draft of NaNo #1 and here is what I’m finding:
I knew this one would be likely. The main bulk of the story is told from the point of view of Dr Christopher Whalley – a palliative care physician. Yet, I keep slipping into random thoughts from other characters, especially his accompanying Nurse, Betsy, with whom is having an affair. I’ve picked up on this point quite a lot, but only with a sentence or two here or there so it should be fairly easy to fix.
Research Needs: Medical Facts
Madeline – the main focus of the novel – has terminal single cell lung carcinoma. I chose this during NaNoWriMo 2012 because it was one of the cancers that had the most words in it. Therefore, each time I had to refer to her condition I added an extra three words instead of simply saying ‘lung cancer’. A lot of the comments I’m making in the margins are about fact-checking my description of the disease and the associated conditions.
Research Needs: Reliable Character Behaviour
One of the difficulties I think I am going to have is explaining why Dr Whalley feels the need to investigate Madeline’s past and contact individuals from her life without her permission or knowledge. Doctor-Patient confidentiality seems like a significant deal-breaker when it comes to the medial profession, so I need to ensure that my character of Dr Whalley doesn’t do something that would be completely nonsensical given his position. There might be a chance he is walking on thin ice, but the resounding characteristic that gets him to delve into Madeline’s past is an over riding concern for his patient and that she not die alone. How that is portrayed might be sensitive.
Keeping Character Consistent
Another issue related to character behaviour is my creation of Cecelia – Madeline’s high school friend whose father she accuses of abuse. When I initially wrote Cecelia into the novel she was an elegant, highly educated individual who had married into money. Once her husband had died she used that money to track Madeline and discover more about how her father’s awful behaviour had affected her.
However, after all the delays and confusion that came about during the writing of the second half of the novel, I must have altered Cecelia in my mind. Toward the end of the manuscript she is a fearful, teary woman who can not understand the context of Madeline’s affect in her own life. This doesn’t really marry with the confident individual who is seeking forgiveness for betraying a friend earlier on. Therefore this character might need a little more honing and development to better understand her motivations and core.
Potential Links to a Theme
I’ve managed to highlight a few occasions where significant elements of the character or story are apparent: such as Madeline’s need to collect lost or forgotten things. For me this symbolises the way Madeline often feels after being abandoned by her mother, losing her father to alcohol and a myriad of other happenings in her life. It also goes to mirror the feelings that others have about her: no one can forget Madeline, though she is consistently lost to them. She moves into their lives, causes disruption and then leaves. She is a temporary fixture, like many of the things that she collects. This is a thread that I hope to develop throughout the novel.
And perhaps my biggest mistake of all… completely forgetting that I had started one section of the novel (Cecelia’s story) by handwriting it into a journal and not quite finishing it. I knew I would have to type it up: but I hadn’t realised I had never completed it. Oops. Sometimes the story forms so well inside our head that we neglect to remember that we didn’t quite finish writing it…!
All of this analysis is based on an initial digital read-through. I’m planning to go through the entire manuscript like this in the first instance and make comments as I go. Then – once I’ve written up Cecelia’a missing section – print out the whole thing and start making real changes.
Returning back to the Doctor’s waiting room, however, what I was able to notice was that I was managing to get lost in my own novel. For thirty minutes, whilst I read and commented on the text, I wasn’t sat in the chilly waiting room with other people sighing and fidgeting impatiently. I was there – wherever my novel is set (another thing to work out!) – in the room with Dr Whalley and Madeline, Betsy and Cecelia, James and Holly.
That’s what reading should do in my opinion: it should remove you from the world at your feet and let you enter the one held in your fingertips. Perhaps for the first time I saw my story as a true novel – one that other people might read, just as I read other author’s books. And that’s quite exciting. It certainly encourages me to want to make it the best it can be and smooth out all those pesky wrinkles.
Maybe I might just enjoy editing after all…