The first ten thousand words were beautiful. They had been simmering in my head for months, maybe years. They opening lines had come to me long ago and I wrote them into poems and short stories and memoir. They never quite fit there, they were the orphans in my head, no context, no real home. And so when I started the novel I placed them very prominently in the front, opening it all. I told those words that they lived here, in this new book but not necessarily in this spot. They know they may yet move to another room in the house.
The next few thousand words were slow, slogging along and breathing heavy. They came and stood alongside the first chapters, they were family. They may survive a rewrite but who knows. They’re transients, as words tend to be, flitting here and there, placeholders and then flesh when the time is right.
At twenty-five thousand words they spilled out of me, tumbling like a river into an ocean and me, in a raft trying to contain them all on the page and failing, badly. They covered all the surfaces, making a flood of faces and movements and sound and I was drowning. Every thought that day, while driving, while shopping, while making beds or folding laundry, was of these people, floating on that ocean, singing songs and telling one another stories until I came back to write them down.
At nearly forty thousand words I can see the shore. The characters look at me hopefully, because although they are keen to help, to paddle, to send up flares, to shout at passing vessels, I am the captain and ultimately, only I can bring them in. I have written about their past and their present moments. I have seen into their future and I know how it ends, I know where they will live, if they will live, how they will survive this long journey that began in dust and rock, soared into the wind, drifted to falling water, rushing river, expansive ocean and motors now, picking up speed again, toward dry land.