(Photo: research materials)
It transpires that it is possible to write 175 pages of text in two weeks if you do almost nothing else at the same time. (And also if you get food poisoning which requires you to stay very close to the bathroom and makes it impossible to leave the house.)
The first draft is basically a stream of consciousness, or, more accurately, vomit of consciousness. There isn’t much character development, certain arcs just get lost or forgotten and locations where the action takes place are called “Village X”, “Village Y” and “Town”. Grammar wasn’t something that bothered too much with I, although I did try not to make typos. It also transpires I need to speak to Icelandic blacksmiths, an addiction counsellor, people who know how to take proper care of horses, a GP who is more or less acquainted with the process of healing a broken leg, find a part of the country that would be useful for my purposes (praised be Gods for magical invention that Google Maps is), research the work of fishermen around the year 1885 and read more about what a forge would have looked and operated like in 1920. In, you know, Iceland.
My research will require, well, lots of reading. I also intend to travel to Iceland at least twice: in the winter and in the summer, to experience both seasons myself and interview quite a number of people. The phrase “citation needed” appears in the draft 36 times. It translates roughly as “need to check this”, “not sure it existed at the time” or “I have absolutely no clue on this whatsoever”. In the meantime, though, I already learned how to make moonshine from potatoes and what are the symptoms of late stage of heavy alcoholism, which is going to make my Google Ads very interesting.
At the moment I am taking a break for two weeks. Finishing the first draft made me feel empty and a bit lost; I’ve grown fond of my characters and the idea that the surviving ones would just go on to lead, you know, lives, is strangely disturbing. But it also made me realise how much work there is to do now that the skeleton of the story has been put to paper, or, more accurately, to a file in OpenOffice. (I backed that file up four times just in case.)
In two weeks I will be printing out the first draft, then I will go through it with a red pen, mark the most inconsistent and inaccurate bits, then publish a list of burning questions I need answered. I’m quietly hoping some of the readers of this mini-blog will be able to help me at least with some of them. In the meantime, I am compiling a list of resources I need to get acquainted with. I’ve already read a lot, and my goal is to write a complete body of work that nobody will be able to point at and say “huh, this is even more wrong than Kanye West’s ALL CAPS blog posts”.
I haven’t decided yet what I am going to do when the book is finished. There might be some sort of crowdfunding involved. I might end up self-releasing it, or looking for an agent. I will definitely need an editor, especially as I am not a native English speaker (nor writer). But for now, all this is unimportant, because I have thirty-six “citation needed”s to figure out.
Current reading list:
– “Wasteland With Words: A Social History of Iceland” by Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon
– “Independent People” by Halldor Laxness*
* I know this might be difficult to believe but apparently it is possible to make your reader literally roll on the floor (OK, sofa) laughing with a dialogue about main character’s wife dying while giving birth.