On writing milestones: Escape Velocity at 30K!

There are few better feelings in this world than bashing down milestones. Bashing them into absolute gravel, then tossing the gravel high up in to the air and then, as it rains gravel all over your head, you laugh. Like a certifiable maniac.

Just to be clear, that was me Tuesday night at about 2.

The source of this madness? Excitement at having finally cleared the magical 30,000 word mark on A Eurasian Diary, which felt like a long time coming, but, woo hoo, it’s here!

30K is a magical milestone, I think, as, whether writing a novel or a travelogue, that’s the point where it often feels you’ve achieved real escape velocity. You’re no longer weighed down with doubts in the enterprise itself, you’ve found your tone and have (hopefully) got your word economy sorted out, and the momentum is very much with you. Meaning, of course, that tonight I have incredibly unrealistic expectations, and somehow assume I will just bang off 2,000 words of infallible gospel before the pizza even has time to burn….

Travel writing is a very funny endeavour, for someone very used to fiction. With fiction, one of the great struggles can be to attend to your characters, and not only to plot. With travelogues, I have the character down pat (I like to think I know me well), but the challenge is to attend to plot!

Because, being a real life story, there isn’t a plot. Only narrative, and that narrative does not necessarily bend towards conclusion, or a familiar melody of storytelling. There are few narrative devices you can adopt without bending the truth, the chronology, or the relative importance of events.

The magic of the 30K Escape Velocity Period (30KwEVP) is that, if you are really feeling the flow and your voice is ringing out with that great balance of soulfulness, humour, discipline and purpose, then the plot and the character actually feel like they begin to fuse. One is not carrying the other – you get into the head of the biographer, I suppose, in realising that people are stories.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at, and I’m excited for tonight’s pizza and writing marathon. Though I’ll try not to beat myself up if the pizza burns before I’ve managed a paragraph.


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