I printed out my 50 007 word draft last Friday and have been carrying it around in my bag every since, unsure of what to do with it next. I know it needs a lot of work but I have no idea how to go about this. I thought perhaps I should go over it chapter by chapter, fixing each one up before moving onto the next. But it's not as simple as this, because as you fix one you realise further problems in another. And then there's the problem of character creep - I'm already noticing that the voice and tone of some of my characters (not the least of which being the main narrator) changes markedly throughout the text. I'm used to working on pieces that are 3000 words long and spend lots of time agonising over single words. I can't see how it's possible to do that with a novel and get it finished within a lifetime.
I had set myself the goal of getting it finished in time for the Vogel competition at the end of May, especially as this will be my last opportunity to do it. But I'm wondering if this is an unrealistic goal, especially working full time. Plus people keep offering me freelance work. I turned down two things last week but got offered something else yesterday which I'm very tempted to take. Then there's the children's book which I'm working on with Petite. Oh, and the MA I'm supposedly doing. I spoke to someone else from the MA program last night and we guiltily admitted to each other how we had hardly done anything at all and how daunting it all was. But I'd still really love to enter the Vogel, just to say I'd done it, and I'm reluctant to give it up just yet. I've got six months. I'm even contemplating taking a month (or two?) of leave just to contentrate on it. There's too many projects, that's the problem.
In the taxi the driver asked what we were going to do.
I told him about the boys with severe behavioural disorders. How we were going to attempt to show them some software. The Brownie and I were both tired. There had been a screaming argument out on the street at 4 am the night before.
You can't go spending money you didn't even earn a woman was yelling.
That was my money you bastard.
I couldn't work out if she was on the phone or talking to someone standing right there. Either way, they didn't get a chance to get a word in.
The taxi driver told me some jokes that I could try on the kids.
"Why won't cannibals eat clowns?" he said.
"Because they taste funny." I said.
"Because they taste funny!" he said.
"What do you call a straight boomerang?" he said.
"A stick." I said.
"A stick!" he said.
The traffic was heavy all the way to Randwick.
"You can use those jokes, if you like." he said, as he dropped us off.
And then we walked right into the middle of a joke I didn't know the answer to.
How do you teach a group of kids who'd rather smash the keyboards and each other than use the software you're demonstrating?
I know the answer now: you don't.
Only twelve of the twenty students showed up - eleven boys, one girl. Actually, there was another girl who showed up briefly and screamed and swore for a bit, then left. The Brownie and I took it in turns to sit next to one boy who sat with his hands behind his head saying "This is crap. This is so crap. You're never going to make any money out of this."
"But look at this!" we said and clicked away, furiously. "And this! And this!"
I tried a joke on him.
"Why won't cannibals eat clowns?" I said, smiling.
"Because they're shit" he said, rolling his eyes.
"The cannibals or the clowns?"
At the end of the session the teachers looked at us hopefully and said "Could you stay longer? For the rest of the day, maybe? The week? Forever?" But we couldn't, there was no way, and we packed up and fled onto the street.
We had lunch in a shopping mall a couple of kilometres down the road. I turned around as we were leaving and realised one of the boys - the one who kept saying everything was crap - was sitting right behind us.