Yes I am aware that it’s less than a week since I was wondering aloud if I was in love with it but this is the emotional roller-coaster that is creativity.
It’s normal for me to hate a novel at least some of the time while I’m writing it. Sometimes I hate them because they are terrible. Sometimes I hate them because writing is hard and I am lazy. Sometimes I hate them because I know they have the potential to be good but I can feel that goodness sliding through my fingertips. Sometimes I’m reaching for quality writing and all I’m grasping is dross. Why won’t you be good, dammit.
With the current work I’m feeling a bit lost. I know where the story is going but I’m not quite sure how to get there and I’m sure some of the decisions I’m making are wrong but I’m stuck with them for the draft. I have to get the thing written before I can look at the monstrous tangle of narrative that it’s become and work out how to fix it.
But it is so fucking painful. I’m slogging through a scene knowing that introducing this many characters this late in the story can’t possibly be a good idea but also knowing that there’s no way I can introduce them any earlier and I can’t use any of the existing characters. I’m dragging my characters through a landscape that looks like it’s built out of fog because I can’t visualize it yet. My mind keeps sliding away from this novel to work on other stories because the mind is a monkey and my monkey is kind of an arsehole.
The only reason that I’m writing this blog post is because it keeps me away from the scene from hell that I’ve been trying to write for two days.
The honeymoon period is over. For a while I was driven to write and the story was almost telling itself but no more. Now I have hit the wall. Sorry, that’s probably not dramatic enough.
When I’m writing as part of NaNoWriMo we call it the week two wall because that’s when most people hit it. I don’t think it’s a function of time or of word count. I think it’s a kind of mental fatigue and I think it’s a function of story. When you’re deep in creation you’re using something up and that something runs out long before the story does.
It’s easy to stop at this point – to blame the story or decide that you’re not really a writer. I suppose it’s possible to stop and then come back later when the whatever-it-is is replenished but that’s a risky strategy. The thing that works for me is to keep going. To fake creativity until the real thing comes back.
This is the part of writing that is most definitely not fun. This feels like slogging through thigh-deep mud with lead boots on. This is two hours of writing, doing a word count, and discovering that you’ve typed 230 words. This is the part that drives writers to drink and ruin.
This is where I am now. I’m trying to fix the B plot, I feel like I don’t know the characters well enough, I don’t know the shape of the story, I’m not sure what the landscape looks like, and the whole thing links back into the A plot in time for a massive fight that I am looking forward to writing. But I can’t skip ahead to that yet because I don’t know who will survive the B plot long enough to get to that scene.
I’m trying to look on the bright side. At least today I can stop writing long enough to cook supper.
Having fallen down the rabbit hole of one of my own novels I am now experiencing weird brain things. It’s starting to feel like I’m stuck inside the story. I don’t mean that I think it’s real, or that I’m losing touch with reality. I mean that I’m always thinking about it and that I keep being driven back to it.
I write because I have to write but that doesn’t normally force me to keep coming back to a tricky novel and writing 4000 words or more day after day when I don’t have a deadline. I think I maybe just really want to find out what it’s going to be like when it’s finished. But even that doesn’t explain why it’s taking up so much brain space.
This story wont leave me alone. It’s taken up permanent residence in my subconscious and it’s using run-time my brain would normally devote to things like keeping tack of money and what day it is and remembering to eat.
Anyone who knows me will know that I do not forget to eat. Nothing puts me off my food. Well almost nothing. My appetite kind of disappeared for a while soon after meeting the man who is now my husband. Am I in love with my book?
If you’re a reader at all you’ll know the feeling. It’s when a story sucks you in. It’s when the world of the story seems more vibrant and convincing than the world around you. It’s when you need to know everything about the characters. It’s when you’re desperate to find out what happens next.
And it’s really weird when it happens when you’re re-reading your own work.
It’s happened to me twice this week and it frustrating as hell because they were both unfinished. I have two half-completed first drafts from the same year that I decided to take a look at.
The first one was unfinished because I got three chapters in and realised I had no idea what the rest of the plot was. I still don’t know. I know it’s out there somewhere and I’m determined to find it but I can’t finish this story yet.
The second story was unfinished because I was exhausted from the effort of trying to find the rest of the plot for the first one. I will finish this one. I’ve written over 8,000 words of it in the last three days. It is just possible that I might be slightly addicted to this story.
Of course none of this means that either story is any good. I wrote them so of course they’re both perfectly attuned to my personal pleasure buttons. But just right now I don’t really care if they’re good. I just want to know where they’re going.
A Question For My Readers
I know a quite a few of you write. Have you ever had the experience of falling down the rabbit hole of your own story? Have you been so lost in it that you couldn’t stop writing? Have you ever found an old notebook with half a story in it? Have you ever hurled one of your own notebooks across the room screaming, “BUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT GODDAMMIT!”?
Tell me in the comments.
Today I cleaned the kitchen. I did my best but it’s not really good enough. To me if you say you’ve cleaned the kitchen you mean all of the kitchen. Anything less is just a tidy up and wipe down.
I have a chronic health problem that limits what I can do. It’s not just the sort of things that I’m physically capable of doing (I can’t kneel down so I can’t clean out the kitchen cupboards properly) – it’s the number of things I can do in a day that’s limited. So I can clean the kitchen but that means that I can’t cook, or get any shopping in, or tidy anything else, or do much of anything really. It’s going to be at least another hour before I can stand up again and I’ve already been recovering for nearly 2 hours.
This leads to me putting stuff off. I know that there’s chores that need doing but I also have to write. Often I’m so wrecked by cleaning or tidying that I can’t write. So I put stuff off. And then the pile of chores gets bigger. So when I do tackle them I’m not just wrecked for the rest of the day, I’m wrecked for the rest of the week.
So here we are. I used all my physical reserves and a good portion of my mental reserves to do a half arsed job of cleaning the kitchen because I didn’t get it done yesterday because yesterday I had to leave the house. That means that today’s chores aren’t done at all and I can’t cook supper and I’m writing this, frankly pathetic, rant instead of working on my novel. And my reward for all this is that the kitchen will be mostly clean until my other half cooks supper.
And I am in a lot of pain. And that makes me want to punch things. Not write the tricky scene that I’ve been putting off for two days.
I wrote before about my intent to join in with Camp NaNoWriMo this month but also about not being 100% sure what I was going to write for it. Much to my own surprise I have joined, I do have a project and it is on track.
As late as the 31st of March I was sure that I wasn’t going to be writing. I’ve been feeling like someone drilled a hole in my head and poured concrete all over my frontal lobes. That feeling hasn’t entirely gone away and I’m certainly in no condition to be working on the climax of the previous work in progress. Fortunately that’s not all I have to work on.
So I’m spending April working on an e-book of existing stories from the Department universe. Most of them will have appeared in some form on the Department blog but there will be re-writing, tweaking and bonus material. I might even put in parts of the Department Guide to Fieldwork, Cutty Darke’s Guide to the European Witchcraft Tradition and A Taxonomy of the Fae – A study of the anthropology of the Elder Race by Ignatus Doyle. Plus any other Department-centric reference books.
This is my first attempt at putting together a book rather than writing a novel. I don’t really know how it’s done so if any of my readers have done it before and don’t mind sharing some tips then I’d love to hear from you.
Once again I feel I should apologise for not writing enough. I keep falling into the gap between what I think I should be capable of and what I actually am capable of. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing my best and falling short. It feels like laziness. I don’t know if that’s because it is laziness or if it’s because I’ve internalised a lifetime of other people’s expectations of how much I should be able to do.
In other news I’m trying out the Actipatch. It claims to relieve chronic pain. I have no idea if the science behind it is any good. I think it’s probably working, maybe, but the problem I’m having with it is that relieving pain in one part of the body just makes the pain everywhere else more noticeable. To really work for me I’d probably need 3 to 4 of them working simultaneously and at £20 each that’s not cheap. We shall see. Perhaps after a few days of treatment I’ll be able to move the patch to treat another area.
These are not the reasons I find it hard to write. That’s a whole other thing. And for the most part I don’t find it hard to write. Once I’m sitting down, pen in hand or fingers on keyboard, the actual writing bit is relatively easy. I’m talking about being a writer. Which is different.
In theory if you write then you are a writer. Chuck Wendig says so and he’s published so it must be true. That’s certainly what I would tell anyone else who asked me if I thought they could be a writer. But somehow it’s not good enough for me because there’s this terrible, mercenary voice in the back of my head that says that I can’t be a writer unless people want to read what I have to say and are willing to pay to do so.
The voice only makes rules for me. It makes other rules for me that I would never impose on anyone else and that I would recognise as tyrannical if I saw someone trying to impose them but I’m not going into that just now. Intellectually I know these rules are bullshit but that’s not much help.
So I have this voice telling me that it’s not enough to write and it doesn’t count unless people want to read. And I have the voice of experience telling me that no-one wants to hear what I have to say. No-one.
I think I’m quite good at writing. I know I’m good at talking. And yet I’m always surprised when anyone listens, when anyone reads, whenever I don’t get interrupted. I always wonder why people are humoring me. I’m also aware that people only listen because I’m careful what I talk about. There’s a lot of stuff that I just don’t say because I’m pretty sure no-one wants to hear about how fucking horrible everything is.
But if I edit out my point of view then what was the point of writing in the first place? If I’m just going to tell you pretty lies so you wont stop reading then why am I going to the trouble of writing it down?
Oh well. Now that I have thoroughly depressed myself and anyone still reading this I have to get back to the work in progress. I swear that I will get some actual work done. With a bit of luck by the end of today my villain will have actually started being villainous.
And it’s over. Day 25 was the last day. The total was 76,693.
On the last day I fixed one of the big plot problems with the final part. It turned out to be easier than I had thought. It needed only slight tweaking of a scene that I’d already written to set things going in the right direction. Well the right direction for me. Not so much for my characters. [Insert evil laugh here]
There’s a part of me that wants to keep going because that’s what a professional writer should do but I have other things I need to do. I intend to take a one day complete break from writing. I need to get out of the house. Do some shopping. Clean the kitchen.
After that break I’m going to try a new routine. Instead of focusing all my effort on the novel and blogging about the novel I’m going to try to split my writing time. I want to get back to the story on my fiction blog. I want to post some other stuff here. I will continue to finish the novel but I think just one post a week updating you all on progress should be enough.
I’ve noticed that people have actually been reading this thing. And, judging by your locations, most of you are people who I don’t know in real life. I’m kind of surprised. Did you guys get anything from this? Was it entertaining? Interesting? Feel free to say something in the comments because I am half convinced that at least 80% of you are here by accident.
Current total 74,491. The penultimate day was spent in beginning to deal with another plot problem. Spoiler warning for Beta readers – you guys might want to skip this blog post, particularly if you’ve already read anything I’ve sent you. The rest of you should be fine because by the time you read the book these vague hints will have been forgotten.
The previous plot problem is mainly a practical one. I need to get some of my characters to leave the building they’re in and go somewhere else and it needs to make sense. I need to decide who is doing what. I need to loose some characters before the final push. They don’t necessarily need to die but the need to be somewhere else , partly because it wouldn’t make sense to take them into battle and partly because having so many characters in the scene would make it too unwieldy.
This new one is one of motivation. I know that my villain is going to do something which will cross the line between well intentioned meddling with a horrific outcome to acts of pure selfishness. This has to make sense to my villain even while the reader is internally screaming “Don’t do the thing!”
New total – 73,728. I didn’t write much that was new just edited some preexisting scenes and added them.
I spent most of the day outlining the final part. I haven’t solved the plot problem but at least now I have a framework for solving it.
Outlining, editing, moving scenes around – these are all part of the work of the writer. I should probably feel pretty good about my day’s work but there is a part of me that feels like it’s not proper writing if it doesn’t involve furious typing. I know, intellectually, that part of the process of writing is spending 10 minutes staring at a sentence and agonising about the placement of a single comma. I also know from experience that the time to do that is some time after you finish the first draft.
The problem with being a fully signed up member of the forward momentum school of writing is that anything other than furious typing feels like procrastination. But furious typing alone wont get me a novel worth sharing. It will only give me a bunch of vaguely connected words with a story hiding somewhere inside.