Why #TheDamselfly was a difficult book to write… – http://wp.me/p3jbPe-ES
I haven’t blogged for quite a long time now, as you’ll see from the date of the last post, but today’s writing session has been really interesting for me and I wanted to share some thoughts.
There is such a thing as ‘resistance’, as described by Steven Pressfield in his book ‘Turning Pro’. Other people call it writer’s block, but I’ve never been a fan of that term. I’ve had issues with resistance before but today was particularly painful. I have all the time in the world today, a whole afternoon to devote to writing with no distractions. Could I get started? Could I heck.
I made dinner. I put on a crime drama. I checked Twitter. I watched a bit more TV. Just to the next ad break and then I’ll write. That ad break came and went as did the next one. I was very conscious, and already feeling guilty, that I was wasting time. In the end I just forced myself off the sofa, made a coffee and headed up to the office.
The interesting bit was that the resistance really did feel physical. It felt as if I was pushing at something and it was pushing back, stopping me from going where I wanted to go.
There could be several reasons for this, but it’s my belief that there is only one – I’m nearly finished the book. I had four chapters left to edit but I knew they were going to take a lot of work and so I didn’t want to start.
In addition, I’ve been editing this book for what feels like a decade (it’s actually only about two years in reality) and I’m sick of the sight of it. Apparently this is a good sign, my good friend and writer Jane Isaac tells me, as this meant you are actually nearly finished it. And yes, I am nearly finished. There’ll be just one read-through left after this round of editing, and then it’ll be deciding on what happens next. That’s a scary thought. I’ve spent a long time on this book, making it the best I can, but what if it isn’t good enough? What if no one likes it, no one buys it or reads it?
There are a lot of conflicting emotions going on, but it’s important for me to remember why I set out to write this book. I wanted to tell a story. I wanted to tell this story and I think it’s a good one. So, I will finish. I’m not a quitter and no matter how many times I’ve said ‘I give up’ over the years, I don’t ever really give up. Those people who know me well enough know that I’m determined (for that, read stubborn) and I will finish this project.
So as the end is in sight, how did I make use of this afternoon? Well, I recrafted two of the four chapters I have left. I’m now stuck on one scene and can’t figure a way out of it, so it’s time for some displacement activity. Anyone for a freshly baked scone?
Do you face resistance and a fear of endings? How do you tackle it? Post your tips in the box below.
Now that I’m back in the writing game, I have a few decisions to make. I’m still (yes, still) finishing off editing on my first book, and I’m anticipating that it will be finished by mid-November. But at the same time – ambitious I know – I’m going to try to work on other projects. I have a couple of weeks of holiday coming up and so I have more time to focus on writing away from my day job.
But this raises a couple of questions about what to work on next. Taking the editing with me isn’t practical so I have two options – continue with my third novel, which is currently sitting at just under 15,000 words but needs some detailed planning before I continue as I’ve spent so much time away from it, or to start on something completely new.
The lure of starting a brand new project is exciting, particularly as someone suggested that I make the two main characters in Book One into series characters. This was not my original plan and so Books Two and Three are also stand alones albeit set in the same town and featuring the same police detectives, but with a different protagonist each time. If I stick with my initial plan then the sensible thing to do is to continue with Book Three.
When I decide to publish, it would make sense that if I’m making the two main characters into series characters that I have a number of books to start the series before I start to do stand alones. However, I cannot think of how to turn Books Two and Three into part of the series as neither story would suit having the two series characters as protagonists – or fit in anywhere without it feeling contrived.
So, as you can see, some tough decisions.
What would you do? Should I continue or start with a completely new idea? Answers in the comment section below as I definitely need some help!
What a great post. Some very positive advice in here -something we can all understand!
Planting the Seeds of a Writing Life
There is no 3-step process, no silver bullet, no magic spell.
You plant the seeds. You water. You wait.
Sometimes you say nice things, nurturing words of encouragement and inspiration.
Sometimes you slip up, and mutter dark, sharp things under your breath. Cutting things that slice carelessly into tender green shoots.
But somehow, the seedling survives.
You say you’re sorry. You add some nutrients to the soil. You let some sunshine in.
You keep writing.
Some days, you think you know how this writing life will turn out. You feel like you have a plan. A purpose. A path. It all makes sense, and you work away – pruning and fertilizing – secure in your sense of certainty.
But then, one day, a new blossom appears, and you don’t recognize it. It doesn’t…
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At the moment it’s fair to say I have a lot on my plate. I have a full time job, I’m studying for a diploma, writing and keeping up with family and friends. The latter group have very much fallen by the wayside but hopefully they will forgive me in the summer when it quietens down a bit. But the point to make is that my mind is a very cluttered place at the moment. This was brought home rather harshly when I recently wasted a day in the library.
I’d planned a successful day, so I thought. I’d highlighted some books I wanted to look at; although it was a bit early to start on the assignment I had, I wanted to make a start. When you’re studying outside work, every spare minute becomes precious. But I decided in my infinite wisdom to prepare for my study session by listening to a podcast about writing. Not good. The podcast was great but it meant I arrived at the library buzzing with ideas…about writing. My brain was not ready for academic reading or writing. So I couldn’t make sense of what I was doing or, I should say, trying to do.
What I’ve established is that I need several frames of mind. I can slip into work mode quite easily, but clearly the brain clutter means that I need more preparation for study and for writing to get me into the right mindset.
So, how do I do that? For writing it’s fairly easy. Let my brain wander, think about what I’m going to write, listen to a writing podcast and I’m away. Study is harder as it requires a different, more difficult, type of focus. Writing is much easier when you’re making it up! Academic reading and writing take a lot of brain work and almost need a meditative state where you block everything else out. I can do this very effectively with writing but studying is much harder.
So the lesson to be learned is that, like a child putting away its toys, I have to put the thoughts away in their individual silos. Mixing up the bits just doesn’t work and it affects my productivity. To get the most out of the limited studying time I have, my focus needs to be on full beam as soon as the session starts.
This means fighting my instinct to try to do everything at once and instead set myself priorities. On a study day, I do nothing other than study. Hopefully that will stop the pieces of the puzzle getting mixed up and will mean I can make the most of the time I have.
Great post from Rebecca. Not just about ‘bum on seat’. Taking a break to ponder can be the solution!
Following the release of Shallow Waters in December last year I have been informing readers that I hope to have DI Hannah Robbins 2 out in the summer this year as it is already partly written. This was a perfectly fine deadline.
That was until I hit a complete brick wall…
I am working in Scrivener so that I can move chapters around at will. I have a full synopsis and know where the story is going and was happily working away on it, using the ability to move chapters around, to allow me to write part of one person’s timeline rather than writing in chronological order. It was working well and I was enjoying it.
But then I started to feel it was coming unstuck….
I had too much freedom. How was I going to piece this damn puzzle back together again? I kept looking at my synopsis, looking…
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I recently read a very good blog post by Mari Hannah in which she talked about the benefits of sticking to your book’s timeline.
I didn’t have one when I wrote my first book – in fact, I didn’t even know what a timeline was back then – and now that I’m into the final stage of editing I’m really wishing that I’d known this sooner.
I’m fortunate that I now have my novel on Scrivener so I have a sort of timeline in that I have a list of scenes but that isn’t quite what Mari meant.
What she’s getting at is much deeper than just knowing the order that your story runs in, it’s knowing exactly what the characters are doing and when. What I’ve found to be important is knowing the specific timescale, as in the progression of days, and also what the characters are doing when they’re not on stage. For instance, having a character go missing, being reported to the police as missing and being found dead, without working out how much time elapsed between the three events has left me in a bit of a pickle. When I started to add in new scenes as part of the edit, it was difficult to know the right order. A timeline would have saved me from having check facts time and time again during the final stages of editing.
So, once again I’m realising that a sophisticated writer has a process. They don’t just haphazardly throw some words down on a page and hope for the best. Instead they use a tried and tested system of planning.
Mari has written lots of books and clearly her way works. Her Kate Daniels novels are brilliantly plotted with twists and turns and just the right amount of tension to keep you gripped. That doesn’t happen by accident. Yes, some of it comes with experience, but it’s clear that a written timeline helps to not only keep things in order but also to make sure you keep the plot moving along at the right pace.
Either way, it’s definitely something you can and should learn. I’m learning it the hard way, so take a tip from me. Get that timeline sorted before you start writing. It may change once you start writing, but initially you should spend some quality time on it.
Yes, I know you’re desperate to get started and the words simply want to burst out of your pen onto the page but stop and take a deep breath. Think through your story, analyse it, really scrutinise it. Write it all down on paper, move the bits around, do whatever works until you know what order your story goes in.
Done that? Right, if you’re sitting comfortably, then begin.