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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What I'm Writing

At the start of September, I declared that this would be the month I started writing my novel. I set myself a goal to reach a word count of 6000 words, based on using the hours I have when EB is at nursery to write.  To date I have written nothing.  My head is as empty as the page in front of me. I have been struck by self doubt and a crisis of confidence.

I started the week positively. On Sunday, I attended a workshop at our local book festival appropriately entitled, ‘How to write a novel’, the speaker, a published author and tutor on the MA course on creative writing at UEA was engaging and motivating.  She talked about her own ‘organic’ approach to novel writing, the fact that she doesn’t always have a fully fledged plan when she sits down to write, and this made me feel better about my own slightly haphazard approach. As luck would have it, she writes timeslip novels, which is what I am attempting to do. I really enjoyed listening to her speak and the insights she offered.

I left the session feeling buoyant and ready to write, I couldn’t wait to get to my laptop and get started. Yet my allotted slot on Monday was thwarted by the presence of various people (builders) banging around the house.  I decamped to the local coffee shop only to find the only available space was on the communal table and it impossible to write as an elderly gentleman, clearly in need of some human contact, continued in his attempts to make conversation until I gave in.  

Not that I needed much to distract me, because at the back of my mind there are niggling doubts.  I do not have a fully fledged plot or even, half a plot.  To date I have 4000 words, written some time ago.  I have a half chapter of the story set in 1860 and a couple of chapters set in modern day.  The link between them is still not fully formed in my mind and I’m struggling to work out how everything is going to come together.  I’m not sure I’m the next Kate Mosse  and I’m wondering, am I being too ambitious? What in it’s inception started off as a clear idea is now confused and muddled. I worry that I may be writing two separate stories and forcing them together. Whilst there is no doubt this would be a challenging writing exercise in itself, I have so few hours in which to write each week, I don’t want to waste time on something if I am forcing it to fit.

When I re-read what I have written so far, I am pleased with it. I feel the desire to craft the characters further even though they are barely established. Yet, I can’t seem to get past the road blocks in my head; the plot is just not coming together.  However many hours I lie awake at night, I can’t fathom it. Perhaps I need to just write the scenes of the story that I am clear on and see if this ignites other ideas that I can develop further.

My hope was that I would use September and October as strong planning months to put myself in a place where I could attempt NaNoWriMo in November.  Instead, I am prevaricating - largely because I can't see a way forward. I am minded to spend the next couple of weeks researching the historical background to the earlier part of the story more and writing out a few more scenes. If I am still struggling after this, then I am tempted to put this book to one side and revisit it at a later date,  following up on a new idea instead for NaNoWriMo. I know...it all sounds terribly flittish - doesn’t it?

I am clinging to the words of Iris Murdoch as my shining beacon of hope.  ‘Every novel is the wreck of a perfect idea’.    I hope so.


Is what I’m experiencing just part of the writing process or is it a sign of more fundamental issues with the book idea?

Writing Bubble



NB: On a separate note  - I am doing better on my September goal of limiting wine consumption to 3 nights a week…and despite my creativity output being poor, I am feeling better for it.

26 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you're writing!!! Your novel will be wonderful and I look forward to getting my hands on it. I agree that finding time is very tricky - it takes me quite a while to "get in the zone" which doesn't help... and in my Uni days my best writing was done at 1.30am, which isn't practical with a toddler who likes to be awake just after 7...!! I've been working on my novel for about 4 years now (oops).

    I went to UEA and one of my tutors taught Ian McEwan, which I found very exciting :) I'm glad you found the talk useful! xx

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    1. I'd love to read your novel one day :0) Amazing that Ian McEwan went to UEA - just imagine being in his tutor group! x

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  2. I've found that when I have my doubts about the actual story, I just keep doggedly writing, even when it feels like torture. Then as I keep going, things slowly come into focus. It usually means I end up deleting loads, but it seems to help me figure out where I'm going. And judging by something I saw last night about Virginia Woolf, its not an uncommon experience. Not that I'm placing myself in her league, just that it's encouraging to know! I'd love to go to UEA-fab place to be.

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    1. It's the deleting part I'm not good at - it feels like such a waste when it's taken me so long to write in the first place. But I guess that will seem easier (perhaps) when I've written more. Thanks for commenting. Do you have a blog?

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  3. Absolutely normal. The trick is to write through it. Before you begin a novel, the idea is so full of brilliance and promise, then once you start writing, you begin doubting everything. I think we get scared of that feeling and stop ourselves writing anything.
    Redpeffer is right, keep writing through it. Doesn't matter if you're writing drivel, what matters is that you're writing.
    Thank you for sharing and linking to #whatimwriting x

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    1. Thanks for hosting at linky - it's been great to get some helpful advice and comments as well as read about what other writers are working on.

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  4. Oh I'd say that what you're experiencing is most certainly normal! I have a new writing project on the go and will, no doubt find myself at this crossroads too. I will 'simply' bat those thoughts away, but not after I've given myself a little wallow-time. Keep clinging to that beacon of hope ;) #WhatImWriting

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    1. Yes, I think the general consensus of opinion is that what I'm feeling is normal. Phew! Thanks for commenting. x

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  5. I echo all the comments above! What you've written in this post is so familiar to me - I set out on my novel with nothing more than a vague outline. When others talk about all their planning and preparation and extensive outlining I think 'eeek - I must be doing it wrong' but, as you discovered at the book festival, there are many ways to write a book and great books have come from only the barest of bones. so i woukd say just go for it - I did and have now written 50000 words. And it's a fun way to write too because things happen and take you by surprise - I love it! So stop psyching yourself out and fling yourself in! Good luck and thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting xx

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    1. You are my inspiration as I have followed your journey and watched you set yourself goals and achieve them - so I know it can be done! Thanks for your supportive comment. x

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  6. So I don't know what else to add, as I totally agree with everyone above..... and would say, write through it. Something you might want to do to keep a track of your story as its evolving, and a reference for the next edit, is to keep a table or a spreadsheet detailing each chapter 1. A short summary of each chapter - what the characters are doing etc. 2. What is the conflict and change for the characters. 3. Comments and questions (eg changes for the next edit..... or whatever headings you would like to use. This may also help you see the bigger picture of where the story is headed too. I began the second draft yesterday and was doubting myself all over the place! Keep going.... keep going.... it will all become clear what you need to do. And I'll be doing Nanowrimo too. ps. this is where we got the kit for growing butterflies from http://www.insectlore.co.uk/. X

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    1. I like the idea of a chapter synopsis. I feel a new notebook coming on….
      Will check out the butterfly kit. Thanks. x

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  7. I am sure what you have written is brilliant, sometimes creativity can be hard to come by at times when you are child free-the best ideas always seem to come to me when I am busy-then once I have some free time I am usually too tired or just not in the right frame of mind. I'm sure it's just a blip and you will find your flow again in no time :) X

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    1. That's the frustrating thing isn't it? Not being in the right frame of mind when the opportunity arises. I have the same problem. Mine largely stems from guilt too…oh no, I have 3 child free hours..I should be sorting out the mess/ cleaning the floor etc. I think I'll just have to relax a bit more or I'll never get my novel written :0) x

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  8. Just like Chrissie and Redpeffer said, write through it. I was much like you when I first started my novel and my characters have changed so much throughout the process that I barely recognise them as the people I created. They are people and have influenced the world they live in, by themselves. It's almost as if I do nothing but write the words, they do it all. A walk may help, I often find that my best ideas come when I'm walking. When you're writing a novel it becomes a living thing, growing and changing the more you write. Don't be put off - keep going. It'll pay off, I promise. xx

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    1. Great advice, and I do remember from my uni days that my best ideas were always on the walk home from the library. I'll try that (c. 20 years later!). Thank you. x

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  9. All sounds perfectly normal to me and I agree with everyone's comments above. I've always found it easier to write after a glass of wine (or two) in the evenings, I think it helps me to ignore everything else that's going on at home and focus on writing.
    Good luck with getting back into the flow...

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    1. Thanks Izzie. Strange how wine affects the creative flow differently. I find it limits my creative juices completely but I know a couple of people who find that after a glass or two the words are rolling onto the page at great speed!

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  10. I don't think I can add much to the other comments... I'm not writing a novel, but when I'm stuck with the blank sheet of paper I just start writing, anything! Once I've started I find it flows, often in a completely different direction than I was expecting, but it comes. Good luck with finding your rhythm again x #whatimwriting

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    1. Thank you Sara. I think 'just writing' is good advice. x

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  11. How wonderful to see you're writing a novel. I have 100% faith in you and suspect you're an intuitive person and writer, which tells me, writing like that myself that a couple of ideas come at a time and it's like they wait patiently in a queue while you get them out and then the next ones come and only then! Great advice here - have you joined the Bloggers and Writers FB group? XX

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    1. Thanks Anya. I have joined the Facebook group - it's excellent. Ideally, I need to spend more time hanging out there but inevitably that means even less time writing :0) x

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  12. I have a story line I have worked numerous hours on and get so muddled by I wish to throw it out of the window. I think, how can I write it when I can't fathom it myself. It quite literally overwhelms me. So I put it to one side, then I may have a moment of clarity on it, and write some more, then set it aside. I am hoping all these little periods on it, will eventually pull it together. Once I have that, then I can feel I will be able to really start to write it. In between that I work on my other, more straight forward ideas! Nothing wrong with a slow burner :-) I have every faith in you.x

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    1. Thank you for the vote of faith. Appreciated. x

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  13. The main thing is that you write well....and if you have an idea, even if it's not fully formed, then I'm sure everything else will soon follow. You'll be juggling the two stories in your head as you write them, so perhaps the links will emerge more clearly as you go along...you can always then go back and revise the earlier sections if needs be.

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  14. I think the best bit is that you've looked back on what you've written so far and are still pleased with it - awesome! I take my hat off to anyone who can even contemplate writing a novel. I would love to....one day. But for now, I know that blogging fits my life and anything else would be far too ambitious. Good luck with it. I hope you've made some progress since writing this.

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