I’ve been fairly lucky with my writing recently. Every time I’ve come to sit down and write, words have come out. Always good for a writer. There was one day when an idea I’d had wouldn’t come but sparked a completely different idea which turned into a new story. I’ve been working on that story for the past few months and finally, before Christmas, I finished the first draft (actually it was draft four but the first draft that I sent my agent). With that draft finished and waiting the unbearable wait for feedback whilst fending off the barrage of self doubt, it was time to write something new.
Today was my first writing day of 2019. I’d been looking forward to this. Armed with two new notebooks and a new pen, thanks to Father Christmas, I was ready.
I went through my idea book. Played with a few ideas. Nothing.
Another idea. This one is brilliant! …Nothing.
I wrote a guest blog post. I tweeted. I went for a walk.
Some days it happens. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating and is not the best way to start the year but there are worse things, right?
So, today, I’m calling it: A write-off (no pun intended).
There is a seedling growing, an idea ready to blossom but not today.
What do you do to get those words flowing?
Can anyone else relate?
I’m working on a new story, hurrah! I love the idea, the characters are developing and we are making friends. The plot has been planned and I am in the middle of the tricky first draft stage, which is always sticky and results in a fun combination of self loathing and self doubt.
This time, I’m experiencing a different emotion, something that I’ve never experienced before, although the self doubt is still raging strong. With every word I type, every sizzle of excitement that comes with a new idea, I miss the main character from my previous story.
It’s a pang that won’t go away in the pit of my stomach, a niggle at the back of my brain and dare I say it, an ache in my heart. I feel like I’ve not finished with her, that she’s got more tales to tell and that I’m somehow betraying her by writing a different story, that I’m letting her down by writing something new. She’s been a big part of my life for the past nine months and if I’m honest I feel a bit empty without her.
It’s almost impossible for my new main character to make herself known if I’m still pining for a previous one. She’s trying, I’m trying, it’s just a bit conflicted at the moment. Of course, it could be a new procrastination technique that I’m developing but I’m not so sure. Has anyone else felt this? How do you say goodbye and move on?
For those that aren’t aware, I now have an agent.
I won’t pretend: I shrieked, jumped around, squealed, fist pumped, danced, hugged myself and all the uncool things.
This is how it unfolded.
I finished writing my story (Out of my comfort zone) and got together my first three chapters and synopsis. As always, I crossed my fingers and pressed send. Like a lot of writers, as soon as you press send, it’s that endless checking email game(Does anyone else play email chicken?). Seriously, it’s instantaneous, even though you know that a reply won’t be that quick. This time it was. After around ten minutes, I got a reply asking for the full manuscript. I screamed. Out loud. I ran downstairs, told my husband who was working from home, and sent the rest of my words, my story, my soul.
It felt like an eternity but was actually an hour or two. Then it came. The email. Helen from Pickled Ink, wanted to meet with me to discuss representation. Me!
I met Helen the next day and it was like she knew me straight away. I cannot tell you how incredible it is to have someone read and love your work that you’ve never met before. To have someone else adore your characters as much as you do. She’s utterly brilliant and after every chat, I feel so much better, I feel stronger and ready to tap, tap, tap away at my keyboard.
I’m writing, just the same as I did before, except now I have more purpose, I have more confidence, more belief. I’m part of a team, and it’s amazing.
The first chapter is always the hardest.
Before I write, I like to have a plan, even if it’s only a little one. This is especially true when I write Junior Fiction. First I need an idea (always helps), I need to know the characters, and I like to know the end. Then I can start to write.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given is to get the words on the page, then edit. Finish it first, polish later. This is great advice, truly and helps a lot when you suffer from self-doubt (which most writers do), except for the first chapter.
My first chapter is my nemesis. I write it. Re-write it. Re-write it again. Over and over until I’m happy with it. For me, it’s not about making it perfect. Drafting that first chapter is me still figuring out the finer point of the story. The gems that make it shine, the details that focus my mind. I know that once I write “Chapter Two” I have my direction, so my first chapter needs my time and my crazy bursts of ideas that I blurt out mid sentence that my family have grown to love (they’ve not said that they love this, I’m just assuming they do).
This doesn’t mean Chapter One won’t need to be re-written again (sadly), it’s just a quirk of my process. That and a blue pen, got to have a blue pen. I’d love to hear what quirks you have when you write.
When one dream doesn’t come true, you have to find another.
I used to write on the sofa. I had all my things around me; a side to put my tea on (essential), a comfy seat, my tablet, lip balm, phone, flash cards and notebooks galore. I was happy, I was writing.
There was a room upstairs though. A room which used to be my daughter’s. A room which I did not redecorate when she moved into a bigger room because it was perfect for a nursery. This room is yellow (my favourite colour). Butterflies and flowers fill the walls which I’d taken ages to stencil on in purples and pinks, blues and pale greens. It’s a magical room and perfect for a baby. There it waited to be used. Used it was; to dry clothes in the winter and as a spare room for guests when they visit. Other than that it was empty. The dream I had for that room was not meant to be. It was time to paint over my wishes, erase my hopes. And yet….
One day, I decided to write in the nursery that never was. I wrote and I wrote. There was magic on the walls, the love in every stencil nourished my imagination. It became my room.
Now there’s a bookcase heaving with books (as all bookshelves should be). An illustration propped up on the side and soon my book(s) will fill the shelves. The room which I had begun to hate, the room which housed a dying dream, ignites another.
Sometimes you have to find another dream, you have to find another road. I have.
My writing room is my refuge, my future. My hope.
It’s a wonderful feeling when you’ve finished writing a book. It’s that rush you get on stage when the curtain comes down and the audience applause still echoes in your ears. The sense of achievement you get when you’ve passed your driving test, after years of trying. The tingling of pride when you’re given an unexpected compliment. The problem with those emotions is that they cause great excitement. So much excitement it compels you to send off your manuscript straight away before it’s had a chance to be polished properly, to be looked at objectively and before it’s been read by others. I’m at this stage now. So far I have resisted submitting this story, my first Chapter Book. A story that badgered me for years before I finally sat down to write it. Deep down I know it needs work, but the dark side of me is trying to rationalise it; surely if they want my story, they will edit it themselves, there’s not THAT much to alter.
If I want to give my story the best chance it has of being accepted by either a publisher or an agent then I know I have to polish it, perfect it and preen it so much that it’s the best it can be. It’s hard though. So much of this writing malarky is waiting and being patient but when you’ve got that buzz, the excitement and belief on your work, it’s easy to press send before your work has had the time to breathe.
So I shall wait. Excitedly, impatiently…sensibly. Do the work and cross my fingers.
Now to find someone to critique it.
Writing is hard! I mentioned last time that I’m writing something other than a Picture Book text because that’s what the story demanded. It’s a whole other discipline! I’m used to thinking of an idea, developing it, writing it down, editing, rewriting, editing x gazillion, feedback, more editing, more feedback, repeat and hey presto one Picture Book text finished. Bam! I’ve come to know where the errors are as I’m writing and where changes need to be made. I know I must finish the text first (all 600 words or less of it) and then I’m ready to make all necessary adjustments. I tweak a plot or change it entirely. My character emerges stronger, clearer. I get feedback (invaluable) which I don’t have to wait too long for as the text is not that long.
My current WIP is a whole new world. I still haven’t finished the first draft. I’ve changed the plot three or four times. Characters have emerged that have stolen leading roles from others. New personalities have had to be developed. All the while, at the back of my head, I know that there’s no beginning, middle and end yet, no adventure. I’m doing a lot of telling not showing (yep, that old chestnut). More than anything I’m so frustrated. I just want to finish. I want to edit. I want to REwrite (a problem if I’m constantly stuck on the write bit). I want to get that crucial feedback. I want to know if I’m wasting my time writing this story when I could be working on my Picture Book texts which I’m starting to miss terribly.
As we all know, writing goes through it’s ups and downs and whilst I’ve had no problems writing words recently, I’ve had big doubts of my ability and talent. I’ve flung everything into doing something different and stepping out of that ‘comfort zone’ I’m so keen to step out of. You know what? Right now, I think I prefer the comfort. I’m scared. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m well and truly winging it. Please send tea and hugs. Especially the hugs.
How do you get through your writing blips?