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A Novel in a Year, Stage Three: Paralysis

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Well, it’s hit. Or, if you’ve been following my canon metaphor, I’VE hit. I fired, and blurted out those first 5000 words joyously, and then paused to do some editing work on something which is due much sooner. Lo and behold, the editorial process has made me feel like an awful, untalented writer who’s going nowhere. My muse has died. I’m suffering inspirational asphyxiation. My magic feather has been seared to dust by the fires of indecision.

Well magic feathers, muses and convenient moments of inspiration are all bullshit, so don’t panic.

My experience of the editorial process from my publisher and the copywriting process from my editor is gentle. They pose questions rather than telling me straight out that there are flaws in the narrative. Is this too repetitive? Is this the best word here? They make sure to tell me when they love pieces of the work. But still, I feel emotionally ruined. I think it’s an ‘artistic person’ thing. I’ve seen the slightest criticisms take on the momentum of Mac trucks and lay even the most seasoned writers flat. If you think there are authors out there who don’t mind criticism, or ‘take it in their stride’, or ‘cherish’ it, seeing it as ‘an opportunity for improvement’, what you’re really seeing is DIRTY FILTHY BARE-FACED LIARS. The most proud of these amazing creatures will reserve their true hurt for the solitary late night hours, staring at the ceiling, imagining themselves responding to said criticism in witty cutting interviews on Sunrise. The slightly less proud (like me) will reserve their whining and sulking for their spouses. And everyone else will happily moan in public.

What’ll I do to snap myself out of this criticism-induced creative paralysis? Finish the edit. When the edit is done and all those awful little comment bubbles have gone away, I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off and continue on the new novel. If it’s not criticism and self-doubt, but instead a lack of ideas or a lack of what you think is ‘inspiration’ that’s got you stumped, go back through my blog posts to one of my first, called ‘Over the Wall’, where I deal with writer’s block.

So my word count is 5k or so, and my momentum has dropped to zero. Because I’ve got some experience at this game, I’m not worried, and I’m NOT thinking of writing something else. That’s the temptation trap for the newbie writer at this point – you think you’ve come to a halt this early because the idea isn’t strong enough. Don’t be the writer who had drawers full of unfinished projects. There will always be greener grass, and better ideas, just over there. Take what it is you like about the sexy new idea that’s trying to seduce you, and integrate it into the current project, or have the confidence in your own mental skills to know that idea won’t float away into the ether before you’re done with what you’re working on.

Back to the edit! *slumps dejectedly over desk* Urgh. Bleurgh. Gurgh. Someone kill me.

A Novel in a Year: Stage Two – Fire!

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Don’t get exhausted with me. The blog posts for my Novel in a Year project won’t be this frequent. But as you might have guessed, yes, the writing has begun. Last time we were together, I let you know that for four or five months my daydreaming and thinking and collecting of ideas had grown to such a pressure point that I was just about ready to explode. Well BOOM! It’s the first day of the year! I have done just that, and splurted out the first 2,249 words. Only, what, 87,751 to go? Intimidation, much.

I wrote it, I read it, and I added some things. I think it’s a nice place for the novel to start, something tense that’ll have people invested. The struggle for me in the beginning is always not blurting out ‘everything you need to know’ about the main character’s backstory like that little girl on the first day of primary school who so desperately wants to be your friend. Hooky’s cool. She’s very cool. Trust me! Just trust me! You’ll love her, I promise! There’s plenty of time for a character’s backstory. I just have to be patient and let it flow out.

So plenty of you are probably familiar with this stage, the explosion stage, where you fearlessly set out and put actual words down. In my experience of first time authors and their struggles, it’s not until about a month from now when your little engine will catch sight of the mountain it has to climb, and you’ll realise there’s actually not much coal left (might not have been much to begin with). You’ll scramble to fight the fear, duck down a few dead ends and back again, and finally come to a halt at the brick wall of indecision, lack of confidence in your abilities, and an empty basket of ideas. Don’t worry, I’ve been there too. My first brick wall, when it comes, will be smaller than yours, and I’ll have the confidence to leap over it pretty quickly. I’ll help you through yours when I hit mine.

Right now though – wow! I’ve had my first date with my new literary love for this year, and I’m smitten. I’m literally only two scenes in, but I’ve spoken with my new character’s voice for the first time, and I think I like how she sounds. I’ll now switch over and write from the perspective of the girl who’s living with my killer for this book, so I’m going to stop and think about that scene before I charge on tomorrow. I’m thinking, at this stage, I’d like to try and power out 2,000 words a day, but editing tasks from my work last year might get in the way. God, I hate editing so much. I’m in a new relationship now, with a whole new book. I’m done with those other guys. Urgh. Gurgh. Surely near enough is good enough? Oh woe is me.

If you’re writing along with me, please share, either here, on my Facebook page, or on Twitter. I love to know I’m not alone. It’s going to be a long year! Hopefully a good one!

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