Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Hard work and jigsaw puzzles

There's a definite slogging aspect to this novel writing. A sort of daily grind kind of hard work thing that you know about, but don't fully realise.

I knew that writing a book was likely to be hard work; it stands to reason. A blog post of 600-1000 words can take me anything from half an hour to a whole morning, so piling up 80,000 - 100,000 words and trying to make something out of them was going to be a challenge. What I failed to grasp was that there would be parts of the book that I couldn't wait to get my hands on, and other parts, necessary parts, that would need to be written whether I want to or not.

Some scenes are exciting (to me, at least!) and others are a bit mundane. There are parts of the story that I like better than others, to be honest. My heroine has a back-story and a present-day story, and so do the other characters, and these need to be woven together. Some parts of their stories I am longing to write - indeed often the temptation is too much and I skip around, writing scenes as they come to me, rather than telling the story in a linear manner.

It feels a little like emptying a jigsaw puzzle out of the box onto the table and looking at the pieces. Some of them you can see, and some are still blanks because they landed upside down. Some are identifiable - look! this is a picture of a greengrocer's shop, and there are some oranges! Other pieces are much more subtle - they must be parts of the background.
Not exciting, perhaps, but necessary; the picture would be incomplete without them.

So I start to order the pieces. First turning them all over so I see what I have to choose from, then organising them into sections. Finally, when it looks as if everything is there, I begin to join them together. When I do, it's easiest to start with the edge pieces, to make a frame, so to speak.

So writing a book is like doing a jigsaw. Brightly coloured areas and background. Parts that seem to come together easily - I can see the rest of the box of oranges; they stand out - and those bits that are hard to pull together.

I wonder if this will come back to bite me, this piecemeal approach. I've already joined together different segments of the book only to find that a character's name changed at some point, and so I know that I shall have to be on the ball for continuity issues, but I dread that the book will have a disjointedness about it - that it won't flow properly because I wrote it out of order, rather than sitting down and beginning at the beginning and letting events unfold.

I wonder. Surely everyone doesn't do that, do they? Surely there are many ways to write a novel? I know that JK Rowling had detailed plans of her Harry Potter books, a discovery that made me feel much better about mine. Having said that, as far as I can tell, hers was a couple of sides of A4. Mine runs to eighteen pages....

One thing I definitely need to bear in mind, though: if I'm finding a section of the book fairly dull to write, then there's a strong chance that it might turn out to be fairly dull to read. Maybe the parts that I'm putting off writing don't need to be substantial parts, more references, snippets of dialogue or indeed omitted completely.

Think. Think. And sit down and get writing.

Monday, 13 April 2015

It's my writing day. Or is it?

Well, not much writing of novels lately. Not much writing of anything, to be honest - and not much reading of books, gardening or housework either. School holidays.

I am a routine kind of person. I like to know what a day has in store, more or less, and I like to plan. I know which days I'll have time and space to sit and write, and which days I need to be out and about with other stuff to do. Then the schools break up for a couple of weeks and it all goes out of the window. I promise myself that I'll try and carve out some writing time to keep the Blog Monster fed and to make some small advances on the WIP, but I am not sufficiently spontaneous to be able to turn my thoughts to it at the drop of a hat, just in a small unexpected window of time when the children are occupied.

I am contemplating two things:

  1. Time marches on. Inexorably, like a never-ending conveyor belt, it just slides on no matter what I'm doing. I have no 'pause' button. Sometimes I'd quite like a 'rewind' or even a 'Stop/eject' but I don't have those either. It just keeps on going.
  2. I am going to have to fit writing round my life, not the other way round. Try as I might, things happen. The car needs to go to the garage BUT IT'S MY WRITING DAY.  The children have a school trip and I am roped in as a parent helper BUT IT'S MY WRITING DAY. It's a beautiful unseasonably warm and sunny day and I have a chance to put in the summer bulbs that are overdue for planting BUT IT'S MY WRITING DAY.

Which of these is a valid reason to move the writing time? Are they just excuses? I find that I am inclined to protect my writing time much more fiercely if I'm getting on well, in the middle of a scene or chapter that I am wrapped up in, rather than in a lull where I am a little undecided as to what happens next. Funny, that. One day an earthquake wouldn't shift me from the keyboard, and on others all of the above have occurred, and my little swivelly chair has been left empty. I have even been known to clean the windows rather than get down to it when I am feeling overwhelmed by the whole project. And that's saying something.

I need to work out what kind of priority this project should have, and whether it is realistic and sustainable. I had hoped to get a first draft written before the summer holidays, but that looks increasingly unlikely. First draft before the end of the year? But that autumn term is a busy one that leads into the chaos of Christmas, where I find that peace and quiet gets squeezed out completely for a while. On the other hand, perhaps I should just make time. Be determined to protect my writing days no matter how compelling the alternative. At what expense, this novel? Does it matter if it takes one year, two years to complete? I don't suppose anyone can answer that, really.

Today, the children are at school once more. I packed them off with PE kits, books, drinks, snacks and musical instruments and then settled down at the computer to try and remember where I left off weeks ago. I need to get back into my groove.

Well, onward and upward. I have today, which is all any of us has. Today I choose to get a few words down. Bit by bit. Bird by bird. Every novel is written one page, one paragraph, one sentence at a time.

No distractions. No procrastination. Only moderate amounts of coffee.

Come on. Words, where are you?

The sun is out, but I am going to write.
I have a pile of interesting-looking paperbacks on my bedside table, but I am going to write.

It'll be time to pick up the children, soon.