My blog used to be about sex. Now it is a combination of craft issues and life issues with a bit of sex thrown in. Well, this is a post about craft so if you are a writer and have experienced a frustrating speed bump in your work - read on.
I have a block of time set aside to write. This is perhaps the first problem. I have gone away to a little isolated shack and I have decided to complete the first draft of the new book here. The deadline I have set myself is pretty steep. I had about 40 000 words to write and two and a half weeks to write it in. That is certainly achievable. I have written more when I have been caught in the tidal change of a book. The other problem is that this is a new book. I don't know it well enough. I don't know the characters. My ideas about the plot are all in my head and not in my heart. The other problem is I don't really know what this book will read like. I knew pretty early that it would be a romantic comedy and yet I came to this understanding with some trepidation. I hate romantic comedies. I say this knowing that there are some wonderful exceptions. When Harry Met Sally is likeable. There is nothing not to like about that film. I am sure there there are some books in the genre that will be wonderful although I struggle to think of any right now. I had just started to dig around and find ones that I was drawn to. I had let myself smile at the acid wit of some Dorothy Parker stories before I found my comfort zone with Will Self's Cock and Bull. I would much rather write a Will Self-like novel than indulge in the soft sweet Rom Coms that Hollywood loves.
I have started writing the book and there might be some competent writing even in a first draft. I can see that the relationship is sparking. I know there are some meaty issues to explore in the text. I am fascinated by some of the ideas and yet I am afraid that what I have written is more Nick Hornby than Will Self. I do not like this likeable book I am working on. I can see the commercial potential of it and that puts me off entirely. I know I am writing a book that people will be fond of. Bookclubs could read it. People could buy it in Coles. It has a simmering naughtiness, a slightly unsettling after burn but for the most part it is nauseatingly palatable. I don't like this book yet. I have not found the thing that sets it apart and makes it the awkward outsider in the school yard. This is a book that can cheerfully play with all the other kids. In other words it is a book that seems unlike me.
I have two choices. I can continue on with this book. I can do some more reading. I can chip away at it page by page, I can try to find something of myself in the unfolding story, or I can return to the book that I just finished. The one that is at first draft stage, the horror novel that needs more work. That book felt right from the very beginning. We were never at odds, that manuscript and I. We were in collusion. I enjoyed writing every page and there is still more to draw out in the text.
Today I will have to make a decision. I am wasting my time struggling with myself. I have to commit to the new book or commit to putting it down for now. That is how you write a book, you move through the hard bits. You just keep working. I either do it now, or set it aside till my attitude changes and agree to work on something else.
Today I just think and make a decision and return to it with a decisive plan.
This is how you write a book.