To say that I have not been a committed writer lately is a bit of an understatement. It's taken me just over a month to add 10k to my current novel. I've been finding it difficult to get into the mood with all the work and administrative issues of starting a new business. I know the age-old saying: 'professionals just get on with it and write,' but I have always detested routine, and what I write when I'm not in the mood isn't generally worth reading.
I've been having a few personal issues this week. Last night I was feeling fairly angry with someone, so I cracked open a bottle of whisky, a pack of cigarettes, and opened my work in progress. Things started to flow. I write well when I'm peeved. I think because writing is a wonderful way to escape myself, and when you're in a black mood what you write tends to be direct and gritty - it tends to be good writing.
Today I set the goal of crossing 25k, which I've just done. That can loosely be described as a third of a novel. Or, more realistically, a quarter. Depending on how optimistic you're feeling.
This one's multi-character first person, and there's always a difficult point with those where you're not sure which characters to include as narrators, and which remain background entities. Today I am finally able to sit back and start enjoying myself, safe in the knowledge that I have chosen the right cast.
That's a weight off. I'm beginning to relax my grip on technical construction and focus on the pleasure of the story.
I like that picture above. It's the perfect depiction of my dark protagonist.
When I'm short on inspiration, I often find Google Image searches help me along.
Things that I feel today that I did not feel last week:
- Confident that the cast of characters is right
- Confident there are enough intrigues and subplots to make this interesting (and to make 100,000 words)
- Confident that the style I have chosen suits the story
- Confident that the characters are real enough to hold my attention
As I've mentioned before, this is a retelling of an old legend. The problem here is that legends are pre-set. You know the beginning, the middle and the end. It's all mapped out and has been for centuries. I've been struggling with this a little because I adore the story, I have for years, I even wrote a feature script around it just for fun. Yet it is also highly constraining. Although I want to bring the story to new audiences, I deeply want to connect with other people who love this story as much as I do. Therefor, I can't change the essence of it. I can't do the usual writing thing of disappearing into my own imagination and pulling out new plots like rabbits from a hat.
To some extent, this was true of Rosy Hours. It was based upon a minor subplot in a classical novel. But, really, the story behind that was only ever hinted at. There was huge, unbridled scope for deviation. With this, everything is pre-written in quite some unbendable detail.
So, the only way to prevent that from becoming boring is to develop the characters to such a point that they have feelings, thoughts and transgressions that make them truly human. This is the one thing ancient legends are usually lacking. Myths and legends are often morality tales, tending to come across as a bit two-dimensional.
That's why I wanted to take a crack at retelling this one. Yes, the story is beautiful. But how much more beautiful would it be if, rather than being a morality tale, it was simply a human story. If the baddies weren't just bad, but understandable. If the goodies weren't Mother Teresa, but flawed. How much more could you believe in a story like that, and how much more could it hurt?
So, yes, today has been a good day for writing. I returned home just as a remarkable thunderstorm broke overhead. I love to write when it's raining. It feels as though you're completely cut off from the world, and you don't have to worry about anyone calling round and interrupting.
Given the pace I'm working at, I think I'd be lucky to hit 50k before Rosy Hours is released in February. But it is nice to know that I'm making some headway, and that my next book shouldn't be too far behind the last.
I'm not sure what I'll write after this one. I had a list of novels I always wanted to write. Rosy Hours and this one are two of the big three. I don't think I'm ready for the third yet, but we'll see. I'd like to write something completely dreamed up, like Angorichina or Georg[i]e, yet I'm more and more mindful nowadays of what I think might connect with the collective psyche. Established stories, or stories that build on established themes, tend to find their audience quicker for a new writer than those without a history.
I need to give it all more thought.
For now, I'm just chuffed I'm progressing.