I am off work until next Monday. I love having holidays in January. And I’ve completely de-worked. I’ve hardly thought about it… with the exception of my return to work, which is looming a bit now; looming.
So I have given myself a mini-task with a mini-deadline.
The plan is to finish my current chapter by the time I return to work. Right now, this is proving difficult. I’m not going to say the words “writer’s block” because that would be inaccurate. However, I am still struggling with this chapter.
I just thought to myself, maybe if I wrote a blog about why I am struggling, I may actually write my way out of the struggle. Sort of Procrastination-Therapy; that’s a thing, right?
I am currently writing chapter 9. I had started writing it a while ago and then decided to change the direction slightly as the story was lagging. I had managed to pick up some speed and the way I had originally started the chapter slowed the whole thing down. The chapter used to start with Crystal having a conversation with her aunts, now it starts with her running out of the door into a dark and mysterious threat-filled forest; the best kind.
It was always the plan to go to the forest, but it was after that particular conversation. And by scrapping the chat, it works so much better. I still need to have that conversation, and they will, but after a night in the scary woods.
It was around this point in writing my last novel that I came across an empty abyss of no narrative or personal drive. And I know exactly why… There was a natural pause in the story. All movements up until this point were exactly that; movement. A story needs breaks, don’t get me wrong, but its hell for the writer because it means you take a break. Your mind takes a break. You’ve been writing like mad to get to where you have, I’d say a good third of the way through the novel, and then you sigh a great big sigh of relief. And then you stop.
For like 6 months.
That’s how long it’s been since I last properly wrote. It might even have been longer. The difference this time around for me is that the basic story is planned out, to the chapter. And during the last few months, whenever I wanted to write the next part, I read my plan in my notebook and just felt uninspired.
That’s when I normally re-read what I’ve written and edit. I have sort of indulged in some editing. It was not my favourite part of the last novel by a long shot, which is probably why I’m tackling a little at a time this time around. But this time it’s sort of pleasurable. It’s a lovely thing when you re-read what you’ve written and it pulls you in. You get all enthusiastic and up-for-it, literary speaking.
Crystal runs out into the woods and the story changes direction slightly. She meets some new and interesting characters and can’t really apply any thought to what has happened up till this point, because the new characters she meets are animals; that can talk.
She decidedly blocks out all other events to concentrate on the fact that there is a squirrel talking to her. And he’s not very nice.
This book means a lot to me. That sounds like such an obvious thing for a writer to say, but more than that it is the culmination of everything in my life so far. I love books where animals can talk, and are even heroes. I admit they are an acquired taste, but they are my taste and this is my book. This shift into a slightly ‘lighter’ story is also heavily influenced by the fact that I have a nephew now.
Mason is amazing and he deserves to have a book written for him.
And if I really think about it, a story that is primarily for children but adults will enjoy too is another thing which I have always tried to achieve.
But more than that, Crystal is a character that I have given so much of myself too. I haven’t done that before. But she has my school, my teachers, my best friends (all-be-it mushed up together) my music taste and my family. My family will hopefully get a kick out of this because I have taken our lives and given them a story; a magical story with elements of us in it.
Don’t get me wrong, my aim is for this to not be a complete act of self indulgence; the things my family will laugh or smile at are inconsequential to the normal reader. Or at least they will be if I’ve done my job right.
The writer is nothing if not an observer. I observe and can somehow remember lots of little tidbits that I have squirreled away in the depths of my mind to recall when needs must.
Ask me to bring milk home and you’ve got no chance.
But a story or connection or moment or name etc will stay in there until it is used.
That’s what this story feels like to me. I’m using lots of those moments that affected me in some way to the benefit of this story; and it’s probably worth mentioning here that this story is meant to take place across many books. Hopefully 5. I have elements of 4 planned ready, with lots of options for number 5. I even have names for some of them…
But I’m getting ahead of myself! I’m supposed to be bashing out chapter 9!!!!!
See this is what happens when you use Procrastination-Therapy; you never know where it might lead.
Chapter 9!!! OK.
Crystal is finding it difficult to process that animals are speaking to her; not all animals mind, just these particular ones. The rest of the chapter has 2 directions it could go down.
1. She could be directed to a small really cute little Hobbit-type-hole, where I have a lovely moment planned. This part does HAVE to happen, but it’s whether or not it fits in this chapter or not that I’m concerned with.
2. Or she could be taken by the nasty squirrel to meet the Lord of The Wood. She HAS to see him to get the next vital clue which will send the narrative steaming in another direction; but again it’s whether this chapter is the place for it.
I have just come out of a dark passage in the narrative and from that dark passage, she ran away. It was too much for her to take in.
And that was the right decision, character wise. Crystal would of course run from what has just happened to her; I know I would.
She didn’t intend on meeting these forest-folk, but she has. Her world will be much better off because of it, in the long run. But it’s making this decision which I am struggling with.
Do I stay in the dark with Crystal before returning to the light with a much more heartwarming passage? Or do I take her to the light for a respite, before plunging back into the mystery again.
This all also happens in one night. By the time the sun rises she has to have been to the Hobbit-type hole AND have been to see the Lord of the Wood.
Or does she????
No. Don’t deviate too much from the plan; stick to the plan and these structural changes could be made in the edit.
My gut feeling after writing this blog is to take her to the darker more mysterious place first. Get given the clue before being taken to the Hobbit-hole. Then come home at sunrise and have to have that conversation with her aunts…
Actually I’m thinking the Hobbit-hole needs to move to another chapter. There has got to be a reasonable reason for her to go there a little later on in the narrative. I think I’m going to spend tonight revising the plan slightly to get Crystal to the Hobbit-hole a bit later.
It will just be too much all in one go! And of course there is the physicality of time; would she physically have enough time before the sun rises to do both? I don’t think so.
Do you know what? I suddenly feel lifted. Cutting out the Hobbit-hole opens up the chapter to what it needs to be.
I remember hearing a marvelous piece of advice once from a TV writer (it must have been a DVD extra) and they said to “remove the thing that you love the most from a scene and it will all click into place”.
I love the Hobbit-hole. And now that it’s out, the chapter is going to work.
Of course I’m still going to use it, but just a few chapters further down the line.
This blog has done what it needed to. Tonight I will re-jig the structure slightly, and then tomorrow I can crack on with chapter 9.