I think I discovered why I had writer’s block for so long.
Only, it wasn’t writer’s block.
I was just out of ‘first draft’ practise.
I finished writing my first novel sometime in 2012.
And although I spent over a year doing the first draft, I have subsequently been editing it for the last 8 years.
On and off, clearly. Things have happened, life happened, and sometimes the book was shelved for years upon years without me so much as peeking at it.
So when I started writing my second novel some years ago, which is the follow-up to the first, I got through one chapter, two, three…
Then I stalled, MAJORLY.
I just couldn’t find my way forward. I couldn’t think of what the characters should do next.
I’m definitely a pantser. I write, flying by the seat of my pants.
I am about 30% plotter… I have major themes, relationships, shock horrors already decided, but how to get there?
No bloody clue. Insert 70% pantser.
I dealt with this by doing the only thing I knew how…
Leaving it alone.
I left it ALL ALONE. Life changes happened, job changes happened. I enrolled in online writing courses, fixing up my first novel (which was necessary) and spent a lot of time on that, believing that after working on it, I would go back to my second novel, knowing exactly what to do.
Guess what happened when I started working on my second novel a couple of weeks ago?
I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
But I stuck with it. I thought of all the things I had learnt in my courses. Approaches to writing… fleshing out my characters… looking at the world around me for ideas.
This afternoon, I had all these words of wisdom flying at me as I tried, ever so slowly, to move it forward.
“You can’t edit a blank page.”
“Just get it down. Finish the story and then you can edit.”
“The first draft is always crap.”
These words kept rotating in my mind, urging me on as sentence by sentence, (sometimes super shitty sentence), I realised something was happening.
I was really, slowly, getting there.
I had forgotten this feeling. It’s been so long since I’ve written a first draft, to sit in the unknowingness, the confusion, the where to from here emotions.
But I had gone through it all before… with my first novel.
I had forgotten… but now I remembered!
This was exactly as it had been the first time around. I had totally written myself into the story. I remember times I had no idea where I was gonna go, and somehow, not knowing anything led me to a first draft of over 100 thousand words.
Writing myself into the story. That’s it. It often means a lot of it gets dumped in the final draft. I know that to be true, because as it is my first novel’s current draft is about 15,000 words less than when I first typed THE END.
But I didn’t care. And it didn’t matter. Even if I only kept 10% of what I wrote while I was in my ‘duh’ stage, at least I’d know I was getting there.
It was like letting the characters lead me down their path. So often I’d think I was going to lead them to one place, but they would then take my hand, sometimes softly, other times dragging me, but they would lead me to a completely different place, that often had me saying “I had no idea!”
And so today again, I felt it. I started off doing one thing, and as I was exploring it, I saw things start to develop.
One idea… then another… then another.
It was starting to form again.
I have to remind myself, this is normal. This is the process.
Not knowing is okay. It’s expected. But you gotta be in the driver’s seat to get anywhere in the first place, right? 😉
Oh wow. The feeling of relief, of relaxation, tiredness even… is immense.
But also, there is exhilaration.
I have to thank Hubbie and baby girl. They let me do my thing these last few days, escape to quiet rooms of the house, yell at them to not yell, and even run upstairs onto our bed where I could truly be at peace.
I sacrificed a lot. Baby girl’s school work. She did maybe a task a day.
The cooking. It was either Hubbie doing it or grabbing some kind of half-healthy takeaway.
The time. Instead of spending time with my family, I was furiously going over and over and over my manuscript, trying to get it up to the standard I would be okay with, before sending it off for a competition tonight.
Don’t mention the cleaning.
Don’t mention the washing.
Don’t mention the clothes hanging up in the house waiting to be put away.
Don’t mention anything to do with the house!
The phone calls. The jobs I put off. I sacrificed so much, and I would do it all again.
You know what? Because I love it.
When you find that which you’re passionate about, you want to spend as much of your life doing it, right?
If my house, the washing, even some odd jobs have to suffer I WILL TAKE IT.
Because I’d rather be known as ‘that writing gal,’ than the woman who had a clean house.
Really. What is important here?
(Having said all that, I’m actually aching to clean every crevice of the house tomorrow!)
Anyway… the mad rush is over. 88 thousand words have been submitted, and I couldn’t be happier.
It’s not even about whether I win or not. I honestly doubt I will. But I proved to myself that I could hit the deadline, I pushed myself to re-edit and re-structure my novel, and if you think about it, regardless of the results, I am one step closer to getting there.
I have no time to write, because I am writing elsewhere.
I’m trying to hit a deadline, and that deadline is tomorrow, by about midnight, though I hope to God I hit it by evening.
I’ve made soooo many sacrifices these last few days, but I’m so busy I can’t even write about them.
The biggest sacrifice has been from baby girl. I have even cut back on her schoolwork and tasks, so important this deadline is to me.
She’ll catch up, it’s cool.
But she has been unreal, and so understanding. I had to meet her in the middle though… as soon as I finished work today, we had a coffee break, we played dolls together for several minutes… and then my butt hit the couch to write on my laptop.
She didn’t whinge. She didn’t complain. She didn’t bug me. She even left me in peace to write and edit and re-think EVERYTHING, and I am so grateful.
But, it’s not over. Even though I’m grateful for her understanding today, I’m praying some of it extends to tomorrow, since I have to review and rewrite two more chapters, go over my entire manuscript again, write a freaking 1 page-synopsis condensing approximately 88,000 words, while trying not to LOSE MY MIND while doing it.
I spent my Saturday morning in a really lovely, relaxing and uplifting way.
And no, it wasn’t just because I ate breakfast on the couch (I know it’s a day off when my butt is firmly planted there as I eat my toast), and no, it wasn’t because I was in my PJs ’til past midday…
But I was in my PJs past midday, because I got majorly distracted at 11am.
I’ve done 5 online courses now with The Australian Writers’ Centre. It is truly an addictive thing if you love the craft of writing, and seriously, I can see myself doing more of them… at some point in the future.
For anyone that loves to write and wants to make it part of their work, even if you live outside of Australia, the AWC is a tremendous resource, I know.
And at the moment, I think their online Zoom chats with esteemed writerly professionals are just awesome.
They have been running for a while now during iso, and the topic for this morning’s one was of utmost interest to me.
AWC founder Valerie Khoo was talking to a children’s and YA literary agent!
YA! That’s my genre. 😉
I accidentally stumbled across the Zoom chat reminder, and then started to listen… and then couldn’t put down my phone. I even asked a question about what trend publisher’s are looking for at the moment in YA, and along with getting my question answered, I walked away with so much information, tips and people to look up and read more on.
Most of all, I walked away with so much inspiration. It gave me purpose and hope and light again.
It’s a long road ahead, and it requires a heap of work. But at the same time, this morning’s Zoom chat filled me with as much excitement as it did focus, and I really feel I am on the right track.
A great frame of mind to start your morning? I’m definitely grateful for that.
I’ve been trying to get into ‘book mode,’ or rather, ‘editing-book mode.’
I recently got some feedback on my YA novel that I needed to up the ante for my main protagonist. I needed to make more happen… I needed to really make it, a page-turner.
Those words have been nagging me, haunting me, ever since.
So I’ve been thinking.
Reading over my notes.
Reading over all the feedback.
Tapping my chin with my pen.
Staring off into the distance.
Thinking some more.
And trying to think of some way to up the ante!
Firstly… I’m cutting out 3 characters. Just, gone. Albeit they’re side characters, but still…
Slaughtered. In place of them, a character I really didn’t think would be loved, is actually, LOVED, so he is getting a much-needed identity boost.
But that’s it. Plot points otherwise, at a nill.
I even went so far as to look up the psychology of teenage emotions, to try and get some inspiration and motivation for storylines that might fit my cast.
Fascinating stuff, let me tell you. The amygdala has A LOT to answer for. (Psst, it’s a part of the brain).
But still, no new stories.
What did I need? I needed an injection of teen stuff. I needed to immerse myself in their world, their lives, not to think and act and be like them, no, that I have down pat (part of me will forever be 18…)
I needed to know what goes down.
Books? Could I read more YA books?
Hmmm. Considering that part of my life is a huge work in progress, and I am already time poor…
This writer, more than reader, had to say, NO.
What was more immediate, than a book?
What could I access, like, right NOW?
I jumped on last night and started searching. I had Stranger Things come up repeatedly, and was actually thinking that might be the answer. I had heard about it heaps, had always wanted to watch it… could that be my YA key card?
But as I was watching a preview of it, something else was recommended, as Netflix does so well.
And without even knowing why I was drawn to it, I just knew, it was IT.
Because I have a thing for water. Clearly. (This will become blatantly obvious when my book is released 😉 )
I started watching last night. I continued more this afternoon, after work. And by the end of the second episode tonight, I even had Hubbie watching.
I am hooked.
Firstly, what is with Archie’s red hair? It is drawn on, it has to be! And his eyebrows, oh my God so thick!
The small town vibe, I am digging, only because I dabble in it myself. 🙂
The love triangles.
The Dawson’s throwback to teacher tryst…. nice nice. I wasn’t expecting that.
A murder always makes things more enticing.
The crazy twin. Like, sooo crazy!
I am just loving it.
In fact, I finally have one good reason to be coughing non-stop. I am coughing, baby girl is coughing, and you know what, if that means I will binge on Riverdale this weekend and not be social, well…
Oh well. I will have to deal (happily!)
Hold up, what was the point here? Research? For my book?
Sure, sure. I am totally getting ideas. I have no time to write them though, I have a new show I need to watch…
I go from one hat, to another hat, to another hat.
ALL DAY LONG.
Work hat. Mum hat. Teacher hat. Cleaner hat. Chef hat. Pet owner hat. Wife hat. Washing hat. (Did I say cleaner hat?)
Emotional hat. Maintenance hat. Finance hat.
Where is my ‘me’ hat?
Sure we are in lockdown, but all it means for me is I’m doing everything from home now, instead of leaving the house for things that I used to.
It’s now the work and the home schooling, as well as trying to do all of the normal everyday tasks that keep the house running,
I jump from one thing to another thing to another thing, all without taking a breath.
Overwhelmed is an emotion I am all too familiar with.
I asked myself the other night “where is my ‘me time'”?
Sure, I do this at night. Everyone goes to sleep. I blog, I journal.
Other times I am so spent I watch my guilty pleasure Bold and the Beautiful on repeat, or just scroll aimlessly through social media.
But then, that other big question… the question that I’m sure A LOT of us has thought at one point or another during this lockdown…
What is it for?
What is the point? Where am I placing my valuable time, and is it leading me in the direction I want to go?
Or have I fallen into routine, and need to be reminded of that which makes my heart sing?
What about my book?
Yeah, MY BOOK. That thing I was working on ’til early this year, which I then left because ‘feedback overload!’ All well and good, but with so long a break, it was time to ask the question again.
‘What about my book?’
A new plan. A new decision. A new routine.
A new hat. A writinghat. 🙂
Wednesdays was now going to be my BOOK day.
It doesn’t matter how much (or how little) I spend working on my novel… but from now on, I’m going to be announcing to the house my intentions, and ordering them all to leave me alone for as long as they can muster!
Today it was about 80 minutes… not bad. It was baby steps. I first had to remind myself of where I was at, re-reading feedback from writing pals, and taking notes to ‘up the ante’ of my story.
Even if I do one line, each Wednesday…
I am doing something. I need to be easy on myself. I know how I work.
Life can get away from us. But if I can try stick to this new routine, all my Wednesdays will surely amount to something.
They will amount to much more, than doing nothing.
It’s after school pick-up, and baby girl and I are playing an impromptu Guess Who game.
I tell her that we’ll only play a couple rounds… so we play one game, and I win.
We start the second game. I am nearing the end, with far more of my people down, while she has loads left. I go easy on her, as she asks really specific questions that stall her progress, like “does your person have a headband?” when there is only ONE person with a headband! But also, I don’t avoid winning.
I ask a question and knock down a few more. I have 1 left. She is totally Megan. I have this in the bag.
But now it is her turn.
And she has LOADS left.
But then she asks… “is your person, Rebecca?”
What the actual F*&%????
She had 18 people up, but still completely fluked the question and picked the right person.
Rebecca it was! She won!
I was flabbergasted, asking “how did you do that?” She said she just knew, and still in total shock, we went on to play another game.
I went first. I asked a question and she responded, before I knocked a couple people down.
Now it was her first shot of the third game.
“Is your person… Lisa?”
FUCK OFF. No special characters either.
It IS Lisa!
How the $^%*$*$&#&(#()(???????
I couldn’t speak. I was actually staring at her, ‘like what is going on?’ I went to her side of the rug to see if she could see through my card somehow… nope. I look at her dead serious.
“How did you do that? Did someone whisper it to you? Or was it a feeling?”
“It was a feeling.”
I just can’t get over this. Someone is messing with me. Is someone messing with me? What is going on?
I ask her a series of specific questions. If she can tell the future I want the answers.
“Am I going to write a book?”
(Hold on, I actually havewritten a book).
“Am I going to have my book in bookstores?”
“What am I thinking now?”
She laughs. “I don’t know!”
We played two more games after that which I won… either her EXTREMELY lucky streak ran out, the ‘feelings’ stopped, or whoever or whatever was whispering in her ear ran off… either way… it made for a truly entertaining Guess Who session… I won’t be forgetting those games for a while.
Okay well I didn’t actual ‘do it,’ yet… if I did I would be bathing in Moet.
Remember that for when I get published. 😉
But tonight, was the night. It was the night I let go of the reins of the horse that has been gallivanting around in my head, vibrating from my fingertips, and taking up creative space on my computer for the past roughly 7-8 years.
Tonight was the night we submitted our full manuscripts!!!!
Oh my. I actually thought I’d be more nervous, but getting to this point has been gradual, what with submitting 5000 words of our novels at each submission point.
Relief is an understatement.
I am so glad for it to be off my hands for the time being… and having a break from, well what else…
NOT having to write anything.
Oh man. Right on time for Christmas and ALL. Goodnight 🙂