I’ve not been posting much here lately.
It feels like my patch of cyberspace is looking a little desolate: far more like a wonky pavement with weeds spilling from between the cracks than a verdant, carefully tended garden. That said, there is a good reason why I have neglected this space, despite my various attempts to nurture it over the years, and that is I’m trying to finish the first draft of my novel.
Writing is one of my great true loves. I love the feeling of sentences pouring forth from my fingers, pooling themselves paragraphs and flowing into pages of prose. I savour the feeling of selecting precisely the right words and placing them in a specific order to bring a particular scenario, emotion, or plot point to life.
But it takes time.
It takes time to enter the headspace of the character whose perspective you’re writing from, to inhabit their skin and to bring their inner life and backstory to the forefront of your own mind so you can produce a believeable, genuine response to what is happening in the story at any given time. And to achieve that, you need to possess a clear understanding of exactly where the tale you’re telling has come from and where it will end up — because you’ve had to create all that too, not to mention the world in which it takes place.
And sometimes you need time just to sit with an idea.
For the past two days I have been allowing a scene to germinate in my head. I’ve got some writing done, sure, but writing is not always about how many words you’ve got on a page. I’ve needed time to flesh out a new character in my mind, to understand where they fit into the action and how they relate to the other characters who already populate my world. I have needed time to figure out what they look like, how they move, and what makes them unique. And then I have needed time to turn my attention to the first impressions the character whose point of view I am currently writing from might have of them, and what knowledge these characters possess about themselves, each other and the wider plot of the novel as a whole. Only then could I map out how these characters might interact, and to decide what information I needed to hide or reveal to build suspense and drive the story towards its climax.
And that’s just for one small scene at the end of Chapter Thirteen!
Writing is hard, sometimes, no matter how much you love it.
It’s hard to find uninterrupted time to let the story unfurl in your head in the way I have just described.
It’s hard to admit you’re writing a novel in the first place.
It’s hard to answer questions about when your book will be finished, or where you’re up to, or whether it will ever be published.
It’s hard to silence the ever-present and insistent voice of my inner critic, who frequently tells me I am a fool for attempting to write a novel, or I’m arrogant to assume anyone would want to read it, or I’m any number of other negative things. (Then again, I’m yet to meet a writer whose inner critic does not persist in making a multitude of unhelpful comments and suggestions, usually at the most inopportune times).
It’s hard to keep believing in yourself and your story, knowing it might never make it onto the printed page.
But since I have started creating my characters and the world in which they live, I feel a strange sense of duty to make sure I see them through to the end — even if it means my patch of cyberspace suffers from benign neglect in the meantime.
As Glennon Doyle says, we can do hard things.
So I wish you well with whatever hard things you’re doing.
I’m off to write that scene.