Today I'm handing the blog over to The Indoor Writer as she wants to make a confession ...
In the last few weeks I've been suffering from an odd form or writing procrastination. Most writers commonly seek out any task (housework, gardening, shopping etc) to avoid writing, but I've been writing just about anything (short stories, fillers, letters, articles etc) to avoid ... working on the novel. Why? Because it terrifies me. And I can't fully explain why. I've completed one adult novel and a children's novel - so I know I can finish a longer piece of writing. I do feel under some pressure, from friends mainly, but also the writing world in general that I'm not really a writer until I get a novel published. But I think I'm scared of the commitment in time it will take to complete the first draft (not to mention editing, re-writes etc), when I could be writing other stuff that has a chance to be published.
The first novel I wrote in one year (2006-2007) when I was still working full-time and it was purely an exercise in proving I could write 80,000 words. Many of the words were okay, not bad in fact, but I've learned so much about the craft since then that I know little of the work is worth salvaging (ie it needs a complete rewrite). In 2011 I wrote a children's novel for 9 -12 yrs. Recently, this did well in the Cornerstones Wowfactor competition and I subsequently paid for a full manuscript review. The feedback was extremely positive and constructive, but before I can start submitting this again it does need a significant plot change. I'm currently letting ideas stir around in the back of my brain before restarting again.
The current WIP reached 50,000 words and then stalled, but I've recently begun writing it from scratch again. To kickstart this process I wrote several short stories around major characters. I really enjoyed this and realised that for some chapters I now have sections already completed. I also realised that I did enjoy spending time with these characters and they were easy to write. (I could go all writerly and say they were 'speaking' to me but that sounds as if I need treatment). A further goal was to submit a synopsis and the first 3 chapters for a 1:1 review at Swanwick Summer School. I'm ashamed to admit that I sat down and completed this within 2 weeks, submitted then waited until the 1:1 meeting. In some ways this was a test. If the feedback was bad then I was prepared to abandon it before investing any more time. Wonderfully, the feedback was very positive, in fact I hardly received any negative comments at all, which was surprising for an early first draft.
When all the writing omens are good then why can't I get on with it? The 2 weeks in which I wrote the first 6,000 words were brilliant in that the words flowed, the characters did speak to me and the structure began to emerge. But I slept badly l as I couldn't shut down at the end of the day. And I was sitting in bed writing before breakfast. What's wrong with that you cry? Isn't that what novelists are supposed to do? What scares me is having to sustain this obsession for six months - as I've set the target to complete first draft by end Feb 2014 - when I have other writing goals I want to focus on as well. The joys of writing short fiction are: the craving is quickly satisfied, you can flit between genres and experiment with each new story, and a piece is ready to submit within days. Working on a full length novel (Contemporary literary fiction is my chosen genre - eeek) fails on all these points.
I am going to write Chapter 4 in September (see I've written that down now so it HAS to happen) and get the first 10,000 words ready to submit to Exeter Writer's Novel Opening Competition (closes 31 October). I'm trying to break the novel down, as if I were writing a series of short stories because I can write 1-2 a month easily. It's plotted and I'm reasonably certain I know where it's heading. But if anyone out there in blogland has any helpful hints or wise words on how to balance different writing tasks, stay (reasonably) sane and a pleasure to live with then PLEASE SHARE!
Good. Now I've got that off my chest I feel much better. Thanks LitPig.