Perseverance

Another week down with very little progress. This is my life, now: I am trapped in a perpetual cycle of completely failing to get on with Breathing Fire. I mean, seriously – I have 175 pages written; over 50,000 words. You’d think that I know what I was trying to achieve by now. You’d think that I was capable of writing more than 50 words at a time. You’d think I’d think and sort the damn thing out.

This is almost certainly (memories may go down as well as up) the longest I’ve ever spent on a first draft (or ‘sloppy copy’, as someone coined it on Twitter). I’m past the point of simply blaming interruptions. This is seriously so damn hard. Pulling teeth is nothing compared to pulling words.

At the moment I‘m trying to plan a break-in. This means I have to think. Then, after said break-in, I need to plan a climax. And I’m just not sure I’ve got the energy for that.

Sigh. I shall get it down. I will not be defeated. But overall victory (in, what must be remembered, is still only Draft One of – judging by prior performance – at least seven) has never seemed so far away.

Perseverance is the only card left in my hand. It’s having to do a whole lot of work right now.

And then there’s the big Plot Issue I need to solve.

Back in book one (Oneiromancer) I killed a lesbian, inadvertently sending me careering down a trope-fuelled nightmare that I still fret about; I worry that any potential agent/editor will hit that point and either reject me because of it or demand changes that I feel incapable of resolving.

I’ve hit that same note again here. I have a queer couple and I was intending – no, the plot is demanding – that one of them should die. There is an inexorable momentum towards unhappily-ever-after.

Seeing this coming, I desperately want to save their life. I just don’t know how. For reasons of plot and momentum and the iron laws of tragedy, I don’t know how to avoid having myself labelled as something I don’t think I am. I want to wrench things round to a happier ending.

I just don’t know how. The book screams for blood and I’m not sure how to best escape the gravity-well of my own creation.

I am mulling. I have rarely mulled so hard. And in the meantime I scratch word after word and drag myself inevitably closer towards the end.

Except I don’t, because another paying job has thunked down upon my desk and now I’m back to editing.

One day I’ll actually get to finish something I started. That day is not today.

General pause

The Plague has struck.

Yes, it’s been one of those weeks. The little one has brought home more than the usual sniffles and has been restricted to the house – extra annoying as she’s absolutely fine in herself and has been slowly going mad under confinement. Now my wife has got it too and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before I succumb.

In any case, the bare fact is that I’ve been unable to operate on anything like normal conditions. I’ve taken time off work to look after said Small and all writing time has been erased.

All this is an over-elaborate way of saying that I’ve got nothing to talk about this week. I have no writing news – I still wait for my submissions to either bear fruit or be declared barren. I have added zero words to my work in progress, nor have I scraped any editing barrel. Any Editorium-time I’ve been managed to garner – like the hour I have now – has been devoted to the deadline-ridden piece of proofreading I currently have on my plate.

This is fine. This is all fine. There will always be days or weeks when the best-laid plans are all rent asunder. The trick is not so much in the coping with the fall but in the getting back on track again once the dust has settled.

So: resolutions. I must finish my proofreading and dispatch it avec invoice. That’s front and centre.

Then I must get back to writing and actually try and find something interesting to say next week.

Hope you’re well and happy and all’s happily productive in your world.

Onwards!

What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?

One has claws at the end of its paws, the other has a pause at the end of its clause

Coasting

There’s a lot of fretting in writing. Or, at least, there’s a lot of fretting in the way I do writing. Worrying about submissions, worrying I’m not reading enough, or the right sort of books; worrying about making progress, about using the time well; worrying about editing and falling foul of tropes and, when you get right down to it, that I’m simply not good enough of that.

Balls to all that. I have a fairly clear period at the moment (which might end at any moment, if editorial work is despatched in my direction, but still) and I’m just going to coast.

 I have three novels I could be working on – the trilogy that begins with Oneiromancer could all do with some time spent on them – and, at the moment, I am perhaps foolishly choosing to work on the last: Breathing Fire. This is first drafting, and it’s gritty, attritional going.

Nothing comes free, and nothing comes easy. I am struggling to get into the flow of writing, and there are many slips between the brain and the fingers and what appears on the screen. The deletion key is getting worn away.

But I am not worrying about this. I am making progress, and that’s what matters. Word by word I assemble something that might be mistaken for a story from a distance. This novel has already taken an eternity to write; what’s a few more interruptions between friends?

I am trying to get back into that state of actively, positively enjoying what I’m doing. Everything recently has been contingency, emergency, short-notice work. This is the first spell of 2022 where I don’t have pressure or deadlines and I can simply take my time. And I want to make the most of it.

If this means I don’t get as much done as I would if I had the hounds of hell breathing down my neck – well, that’s okay. No-one cares what I do in the privacy of my own Editorium anyway. It’s time to embrace that fact and Make Writing Pleasurable Again.

It won’t last. Nothing ever does. I’ll be depressed by my failures before too long. I’ll have more deadlines arriving. I’ll have rejections to accept and I’ll feel like giving up many times over.

Despite this – because of this – I’m determined to just take it easy and enjoy myself and accept my shortcomings whilst I’m in a positive enough frame of mind to make the most of my time. And that’s not always measured in word count.

*             *             *

As I was writing the final words above an email pinged into my inbox. Another editorial job has arrived, bringing with it deadlines and a need for focus and other adultatious responsibilities. And so the holiday is over, and I must snap back into ultra-disciplined mode.

So it goes, the writer’s life. So it goes.

Round in circles

Sometimes it feels like we are bound in endless circles, doomed Sisyphean to repeat the same old circuit. Thus I come to you with advice I’ve given before and will doubtless be given again: be nice.

At the end of last week I was struggling to see a real future for me as a writer, should this last submission come to naught. Today I am feeling more positive, and that’s in no small part due to the kindness of a relative stranger. A person I’d talked to all of once before, a published, agented author, got in touch out of the blue to say that he was going to speak to his agent on Monday and would I like him to put in a good word for me?

One unexpected submission later and ‘why yes, that would be dashed sporting of you, sir’ and I now have two irons in the fire.

I know, I know, a good word means nothing if the agent doesn’t like my work. It’s hardly a guaranteed passport to Publishersville, or even Agentshire. But it’s enough to perk me up, to make me feel like there is hope after all. I have, after all, always relied on the kindness of strangers. I believe in people. Most people are, in fact, lovely. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet good people throughout my life.

It is just another day in the life of an author. Some days good, some days bad. It’s worth emphasising this, both to you, if you’re a fledgling writer, and to myself. Success is not a line graph, going forever upwards. It’s peaks and troughs, setbacks and step-ups. Success is the climate, not the weather.

At the moment I am in a not-success trough. I have no agent or publisher, no great well of victories to draw upon. The difficult bit is to see this time as a basic – perhaps the basic – state in that writer’s life. It doesn’t mark me down as a failure, just as signing my debut book deal didn’t make me a success. Only a long-term view will give an accurate picture, even assuming I can ever define what ‘success’ would actually look like.

So, in the meantime, whilst I polish my writing CV and swear over elevator pitches, I will keep an eye and a brain out for opportunities. And I will concentrate on being the nicest person I can possibly be, because that’s clearly the way I want to define my life. If I get breaks, if I have to rely on being an ‘industry insider’ or anything cishetwhitemaleish, then I want it to be because I’m a nice person and people want to work with me because they feel they can trust me rather than a reflection of going to the right clubs or of having the right school tie.

And that means I have an obligation to pay any niceness onwards. Find me on Twitter and ask me questions, if you have any. I’ll never make any promises because so often life intervenes, but I promise to try and help.

So many people have been nice to me. I’ve got where I am today (however you want to take that) by word of mouth, by people taking a punt on me, by trying to be vaguely reliable.

It’s the least I can do to try and pass some of my good fortune on.