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.

On being stuck

When I am stuck, I scribble.

Having slogged through weeks of getting nowhere I finally found myself sliding to a complete halt. I couldn’t see where I was going. All momentum had long since faded. It felt like I was scratching for the sake of scratching rather than for real purposes of creation.

I went back to my notes but, this far through the story, I found I’d deviated too much from my outline for it to be really useful – at this point in proceedings, at least. To be honest, calling it an outline is perhaps optimistic anyway. The barest whispers of ideas given undue confidence and swagger is a better description.

So I wrote some new ideas.

Let’s be honest, it didn’t happen just like that. It took me about four sessions of staring at my manuscript, then staring at my wannabe-outline, before I realised I needed a different approach. But however long it took me, it seems to have helped. I have new direction and less ‘oh my god this is torturousness’ (torturosity?) feeling about the whole project.

When I’m stuck the first thing I like to do is to write about the problem: to find a way to express it. This doesn’t always come easy, but getting it down on paper – or occasionally Twitter – is an important first step for me. Hence:

Callan and the book: Could be going to either of two locations

  • To the DM, who has his Glen Rd house
    • Fitz wants to deal with this man
    • Rewrite introductory scene to feature DM, not the Peppers (though they may also be present)
    • DM has the power to make Fitz’s ambitions happen
  • To the Troll Farm
    • Peppers want the book there

Callan needs to be left alone with the book

Once the problem is set out, the answers always seem easier; a spot of selective brainstorming (oxymoronic, I know, but you get what I mean) shows me possible futures, and though I never seem to stick with what I come up with – this is already out of date – it resets me, gets me out of the morass I created. Thus:

So: Fitz’s POV: (or Callan’s?)

  • In the limo, with lord & lady Pepper and the DM
    • They have been to the DMs house; called the Peppers from there; kept Callan locked up until they arrived
    • Praise for Fitz: DM lets him know that he’s going to get his reward
      • Temporal power
      • Revenge on Mark/Paul

(I feel safe letting you into this part of my manuscript as I’ve no doubt this will make any sense to anyone. It barely makes sense to me. In fact, looking back at it now, I can’t believe how sketchy it is; there’s so much skipped, assumed, even for me.)

The point isn’t to say that you should be doing this. Just that this works for me. Everyone has their own way of making progress, be it following a set plan down to the last syllable or by dispensing with notes altogether. I just thought you might be interested to see that a) I do get (very) stuck sometimes, and b) I have a way to get myself out of the mire.

It’s something I think I’ve done for about every novel I’ve written. It’s just that this time I actually noticed what I was doing.

Interesting? I’m not sure. But it filled in another week’s blog, so there’s that, at least.

Merry writing!

Breathing fire

I am doing some writing.

I know, I know. I’m every bit as surprised as you are. But it‘s true. I’ve finally got a bit of leeway in my schedule (I think – I’m always terribly worried that I’ve either forgotten something or that the jobs I have on my plate will take longer than anticipated) and I’m using it to create.

Breathing Fire is the third in the modern fantasy series that began with Oneiromancer and continued with Our Kind of Bastard. It’s an absolutely pointless thing to write as I have no home, nor even a hope of a home, for the first two books; I should be doing something unique and entirely standalone rather than revisiting old characters.

Well, tish and pshaw to that. This is the book I want to write. And now I’m a self-publishing veteran (if not an earner) there is always that option.

I don’t want to say too much about the story yet, but it revolves around cursed books, grief, terminal (?) insomnia and evil industrialists-cum-venture-capitalists. It’s set in the environs of Bradford, which is where I grew up. I’m fed up of the London-centricness of British novels, which is rich seeing as Oneiromancer was set there. Still: London, Brittany, Bradford – I’m moving things around, at least.

And that’s really all I’ve got to say for now. I’m first drafting, and doubtless what I’m producing is pretty terrible. A first draft is all about getting the story down on paper; of finding steps and mis-steps and of trying not to get too bogged down in a morass of one’s own making.

But it’s fun, and exciting, and though it’s a slog it’s my slog.

*             *             *

For those what missed it I did an interview with the wonderful Runalong Womble the other week. If you want to read about New Gods, about my influences, the problems of writing sci-fi, and my book recommendation for the world, head along here – and check out all of Womble’s other interviews whilst you’re at it.

Oh, and maybe buy and/or review New Gods? Cheers. You’re the best.

Writing is fun

It’s fun, writing. I mean no, it’s horrible, a unique and vengeful form of torture. It weakens the soul, erodes the buttocks and is no good for diet, digestion or dignity. But apart from that it’s fun.

It’s a massive challenge, writing anything, let alone a novel. It’s worse when you feel like you’re stuck in mud, striving desperately to shift the merest inch. And the road, should such a thing exist, is a switchback, easily lost, and sometimes we must reverse course to make progress.

And even then, when all the kinks are unbound and the thing laid flat upon the paper, it will look nothing like the golden model that originally shone in the mind’s eye. It will have been watered down, irrevocably changed by the needs of ‘logic’, ‘consistency’, and ‘taste’.

And yet I maintain that it is fun. There is not enough fun in this world right now, and so I am resentful about all the things that are getting in my way at the moment. I have proofreading to do, deadlines to meet, edits to edit.

It has been a long time since I could just sit back, untethered by expectation, and create.

I can just about see the pages through the foliage. Recently I have carved out brief moments where I have been able to take my manuscript, the same that I’ve been mucking around with since February-ish, but which got lost in August as Other Things arose to bury it in the morass.

I can see it. I want to get back to it. It’s called Breathing Fire and I’ve written enough of it to worry that it’s not very good, so that’s something. I’ve also written enough of it for it to have a shape already, and there are flashes that I was to nurture and grow and hot-house.

Other things are currently in the way, but with my machete I will hack my way back to the trail and scamper after loose lost pages, scribbling on them as I go, until I find my way to the clearing and the great heart of the story is to be found, a bloated, sweating carcase fanning itself slowly with abandoned plot-lines.

And then I’ll complain about not having enough paid work to do. You watch me.