No flow


At the time of writing I am 47,000 words into my new, refuses-to-be-named, manuscript. And I don’t think I’ve ever written something that’s put up such a fight. And, possibly, is as ropey.

It has been a struggle to get this far. I’ve had to claw for every sentence; at its most difficult I’ve literally taken a break after every few words. Yes, I have become that cliché. But I have kept going, still building one word upon another until an edifice of characters has arisen, rickety and unstable, out of the detritus of my mind.

What I have not yet done is enter a flow state where I lose myself in writing and everything – well, everything flows. I’ve not been in the zone, which is a shame because I’ve been there before and it’s a wonderful feeling; euphoric, even, as you lose yourself in your world and your writing and time seems to disappear as the words amass without, it seems, much input from you.

But that’s okay. And it’s not a problem that I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the words I’ve got down are, in fact, rubbish. It’s hard to tell, when first drafting, whether you’re producing perfect prose or barely-salvageable trash. I suspect the latter.



It’s always easier to rescue a damaged project than it is to start afresh, and so I am forging on. I am, in fact, mostly blocking out my novel, both on a macro- and micro level. I am working out what happens across the whole flow of the story. And I am working out what happens in individual scenes. This high-level thought is taking priority over finding the right words, even over building perfect atmosphere or character.

And it’s hard work. Designing a scene, for example, where protagonist #1 finds herself in someone else’s dream and must fight off a troll and a wolf: there’s a lot of movement, a lot of drama to be created. This is the real imagination-work.

I am, essentially, storyboarding with words and at the same time trying to work it into novel form. Not easy.

Makes me wonder – again – if I should have written an outline – the novel equivalent of a storyboard – before starting the Big Write. But I haven’t, and that’s alright too. As long as the words go down you can write a novel any way that works for you.

Maybe next time I’ll do it properly.

Or maybe not.


The long and winding road

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”
Jack London

Well today I have absolutely nothing to say. I’m ensnared with new work hours and wedding planning and so my writing accomplishments are presently few and far between. I am spending a lot of money, though.

But a writer never really stops working. Everything is work for someone who thinks for a living. Every scrap of conversation overheard, every odd accent, unusual phrasing; every odd bit of architecture, everything the makes you think in a different way- that’s work for a writer. And that’s just the beginning, just the shallow, the obvious.

It’s a strange fact that most of a writer’s work is done away from the computer/typewriter/notebook. The most important time is that spent allowing the subconscious to roll things around. Time spent staring off into the distance thinking of nothing. That’s where the real work is done, where the imagination comes out to play. Sure, we need to get our thoughts down on paper eventually, and that can be damn hard. But that’s craft. That’s not art. The art comes when I take a break from the slog and go do the washing up.

I do most of my actual thinking either on the bus or just before I drift off to sleep. Most of my writing comes from the tales I tell myself – the bedtime stories and the resulting nightmares. That’s my inspiration and that, in turn, comes from living and constantly learning about the world, the universe around me. From simply being a human being; that’s all I need.

That and the loan of other people’s minds via their books. That helps too.

*          *          *

Hope this image comes out okay. It’s the first page of the Night Shift plan I’m currently working from. I’ve been talking recently about editing and how I’m trying to learn new ways of working: well – if you’re interested – here’s how I’m going about it.

I’ve broken the entire novel down into scenes, drawing up a chart of what happens, to whom and the long-term significance of events. There’s also a column for changes I want to make. As you can see, that’s just the start. The real value (to me) in this exercise is the ability to scribble all over it with thoughts, ideas and random doodles.