I’ve reached that stage again. A form of writer’s block combined with tiredness.
Should I start a new novel? Polish an existing one? I have no idea of what to do next.
Stepping back from novel writing (including short story writing) might be the right thing for now. A bit of a break. (But not from everything).
Writers can still improve their skills away from a current large scale project. Blogs. Poetry. Collecting one’s thoughts on paper or digitally. Letter writing. Email exchanges. Essays.
These all demand a certain level of articulation and may trigger inspiration for a story project at a future stage.
I think it’s a case of take a well earned break, but don’t give up.
In the meantime, I’m polishing my piano repertoire and brushing up on my foreign language studies.
Till next time.
This summer, I found an old (nearly abandoned) novel I’d written, read and made notes, revised accordingly, reread, then did further revision.
In particular, I wanted to cut the word count by about 15, 000 words, in order to submit to a publishing house that states an upper word count limit in its current submissions information.
Generally, writers hope to increase word count.
By contrast, I found that the reduction in words encouraged me to look more closely at the story and to root out writing that added nothing to the plot or characters (thus slowing down the story).
I feel that even if the project doesn’t get accepted by the publishing house in question, the exercise was still worth doing, especially in connection to future writing plans.
At the very least, it gave me insight into pace and how readers can easily lose interest when the pace slackens.
I haven’t yet submitted the amended novel, as I need to check through the manuscript for errors, but I intend to send it off before the relevant deadline, either during autumn or during winter.
Till next time.
“You hear a sound. Hesitate. Nothing. You continue on in the darkness. There, that sound again.”
Creative writing tutors call this type of narrative second person viewpoint, as opposed to first person or third. However, like with other viewpoints, variations exist. Taking the opening sentences – would you say that the writer is teasing the reader to a point, trying to create an atmosphere of tension with the hope of scaring or thrilling them? Probably.
Authors sometimes try a different technique using “You”. Writing to a fictitious family member or friend. Or ex-lover. In these cases, the narrative tends to shift to a more intimate/personal tone.
In my current novel in progress, I address most of the narrative to the main character’s childhood friend in a sort of eulogy, in order to sort out problems with inner monologue and help shape the more subtle aspects of the structure.
And, of course, to avoid the “Show, Don’t Tell” problem.
Hope it works.
Tweaking: sorting out small details in the narrative, making sure all elements of the plot agree. The process might seem simple, yet I’m finding this stage of the writing the most difficult.
Possibly, the structural or plot issues have always existed in the story but have only come to light as the writing has got better. A bit like using photo editing software to improve a photo, only to find insignificant details suddenly detracting from the main purpose of the photo (as a result of the editing, of course).
Introducing complexity in order to solve a fundamental problem in the writing might solve the initial issue but will often bring about new problems in the narrative.
What’s complexity? I would define it as creating a new plot to improve or justify an old plot. The two plots co-exist in the same story. The new plot almost competes with the old, making the structure off-balance (my opinion, anyway).
So it’s back to the computer screen and more tweaking practice.
An article I posted two years ago:
June 18, 2009 by lawrenceez |
I have some fuzzy memories of Spike Milligan’s cafe scenes about not liking spam (a form of processed ham), but now I seem to be getting loads of Spam messages on my blog. How annoying. My site is about music and the creative arts, like novel writing and story telling.
Some things never change and the spammers are back again, pestering the site with their stupid comments.
Haley Whitehall has asked me to write an article for her blog, so here goes. Haley is a writer, with interests in literature and history.
I’ve chosen to talk about tackling the doubts in novel writing, and the article might help others with a related subject that I’ve struggled with recently, writer’s block.
I’m at that part of the novel again, a psychological thriller, where I have to make a decision. Concentrate on “mad” character building (old-fashioned/plot-based stuff) or wade through uncomfortable criminal material that’s more true to life. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to concentrate on the crime element.
I’m reworking a psychological thriller and trying to include as many calm moments as possible in the story. Too much tension, and the reader might lose interest. Too little, and the reader might get bored. The general reader wants to identify with a character, and the writer needs to invite the readers into that character’s life. Difficult, but a rewarding process.
The following is a short sample based around the central character’s sister and son.
In the morning, I go off to a country park with Mel and Robert The acorn trail with yellow fields on either side. We take photographs of deer and stop for a picnic lunch near a wooden hut. Purchase mugs and mint cake from a gift shop. Pencils and stencils and art paper for Mel. I buy a pair of cheap sunglasses for the fun of it and get Robert to take a photograph of me prancing about in the shades. It’s another crisp October day, sunny but nippy with the smells of pines and honey and cider apples.
I’m at a significant point in my writing generally: the need for the central character to have normal life and enjoy every day activities. In a psychological thriller, this can be difficult to bring off.
In the following scene, central character Alan has just returned home after spending the night on a mate’s couch following an evening in the pub. The evening itself was intense. Robert = Alan’s son, Mel = Alan’s sister, Samantha = Mel’s friend
I head to mine, gulp down a glass of tepid water from the sink and start the shower. Get in. Change into a fresh set of clothes and splash on some aftershave before going down to join Mel and Robert on the second floor. The interior of Samantha’s flat is different to mine or Mel’s: bean bags rather than chairs, knickknacks and ornaments on the shelves, glass coffee table with thick magenta candle stubs, paperbacks scattered on the floor, along with assorted shoes and trainers. Robert, I note, seems particularly sulky today, and hardly responds to anything I have to say, although he relates easily to Samantha. The four of us spend the morning making organic bread in the tiny kitchen area, Samantha chatting away barely, pausing for breath.
Weather descriptions can create problems in novel writing, apparently. Too many, and the reader may lose interest. None, and the reader may find the scene setting lacking.
Then there’s the Pathetic Fallacy. In some cases, the tone of the weather hints at what is to come.
Here’s a description of a storm taken from my second novel, a psychological thriller. In this scene, the main character is driving his eight-year-old son home from school.
We barely talk on the way back. Jazz FM plays on the car radio, my favourite station. Those dissonances calming my mood, calming my mind. The journey, though, is rough, and the steadily darkening sky warn of a prairies-like storm Rain falls down my windscreen, making it difficult to see.
The rain sweeps across the surrounding grass verges in a downpour, splattering on the road ahead. At Rupton village, lightning streaks across the horizon, capturing a frozen shot of The Factory in the valley below: brown, muddy-red brickwork with turret-like windows and a tall chimney to side. Thunder, then more lightning and another glimpse of The Factory with the metal fencing surrounding the car park and the cooling towers and pylon grid further on. Austere. More thunder and lightning. Torrents of rain and gusts of wind. Snapping branches and soaked leaves strewn along pavements. The steep winding road to the bottom of the valley glazed from the rain, tiny streams of waters trickle down the hill to join the river at the other side.
‘Wow,’ Robert says.
He nods, but doesn’t smile.