Thursday, November 08, 2007

A technical term: Not Good

I’ve had some time recently to write my book. Although I’ve got quite a lot of articles coming up I can only do the research for these, so when I have time, it’s time for my book.

When I sit down to write my novel I open up my word doc, start to look through my words and my heart sinks.

Hmmmm; now, I’m not a rocket scientist – but this strikes me as Not Good.

If my heart sinks I have no doubt that yours will too.

There is definitely something wrong.

Many of you will say ‘it’ll be okay, it can be fixed in the first edit’ but there won’t be a first edit if my heart sinks every time I open it up because pretty damn swiftly I’m closing it up again. And this is becoming a bit of a habit.

These are the things I’ve identified:

The voice is all wrong. It’s not me. I’ve (stupidly?) read lots of ‘how to’ books who talk about using lots of dialogue, and yet I don’t feel real doing that. The books that I read and enjoy don’t have loads of dialogue. So what I’ve got in those 23,000 words is lots of not real-to-me words.

I also know there are lots of scenes not necessary to the telling of the story, but I can’t identify which is which yet. I am a quarter of the way in, but only at the beginning of the story. Will I have to write 200,000 words before I can work out which 100,000 I actually need?

I don’t know my characters well and I feel stupid making up characters (my demon suggests I should stick to article writing?)

I do understand, both in theory and reality, that the first draft can be crap so it’s not as though I’m trying to write perfection.

I am sure of my story. I know it’s the story I want to tell. I feel the themes but I don’t know how to get there. I want to feel excited by it again.

I can see no other way but to start again … again; ignoring the ‘how to’ books and writing from me.

(My very exciting Christmas news is that I’m going on a Skyros writing course here in Thailand. I want to make full use of it by not having these problems when I go.)

(And I am oh so lucky that people around me are beginning to say to me ‘sorry, am I interrupting your writing time?’ You are lovely people and taking me more seriously than I am. Thank you; perhaps in time I’ll catch up with your faith in me.)


Jen said...

You've hit the nail on the noggin yourself: "I am a quarter of the way in, but only at the beginning of the story"

You don't need to start again - just start from now. Treat the words you've written so far as getting to know what DOESN'T work.

Don't start again. Please?


Leigh said...

How to books are a bit like a mother-in-law. You have to take it all on board, but only act on the advice that suits you! Write what you enjoy writing, and fix it later if it doesn't work technically. And don't worry about the word count!

Oodles of supportive vibes coming your way!

hellojed said...

Ugh, I know exactly what you mean, the thought of reading my novel from beginning to end makes me very nervous...but at least you are making concrete decisions about it. Remember - you are learning a trade - you can't be a fab writer overnight and you will learn from your mistakes.

Pacha said...

I feel rather too close to comfort to the feelings and situation described in this post.

I think Jen is right though, don't start again...seeing what doesn't work RIGHT NOW will help you continue writing the novel and finding the true style/voice.

'Not good' is fine because it means you are thinking about your writing and wanting to perfect it --- which IS good.

I think.

Know that I totally understand/sympathsise with your dilemma here...

Pacha said...

And... OMG Skyros course in Thailand! HOW EXCITING IS THAT????? GOOD LUCK, GOOD LUCK, GOOD LUCK!

Cathy said...

I'm with Jen too.

Keep going, but start to write it how you really want to, see if your true voice emerges. What you have already written will not be wasted. You may need to rewrite some of it later, cut some of it, perhaps insert some of it elsewhere in the novel as back story, but don't abandon it yet!

Just remember there are no hard and fast rules, despite what the books may say. Have you been following the creative writing course on Susan Hill's blog? She recently wrote a great post on just that subject.

Today is a new day and you can come to your work with a fresh eye. Good luck!


Lane said...

Can only reiterate Auntie Jen and the others - 'Don't start again'.

Just try to sketch it out, scratch it out, get it down somehow.

You can do it:-)

sheepish said...

I agree with everyone's comments, I am struggling aswell with the inner demon. Some days are better than others and I seem to be having a little creative patch at the moment so I am sure you will find your way. Do it your way then worry about cleaning it up later. Don't write in a way that you are not comfortable with. There are many roads to Oz, whatever that means!!! Whatever you do don't give up.

JJ said...

Jen, thanks, perhaps you're right. I'm just not sure how to deal with the sinking heart...

Leigh, I love the analogy. Thank you for the vibes honey.

Hellojed, I know, but I so want to be great NOW...

Pacha, sorry, I don't mean to drag up stuff for you... it's tough isn't it? But, yes, Skyros! Wow, I'm totally over excited.

Cathy, thank you. I won't delete it certainly, but it doesn't feel authentic... I'll go and have a look at the Susan Hill stuff, thanks.

Lane, Okay, I'll try not to... Thanks.

Sheepish, I just think I get the demon to shut the **** up and he appears in a different form!

Thanks all of you for your support.


Flowerpot said...

I agree with Jen - start from now. DON'T start again! As for voice, that will come. And characters - well, I try and do character studies for all mine so that I know them well before I start. So pheraps do that now? What they like to eat, wear, drive, favourite films etc. But keep writing and bst of luck. I'm feeling like that about my novel at the moment. Lacklustre.

High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation said...

I haven't a clue what I'm talking about, so take me (or leave me) with a pinch of salt. But you know when you write the same word a load of times (for whatever reason), suddenly the spelling starts to look all wrong? Well, is it possible you're doing the novel-writer's equivalent: re-reading so much that you've become over-familiar and thus contemptuous of what you've written?

Look forward, not back.

Carol and Chris said...

I agree with the comments people have already made - Don't start again just start from now (cause you will be able to use what you've already written). I also think high priestess has made a really good point - don't look at the stuff you've already done for a while and then when you do I bet you it won't be as bad as you currently think!!!

And Yay for the writing sounds fab!!!

C x

JJ said...

Flowerpot, thank you. I will try to do some work on the characters. I plan to write a first person piece on one of the characters who needs work. I don't use his POV, so I don't know him too well.

HPoP, your advice is always welcome. The best piece you gave me is look forward not back. Yup. Will do. xx


Angie said...

I have been there so many times the last two years...sending you big hugs!


p.s. Yay for the writing course!

Rebecca said...

It is very hard and we are all our own harshest critics. That's all I can say!

hesitant scribe said...

I'm really late to this post (being ill and all that) but just wanted to add my tuppence worth...

I finally found 'the voice' for the novel after some 30,000 words and have started again, but kept everything done so far to be redrafted. All is not lost :) It's a great thing!

JJ said...

Carol, how'd I miss you? Yes I know you're all right. But now that I've got so much other work to do ... I won't get any writing done anyway.

Angie, thanks honey. It does help that you guys understand.

Rebecca, thanks. Yes, we are and i know that I have to stop that critical thing ...

Thanks Lisa. Don't worry about being late. I will try to plod on.