Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby steps

My lack of productivity on the blog front has been mirrored of late by my absolute failure to get any meaningful writing done. It's months since I had some very detailed feedback on The Book of Souls from people whose opinion I hold in high regard, and all I have to show for it right now is a few random scribbles on my whiteboard and a new opening scene that is definitely not going to last long.

It might be part of the grieving process. I can certainly tell myself that, and almost get away with it. But I'm too canny to fool myself easily. Sure, my mind wanders to unpleasant thoughts if I stare at the distance for too long, but that's not the real reason for my lack of progress.

It might be the fact that I'm working a nine to five right now. In the past that's hit my output quite heavily. But I've long since accepted that I do my best work between eight and midnight - later if I've not got to get up in the morning. Now that's the only time I can work, I'd have thought it would be easier to knuckle down and get on with it.

It might be the weight of expectation hanging on my shoulders right now, although that's mostly something I put on myself. This house needs to be finished - we're still living in a building site which means yet another pull on my 'free' time. And there's the small matter of trying to sort out what is to become of a 500 acre Fife farm whilst living approximately four hundred miles away from it. Not easy.

I suspect, however, that it's a mixture of all three, combining to sap my enthusiasm for pretty much anything right now. I know I'll get it back, I'm sure. But I really could do with it now.

So in an attempt to kick start things, I've gone back to one of my old techniques. Yesterday evening, instead of writing anything new, I went through the old draft of the book, summarising each scene in each chapter in a single line. There are 141 of them, which seems a tad on the low side split between 41 chapters, but that was obviously the way it came out.

The first thing that struck me as I carried out this exercise was just how really, really bad this book is. Not in the writing, as such, but in the plot construction. This shouldn't really surprise me. It's a hash-up of a completely different book, after all. One that started off with ghosts and ghouls in it, then had them all exorcised. And I did the last phase of that hash-up in a hurry to get the book to a certain mainstream publisher, as well as in the weeks immediately following my parents' deaths. I think we can excuse its awfulness - after all, the publisher didn't publish it which, all things now reviewed, is actually a good thing. I would have been embarrassed, after the initial surge of euphoria. And the snarky reviewers would have had a field day.

So I now have a bad structure, laid out in just a few pages, that I can begin to hack apart and weave into something good. I have a picture in my mind of how the whole book works (or doesn't work, I should say) which I can use to try and replot. Soon, maybe even this weekend, I might write a few tentative short scenes. And they need to be short - that's something else I've relearned from this exercise, my tendency to long, slow passages. It's painful work, dragging my brain back up to speed. I'm way off my old 4-5k words a day mark. But it's a start.

They say that exercise is the best way to beat depression. So maybe I just need to try a little harder at writing, get a sweat going in the old creative brain. Time, I think, to pull myself out of this dull fug and just get on with it.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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January 14, 2010 1:15 pm  

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