It’s the penultimate week of my 14-week novel writing challenge, and my inner monologue currently consists of this: noooooooooo!
Nothing’s working. Nothing’s coming together. Trying to make myself put words on the page is like 10-year-old me attempting to do Maths homework as the Little House on the Prairie TV theme strikes up in the other room. Man, I loved that little Laura Ingalls.
When in doubt, I listen to what more experienced writers have to say, in the hope that some little nugget of wisdom will flip a switch in my brain. There’s a lot of help out there for when you get stuck, and this is some of the most useful advice I’ve come across in the past week.
First up, there’s the ever reliable National Emerging Writers Programme, a series of how-to videos that take you through the entire process from coming up with novel ideas to finding an agent. Here’s what authors Carlo Gébler, Declan Hughes and Sinead Moriarty have to say about beating writers’ block:
9 Practical Tricks for Writing Your First Novel, an article that happened to pop up on my Twitterfeed, also provided some really worthwhile, solid advice.
At the other end of things, author Kate Kerrigan doesn’t offer advice in her column for Evoke magazine, but she captures the frustration of trying – and failing – to make yourself write when the inspiration simply isn’t there. I had to laugh when she described going on a shopping expedition for just the right kind of scented candle to help her settle to the task. When you’re feeling lost, it’s reassuring to know that it’s not uncommon.
Also on Twitter (thanks Twitterverse, you do have your uses after all), I came across a post by writer Jonathan Pinnock which describes exactly – exactly – the same experience as mine in terms of the perils of stopping at the wrong place. Again, it’s a help to see that others have to work through the same process. And they manage to get to the other side.
Bottom line? I have to overcome the doubts that are plaguing me, and just keep plugging away at it. Regular readers may remember that I’m working towards the end of January as a deadline. That’s when the shortlist for the Greenbean Novel Fair will be announced. While I genuinely hold very little hope of being one of those finalists – they receive hundreds of entries, from which 12 writers with completed manuscripts will be chosen to take part in their workshop and ‘Dragon’s Den-style’ networking event – the real point of this challenge for me has been to have a first draft finished by that time, no matter how rough.
It doesn’t look like I will hit that target now, but I will at least have broken the back of my first proper attempt at a novel. (What a strange phrase, incidentally, ‘broken the back of’. It’s never occurred to me before how sinister that sounds… See? See how easily distracted I am? For crying out loud! Another peculiar phrase, etc…)
Word count: well, that’s like asking a lady her age. Rude!
PS. If you’ve come to this regular feature later on and are searching for Unwise Writer posts from week 7 onwards, there aren’t many. I felt they would be too dull to put anyone through, myself included. Imagine that time as a musical montage of calendar dates flying by, or the hands of a fast-moving watch.