I’ve been working on a novella for the last couple of weeks. And when I mean working, I mean thinking really, really hard.
In fact, for the first three weeks – apart from a thousand word synopsis – I didn’t write anything at all. I’m not sure whether I was putting it off, or just had too many other things going on. Family, work, my upcoming wedding and moving to the other side of the world…things like that can really take it out of you.
Or was I just not writing? I’ve already chatted with you guys about the difficulty of writing a second book. Was I struggling with the same sort of things?
I had had enough. I woke up at eight in the morning, and without even getting up, I started my laptop running.
Lunchtime saw me downstairs stuffing my face with bread and cheese…but I was still working.
By the middle of the afternoon, I stopped. The creative juices had stopped flowing, but I was now the proud owner of over 11,000 words.
The next day, I wrote another five and a half thousand, and finished the novella (in a first draft, obviously) at just under 17,000 words. I planned to flesh it out in my second and third drafts to between 22,000-25,000 words before I sent it to my editor.
I was so unbelievably proud of myself (and I’ve got the twitter status to //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” target=”_blank”>prove it). After such a long dry patch, it was a relief to finally have something written down/typed up on the page.
I took a few days off and then last weekend went to visit my fiance. He had to work from home, but I assured him that I also could work as well, and then we could relax in the evenings.
So there we were: him, typing away on his computer at one end of the dining table, me, staring blankly at my computer at the other end of the table.
Minutes stretched into an hour. I went to the shop. I came back. I looked blankly at my computer. I spent twenty minutes window shopping for flats, hoping that he wouldn’t notice. I closed all tabs, and looked once again at my novella.
I’m not usually one to talk about writer’s block, but I felt it that day. Why was everything that I read back to myself so…mediocre? Why couldn’t I bring myself to write any more, to improve it, shape it, take out the rubbish and replace it with gold.
My fiance is not a fool.
He suggested that perhaps I wrote it too quickly.
Too quickly? I replied. Nonsense. The muse was with me! I said dramatically. You can’t stop when the words are flowing through my fingers. I just kept going. The muse was with me, I reiterated, just as dramatically.
My fiance was not impressed by the muse, present or otherwise. Perhaps, he suggested kindly, you’d work better, and produce better work…if you took your time.
I don’t know about how you write, but I’ve always worked one way: fast. I wrote my first novel, all 72,000 words of it, in three months. While revising for my finals as an undergraduate. Fast worked for me.
Honestly, I’m not sure. Usually I would say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…but I’m not sure now whether writing incredibly quickly is working for me.
I’ve printed off my novella and I’ve started going over it in nice bright red pen, adding words, paragraphs, crossing out horrendous phrases that sounded good at the time, but now make me want to vomit. Don’t get me wrong – nothing I’ve written is that terrible, or unsalvageable. It’s more that a critical eye takes time, and when I was busy typing away, my critical eye just couldn’t keep up.
Perhaps next time, I’ll write slower. Perhaps not. But it has made me think a lot more about how I write – because it’s not necessarily the best way.