Friday, 17 April 2015

New Project Blues...

*sings* 'I got the neeeww pro-ject bluuues' *blows mournfully on a harmonica*

It's a long time since I started a new, big, writing project; probably four years or more. That's when StarMark and Rurik were really rough versions of their current forms.

But with Rurik now on the editing trail, StarMark due for publication later this year and More Granny Rainbow due for launch next week, that means I can get on with starting something fresh and new. I've got some ideas in the pipeline, but have focused recently on Ani's story as my novel project, with something for another RASSSA anthology and a collection inspired by a couple of Word Cloud competitions on the side.

Ani's story. I think it has great potential, but it keeps getting so far and stalling. 

Because I'd forgotten just how hard it is to start from scratch on a longer project; I ended up feeling quite down about it.

After an email chat with a fellow writer (you know who you are!), I realised that Ani's story was stalling because the theme I wanted to portray is too close at the moment to something I'm struggling with in real life. My friend also told me - very wisely - that this story will be written at the right time if t's meant to be, but perhaps now is not the right time. As a result, Ani went on the backburner.

Instead, I looked at Puzzle Piece. I reckon there's a fascinating story to be told after that starting scene, so I gave it a go. In three days, I wrote three chapters. 

And stalled. Again. Why? It was getting too complicated, too quickly.

I've often said that I have problems when I can't 'see' the complete story. StarMark began life as a definite idea - I could see Irvana and I could see where she started and where she would end up. I didn't plan everything out in detail before I wrote it, but I could see the stepping stones to get Irvana from A to B. Whereas with both Ani and my first attempt at Puzzle Piece, I don't seem to have any stepping stones at all - just a yawning chasm between two steep banks.

What I've written for both, I'm unsatisfied with. I know I'm supposed to allow myself that s****y first draft, but seeing myself write rubbish in this first instance is frustrating the heck out of me. I can't sustain the distinctive voice of Puzzle Piece. I can't figure out the motivation for certain actions Ani takes. I can't see the woods for the trees...

So what do I do?

I could fall back to writing short stories again, but that's not helping me to practise the complexity of a novel storyline. Or I could plough on with one of the novel ideas, getting more and more frustrated because neither is turning out how I want it to.

It all feels terribly daunting at the moment. I am writing literally pages and pages of words each day - scenes, conversations, twists and turns - but with no real idea of how it is all going to hang together. Or if it will really become something worthy of calling a novel.

And I keep asking myself 'How the heck did I do it before?'

I have resigned myself to simply playing at the moment - exploring the world of Puzzle Piece and capturing random scenes with a view to seeing what they add up to eventually. I have pledged with a couple of other writing buddies to write something every day for 100 days, so I'll have plenty more words by the end of that time.

They just might not make much sense...


  1. I do empathise, Squidge. I used to be a lot like that until I downloaded the 'Snowflake' software. Have you heard of the Snowflake method of writing? It does cost you about fifty quid, but, I've found it a big help. Check it out here:

    1. I'll have a look at that Baz, thanks!

  2. I empathise with this so much! The first draft I've just finished is the first I've written in almost a decade! (Having spent such a long time rewriting and editing the last one...) It's taken me two years to write the this current first draft and I can say that most of the first year and a bit was faffing and I didn't get much past 20k. I've been writing more solidly since September - but still only wrote another 10k or so by Christmas - and also completely rewrote several characters as a result of a York ephiphany. The bulk of it though - another 55k - has been written since Christmas and that's because I finally got a bit of direction in what I was doing. I've still got a very messy first draft and there are plot holes, directionless characters and a sub-plot that's unresolved, amongst other things, but I now have something with a beginning, middle and an end to work with so hopefully I can now make something out of the mess. So basically, I'd suggest keep going for the moment but give yourself a break, when it feels like you're banging your head, by writing flash fiction or similar. That worked for me in the early days of the draft when I couldn't sustain very long passages of writing on it. You'll get there - and often life comes along and gives you that spark you need to set it all off in a fresh direction. Write on! :-)

    1. Thanks, Mandy - I'm so glad you've got the first draft completed! And yes, I'll keep ploughing on, playing with the ideas and scenes and characters that pop into my head! x