I took last week off work and spent most of it writing in the bar/cafe of a local theatre. I always find I engage better out of the house, away from distractions and, true to form, I felt I got a hell of a lot done on my draft of The Road Elsewhere.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am still at the drafting stage so the writing is not fantastic quality; I’m just motoring on getting the story down and then I will primp and polish when I’m ready to edit. The editing stage I can’t wait for and I think that is where most of my ability lies. But I have realised that it may be some time before I get to that stage, and I will have to be patient.
My commitment to TRE has been ratcheted up several notches since a writing holiday I took earlier this year to Gladstone’s Library. I have kept up the momentum that I acquired during that visit and really enjoyed committing last week to progressing with my story. But boy, there still a long way to go.
Whenever anyone knows you’re writing a book, the question “Have you finished your book yet?” tends to be asked quite a lot. I always feel a tiny bit ashamed when I inevitably answer, “Nowhere near.” But the shame lessens a little each time as I am now beginning to appreciate the amount of work that goes into a novel on any kind of scale. TRE isn’t even remotely on the same scale as Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or many other of the epic ‘High Fantasy’ story arcs that move along through book after book after book. But even my relatively simple story arch has taken a hell of a long time to get to the stage I’m at, and I’m not even half way through the story yet. I dedicated nearly all of last week to drafting and all I wrote a short battle scene, the emotional aftermath and then the beginnings of the next significant event in the story.
But it hasn’t put me off. Everything I learn, every challenge I face, furthers my understanding of the nature of the process. And the more understanding I have, the better I work and the more positive I feel. Above all, understanding helps me to be realistic. It is so easy to get daunted and discouraged with writing. Lots of things can rear their heads to put you off when you’re starting out: insecurity about the quality of your work, progress being a lot slower than you expected or even finding it hard to make the time. But I’ve got my head around a few useful concepts that mean I do not get discouraged:
1. It’s going to be rubbish to begin with. It’s a draft. Unless you are extremely lucky or talented, chances are when you’re bashing out the first version, the writing is not going to be your best work. For me this is an understatement. In order to motor forward with the story I hammer it down, not letting myself think, knowing it is riddled with clichés, repetition, overstatement and typing errors. I have accepted this and know this is what the editing stage is for. This means I move forward without fretting and my progress is consequently much faster.
2. You’re not always going to be in the mood. Don’t panic if you don’t feel like writing every spare minute you have. Unless you’re lucky enough to be contracted by an agent or a publisher, you are only answerable to yourself. You owe it to yourself and your work to progress but, in my opinion, not at the price of your enjoyment. I think you have to have a certain amount of determination and you should make yourself engage to a certain extent if you ever want to get anywhere, but it’s supposed to be fun. Mostly. You owe it to yourself to keep your productivity up, but you can also give yourself a break once in a while. If you are interested in your project in any serious way, you will make the time for it but don’t beat yourself up if sometimes you just want a brew and a biscuit in front of the TV.
3. Writing a novel takes freakin’ ages. Some people may be engaged/determined/prolific enough to bash out a novel draft in a week but I know I sure as hell am not. Especially with a full time job and a life to fit in as well. I make sure I give myself the best chance by having a writing night and by booking writing holidays for myself, but even with these pockets of dedicated time, I know it still going to take a long time just to get the draft done, let alone the editing. But I’m ok with that. I am reassured by that. Nothing worth achieving comes easy and the time I’m putting in reassures me that I’m giving myself every chance to produce the best work within my ability.
So give yourself the gift of time. Appreciate it may take more of it than you ever imagined, but don’t be discouraged. When you have the finished project, you know you will have earned it. Whether it takes ten months or ten years, know that it is a gift you have given yourself and that every minute was worth it.