So, turns out I’m writing the Never-Ending Story.
No – not this one (unfortunately):
What I mean is, I’m finding myself wondering who’s in control of my brain lately – me, or a certain Miss Emmeline Widget, aged nine-and-three-quarters. At the moment, it’s Emmeline 1, me 0.
For some reason, I have been writing lots of words over the past week or so. Every day I sit down to work a little more on ‘Emmeline’, telling myself ‘Yup. This is definitely going to be the day. This day will be the day you’ll finish this darn book.’ But it just doesn’t happen. Words keep coming, squeezing out of my mind like toothpaste out of a near-empty tube.
Just when I think I have a handle on what’s going on, I find the plot deciding to take another jaunt down Unexpected Avenue, ending up at a place I didn’t know I was going until I got there. I’m not saying this is a bad thing; it’s actually a whole lot of fun. However, it does make it hard to know how I’m going to trim enough out of the book – once that mystical place known as ‘Done’ has been reached – to make it sit neatly inside an acceptable word count. At the rate I’m going, I’ll need to shed something like 10,000 words, and that will hurt. A lot.
I’ve been trying to just forget about all of this and go with the flow, putting the words down as they come to me and not caring about anything else. This, however, is not something that comes easily to me. I have always wanted to be a tie-dye, flower-haired, ‘all-is-one-here-have-a-crystal’ type, but really I have the soul of a person who wears all their pens in their top pocket and who likes to know What Is Going On at every given moment. So, the fact that I am dealing with a recalcitrant book which is, apparently, telling me who’s boss, is a bit uncomfortable.
It’s all part and parcel of being a pantser, I suppose. I certainly feels a lot freer than trying to write within a rigid plot, but with great freedom comes great terror, sometimes.
But perhaps it’s not all my fault. I reckon a portion of the blame has to lie with my fictional folk, too. Call me crazy, but I’ve often felt that characters in books have more of a life than anyone suspects. It really does feel, to me, that Emmeline and her friends just aren’t finished playing yet, and they won’t allow their story to come to an end – not until they’re good and ready, at least. If that’s the case, then what’s a writer to do but hang on and hope for the best? I hope that this is a good thing – as in, when I read my work over in the weeks to come, that it won’t seem drawn out, or extraneous, or ‘puffed up’ for effect; I hope that the story I’m telling will be fast-moving, exciting, interesting, fun (except for the scary bits), and as good to read as it was to write. If the writing process feels a bit out of control, the worry is – of course – that the reading experience will feel much the same.
But I won’t know that for a few weeks yet, of course. Perhaps, if things carry on the way they’ve been for the past while, I may never know.*
I’m sure there are people who think that sitting down to write every day must be the most boring thing imaginable. ‘What – you spend hours staring at a computer screen, by yourself, listening to the voices in your head, and staring at the wall when you need a rest from the sheer overwhelming excitement? Wow.’ To those people, I say: ‘Actually, it’s rather like being at the helm of a ship in a storm-tossed sea, with no land in sight. You’re the captain, and you think you know what you’re doing, but the waves have other ideas – and, no two are the same.’
Land’s not in sight yet, not for me at least. But – so far – the voyage has been worth it.
I’m off to do battle with my book once more; wish me luck, do. Perhaps today will be the day I bring her into harbour.
(All right – enough with the nautical metaphors. Tally-ho!)
*Of course, I don’t mean this. The first rule of writing, as everyone knows, is ‘Finish Your Work.’ This is truth. I will finish ‘Emmeline’, and the work will be done, and it shall not defeat me. But sometimes it’s hard to remember that when the book has you in a choke-hold. Anyway.