I’ve been working on a new WiP for a while now – since, perhaps, last November. Things have been going slowly; I’m at just under 13,000 words, which isn’t the worst, but it’s far from where I’d like to be this far into a project. It’s a story I’m enthusiastic about, it has great characters, it has an awesome baddie (hopefully, at least), and I’m fairly sure I know where I want it to go. Every so often I get ‘flashes’ of scenes I haven’t written yet, and they’re deliciously creepy and dark, and different from anything I’ve written before.
But, nevertheless. Something’s not working.
Yesterday, as I struggled to the end of a new chapter, I decided it was time to think about some tough issues and make some hard decisions. I think it’s time to let this proto-draft go, and to start afresh, and that’s upsetting.
I’ve been caught in a dreaded ‘never-ending editing’ loop with this book, too, which doesn’t normally happen to me. I end up reading the whole thing from the beginning every time I try to add to it, instead of just picking up where I left off. This isn’t a bad thing, as such, but it makes for painfully slow progress, and it means that the book’s opening starts to seem unbearably stale and unnervingly boring. However, because it’s not something I normally do I think it’s my brain trying to tell me ‘there’s a problem here.’
I think the problem is that things in this story escalate too quickly. Basically, it’s a MG tale with a contemporary setting, into which a malevolent and magical force appears, and instead of building up to things gradually – hinting at the creepiness, giving small indications that all is not as it should be, and working on the characters – the full force of the supernatural just bursts onto the scene all in one go, and it comes across as rather melodramatic and over-the-top. Instead of being scary, it seems a bit Hammer Horror-esque.
This, needless to say, is A Bad Thing.
I think there’s only one thing for it, and that’s to start again from scratch, pick a different starting point, and firmly establish the ‘real’ world before I start to bring in hints of the ‘other’. Perhaps it was enthusiasm, perhaps it was stress (I’m leaning more towards stress, to be honest), perhaps it was self-pressure caused by my intrinsic need to be doing something, to be constantly moving forward, but I’ve made an error of judgement with this story so far, and with writing as with so much else in life: when you know, you know. Sometimes, writing is a struggle, and that’s to be expected: it doesn’t always flow like you’re taking dictation from a higher power. It’s work, at the end of the day. But when writing feels like hacking through solid rock, it can indicate a problem, whether it’s with your writing or your life in general, or both. It doesn’t always mean you need to stop and move away from what you’re doing (sometimes taking a rest is enough), but sometimes it does. This is one of those times.
So, today will be spent picking through my original plan for this story (for some reason, the draft I was working on diverged rather a lot from the initial ‘shape’ I’d envisaged; some of these changes were good, and will be kept, and others not so much), and making some tentative steps towards beginning again and finding a new ‘voice’ for the story. Hopefully it will be clear pretty quickly whether I’ve managed to make things worse or better, and I can take it from there.
Of course, the fact that it’s January probably isn’t doing a lot to help. It doesn’t do to overlook the depressive power of the first month of the year! But there’s more to it than just that, I know. There’s only one thing for it, and that’s to keep putting words on the page – but I’ve got to make sure they’re the right words, in the right story, and that writing them doesn’t leave me feeling vaguely empty and unsatisfied inside. I’m hopeful I’ll find the proper path again, and I know this experience has been a valuable one. You can only find the right path when you’ve been down a few ‘wrong’ ones… So, I’m strapping on my hiking boots and getting on with it.
Happy Wednesday, everyone. I hope the world is well with you today, wherever you may be.