At the start of September, I declared that this would be the month I started writing my novel. I set myself a goal to reach a word count of 6000 words, based on using the hours I have when EB is at nursery to write. To date I have written nothing. My head is as empty as the page in front of me. I have been struck by self doubt and a crisis of confidence.
I started the week positively. On Sunday, I attended a workshop at our local book festival appropriately entitled, ‘How to write a novel’, the speaker, a published author and tutor on the MA course on creative writing at UEA was engaging and motivating. She talked about her own ‘organic’ approach to novel writing, the fact that she doesn’t always have a fully fledged plan when she sits down to write, and this made me feel better about my own slightly haphazard approach. As luck would have it, she writes timeslip novels, which is what I am attempting to do. I really enjoyed listening to her speak and the insights she offered.
I left the session feeling buoyant and ready to write, I couldn’t wait to get to my laptop and get started. Yet my allotted slot on Monday was thwarted by the presence of various people (builders) banging around the house. I decamped to the local coffee shop only to find the only available space was on the communal table and it impossible to write as an elderly gentleman, clearly in need of some human contact, continued in his attempts to make conversation until I gave in.
Not that I needed much to distract me, because at the back of my mind there are niggling doubts. I do not have a fully fledged plot or even, half a plot. To date I have 4000 words, written some time ago. I have a half chapter of the story set in 1860 and a couple of chapters set in modern day. The link between them is still not fully formed in my mind and I’m struggling to work out how everything is going to come together. I’m not sure I’m the next Kate Mosse and I’m wondering, am I being too ambitious? What in it’s inception started off as a clear idea is now confused and muddled. I worry that I may be writing two separate stories and forcing them together. Whilst there is no doubt this would be a challenging writing exercise in itself, I have so few hours in which to write each week, I don’t want to waste time on something if I am forcing it to fit.
When I re-read what I have written so far, I am pleased with it. I feel the desire to craft the characters further even though they are barely established. Yet, I can’t seem to get past the road blocks in my head; the plot is just not coming together. However many hours I lie awake at night, I can’t fathom it. Perhaps I need to just write the scenes of the story that I am clear on and see if this ignites other ideas that I can develop further.
My hope was that I would use September and October as strong planning months to put myself in a place where I could attempt NaNoWriMo in November. Instead, I am prevaricating - largely because I can't see a way forward. I am minded to spend the next couple of weeks researching the historical background to the earlier part of the story more and writing out a few more scenes. If I am still struggling after this, then I am tempted to put this book to one side and revisit it at a later date, following up on a new idea instead for NaNoWriMo. I know...it all sounds terribly flittish - doesn’t it?
I am clinging to the words of Iris Murdoch as my shining beacon of hope. ‘Every novel is the wreck of a perfect idea’. I hope so.
Is what I’m experiencing just part of the writing process or is it a sign of more fundamental issues with the book idea?
NB: On a separate note - I am doing better on my September goal of limiting wine consumption to 3 nights a week…and despite my creativity output being poor, I am feeling better for it.