Novel update 3: what to do when you feel blue about your writing

Well, it’s done. A fortnight to spare and I’ve finished. What an anticlimax. I suppose I knew it would feel like this, that there would be a lull. I’ve been working so hard, and now what do I do? I feel a bit deflated and lost. I was meant to go for a celebration cocktail but sort of can’t be bothered. It’s not just that though. I’ve always known that finishing the first draft was only the first part of the journey. It’s probably a third or even a quarter of the work once you’ve taken into account multiple red its or rewrites then all the work of either finding an agent/publisher or self-publishing. Now that the first draft is finished there’s another whole ocean to cross. But I’m not ready to start on that yet, it needs time to settle. What I’ve written has too much connection and crossover with real life and I can’t yet look at it with the distance required to make the best artistic decisions. Actually I’m not sure that will ever be possible. For me this novel was, more than anything, me proving to myself that I can actually write a book, can get to the end of it. It’s terrible, possibly irredeemable. And I’m kind of ok with that. But I still expected to feel a bit more pride or pleasure at finishing the first draft. After all, how many people say they’d love to write but never actually get to the end of anything? I think this is part of the creative cycle. Ending (even temporarily) a project that you’ve been...

Novel update 2: falling in love with writing

It happened as I woke up one morning in early December a few years ago. I stretched across the bed, and as I opened my eyes I knew something was different. It was subtle, not something I could explain or locate, but it changed everything. ‘Is this it?’ I asked myself. Not ‘Is this it?’ in horror, but ‘is this what people are talking about?’. A second later the rest of my brain caught up, and I realised I was in love. It was a bit of a shock. I had that feeling again, that dislocating moment of recognition, only last week. At the start of March I quit my job and came to Bali for a couple of months to write, and it’s been wonderful. Wonderful, but scary. I’ve wrestled with writing for years, desperate to be a writer but not really believing I could, and to give up my life and job security could have been a really bad move. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve spent days resisting writing as hard as I could, feeling useless because I can’t (or rather, won’t) just start writing, crippled by procrastination and fear. But leaving my normal life and committing to writing fully has made a huge difference, and those wonderful days when I lose myself in the story happen just as often as the bad days. All I can think when I come out of the zone is, ‘isn’t this brilliant?’. Then that question slipped into my head again. ‘Is this it? Is this what people are talking about?’, and just like that I fell in love with writing...

Novel update 1: I’ve started!

Well. It’s finally started.   Every large piece of writing I’ve ever finished has been terrible. I mean both in terms of quality and writing experience. I love writing but have somehow turned long fiction into a massive drama and go through week after week of agonising struggle to get through it.   Actually I seem to have made my entire life more of a struggle than it needs to be. But I’ve recently discovered the power of planning, realised that it doesn’t have to be confined to academic essays. Who knew that when you aimed at something and make a map of how to get there it was easier?!   Well, duh.   Seriously though, it’s been a bit revolutionary. I’ve stopped drifting along wondering what to do next and made a plan for something. It almost doesn’t matter if it’s not quite right because you learn more about what might be right for you that way than by sitting at home letting the sofa suck your soul away. Anyway. That’s a roundabout way of saying I decided to actually plan my novel. That took a good 2 weeks, although it isn’t really finished yet. I had intended to work harder and have it done in a week, but when you get to certain stages your brain needs to let things simmer and settle a bit, so I allowed myself a break. And I wanted to go to the beach… How long this stage takes depends very much on how much research you do, but once you get to the point of sorting and shaping the information, it’s...

My Challenge: A Novel In 3 Months

I’ve quit my day-job and moved to Bali for 3 months. Cool, huh? It’s not a holiday though. I’m finally taking my writing dreams seriously. I want to come back having written a novel. This time is the best gift I could ever give myself, and I’m terrified and exhilarated in equal measure.   I want to have completed this by the end of June.   I did think about making this novel-writing a big Urban Writers challenge. It’s a programme I’ve wanted to run for ages, to help people get their novels actually completed. But this time I think I need to do it first and to give myself this time because I know from the Get Writing! Bootcamp that these things are a lot of work and I’ve spend the last 3 years using the writing retreat business as an excuse to avoid the scary writing. And the novel has to be more important at this stage. But I’ll do something next time.   It’s important not to do these things alone. So I’m using the following tools:   A book called Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris. I’m one of those people who likes to be told what to do so I don’t spend ages dithering over every decision then wondering if I’m doing it wrong. So being given a structure, not for the book itself, but a roadmap to the writing process is tremendously helpful. My job is to just follow the tasks in order, regardless of self-doubt.   The Urban Writers’ Playground. This started when someone suggested that I could do writing retreats online,...