My third blog about the process of writing a novella in six weeks for the Carnegie Undergraduate Vacation Scholarship. In this post I’ll talk about settling in to the project, artistic crises, and the way that a piece of story can suddenly buck like an ill-tamed mustang. Use the ‘recent posts’ section on the right-hand side for the previous entries about beginning the process, including the exact terms of the application which I have to meet with this piece of writing.
I ended my last one of these posts by saying ‘god damn, blogs are easier to write than stories’. Which yes. They are. But
But it’s interesting that I’ve seized up three times now when coming to write my third blog about this writing process, even though the writing itself is going fairly well. I think the deeper I get into the project, the more personal it will become. It’s very easy to speak airily at the outset of a project which doesn’t even exist yet about where it will go, how it will feel, what kind of difficulties it will force one to face; it’s a lot harder, once you’ve actually stepped inside its skin, to step back outside and commentate from a distance.
Not just in terms of actual difficulty of expression; also in terms of emotional closeness. Why would I want to reveal half-baked elements of a story one-quarter writ? Isn’t the whole point of writing a story that you tell it to people once it’s finished…?
So these are the kind of anxieties that assault me when I turn to this blog; which is interesting, as I say, because the novella itself has rather slipped into a groove, and I’m getting my prescribed thousand-words-a-day out fairly evenly.
I did have a couple of nasty artist’s crisis things towards the end of last week, which I now think were extremely necessary. I’d approached this project at the outset with such a checklist mentality: my application said my story would be X, Y and Z, so I’ll make this bit correspond to X, and I’ll make sure that this bit is heavily Z, and…. What I realised in my everything-I-ever-do-is-terrible, let-me-delete-everything-and-start-again moments last weekend was that I wasn’t particularly writing a story.
So I thought and I planned and probably most importantly I spent some time just sitting down and typing and seeing where the characters and the voices in the text wanted to go, and the whole thing has redirected itself somewhat. I’ll admit it’s taken a turn for the traditional. There are still three distinct narrative strands, but instead of leaving them disparate until the end when a big pull-back-and-reveal shows the links between them, I’m now integrating them clearly from early on. This facilitates narrative; it means that the hypothetical reader can read on knowing the motivations and engines driving the plot, so they have a reason to want to read on. What I had previously was closer to a set of disconnected sentences, which would only lead you to read on out of a dispassionate intellectual interest in what the writer did next, not an impulsive desire to read the next part of the story.
There are still various odd elements to it, and I’m still experimenting with a prose style which reads a bit like a bag of cats fighting; external and internal narration fighting for space, sometimes fusing, sometimes almost contradicting each other. The play between sections set in the near future, the distant past and the nowhen still exist, too.
And I’m sure I’ll hit another crisis, probably in about 6-7 thousand words time when I really enter the mid-section of the book (I’m writing it straightforwardly first-page-to-last, with an additional document of ideas and plot plans to help me onwards. For those who like to quantify success numeratively, I believe I’m sitting on around 8000 words.)
The other challenge is establishing a routine; I have to be up at 7 to go to work 4 days a week, and then write an article for my other job when I get back from job 1. I’m discovering lots of boringly adult things about the importance of a regular sleep pattern, and how late nights and early mornings are fine here and there, but honestly destroy your entire soul if you try to make them your routine.
Well. Now. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Just sit down and start typing, and you can have a blog out of the way in a mere twenty minutes. Just sit down and start typing, Aran. Just sit down and start typing.