....that is the question!
Dearie me, I’m having such a struggle with my work-in-progress...
It really is a dirge, a joyless, hard slog, and if it’s this tedious to me, how on earth am I ever going to get anyone to read it? I’ve tried taking a break from it, and that didn‘t work… The million dollar question is this: do I give up, or is this just thinly-disguised procrastination, whereupon the trick is to apply bum to seat and get on with writing it? Hmmm, I keep asking myself this over and over and over.
The problem is, I’m just not having fun. Now, ‘Tales’ is ashamed to admit this, but we’re not talking first novel territory here. Or second…. Or third… Or, okay, I’m not going any further! The problem stems from some very negative feedback I received last year, and boy, was it damning! A sensible person would have given up, but some of us struggle to learn.
It all started after I attended a talk at our local library featuring the novelist Sophie Hannah. I will be super-brave here and confess at that point I’d never read any of Sophie’s work. I went along to hear her speak with the intentions of getting some writing tips, and some advice on what to do with the novel-in-hand, which was only attracting the photocopied ‘dear moron’ notes from literary agencies. (I have read some of her books since, very scary crime fiction for those who don’t have trouble sleeping at night.) Anyway, I hung around after her talk, looking, I must admit, a bit stalkery, and asked her advice. She was very kind, ignored my star-struck stammering, and recommended a literary consultant. I went home exceedingly chuffed, contacted said consultant, sent off my manuscript, and awaited the verdict.
It was brutal. Let me summarise… The book was rubbish.
There, I’ve said it, but ouch, it still hurts. But I dusted myself down, thought ‘I’ll show her’, fired off a radical rewrite, and sat back waiting for the phone to ring, to hear her say ‘gosh this is Booker-prize material, I’ll put you in touch with someone I know in publishing’. But as you can guess, this didn’t happen. Instead I got “didn’t you pay any attention to what I told you last time? This is rubbish too.” Double-ouch. I decided my future must lie elsewhere, and started planning a bonfire.
Except I didn’t. I started again. And this time I studied every detail of what the consultant had told me. I read everything I could find about how to improve characterisation. I spent weeks writing the most in-depth character profiles I could ever imagine. (and no, I can’t remember the details while I’m actually writing) I even wrote out tons of little post-it notes detailing my plot, and pinned them to a board. Has it helped? No! Because I can’t write a single sentence without panicking ‘is this any good? Am I just making the same mistakes? Should I just give up?’ Whereas my earlier novels flowed straight out of my fevered imagination, this one splutters and stutters, word by painful word.
I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should give up. Right now I’d like to give up, but then I think about how much I love writing, how I’m always lost in some daydream or other, and think well why not? But if I ever get to the end of this particular story, it will be a small miracle. And that’s before I get anywhere near trying to conquer anyone’s slush pile. Groan….
Why am I doing this to myself?