I’ve officially started to panic about my second book. I realised this as we ventured into April, and something inside me just clicked. The calm that had preceded the fourth month of year simply vanished, and I realised that I couldn’t wait around for the words any more: time was passing quickly and forcefully, and the content of my second book was stuck in the same place that I left it in the last time I added a word to it – on the 20th December 2012. (FYI, it’s currently sitting at 4,000 words. I’d ideally like to get the first draft to about 55,000 before I workshop it with my agent, then flesh it out to about 65,000 before I hand it to my publisher. That’s what happened with my first book, which now sits at 75,000 words post-structural edit).
I could feel the pressure that I had not felt writing my first one, which I had all the time in the world for. Now I have only till September, and no matter what I do, I am just not in the zone. So I looked some advice for writers, and it turns out, most of it is just not tailored to the type of writer I am. Let’s take a look at five motivational quotes that are just not working for me at the moment*:
1- Write drunk and edit sober (Ernest Hemingway):
I am quietly wondering if this one was meant just for his fun. Everyone loves a good drink, right? In March, when I started getting desperate, I actually tried this method. Glasses of Champagne, jugs of Sangria, and tumblers of screw drivers and lime caprioskas were all downed in the course of the experiment, but the results were less than favourable, unless you count my husband nicknaming me ‘boozy’ and wrestling a bottle of wine out of my hand on a weeknight as a good thing. On one occasion, I got so drunk that I feel asleep at 8:30, woke up at 2am, went back to sleep at 4am and then rose again at 9. No writing was done, and the experience was not exactly conducive to the‘writing routine’ that works for many writers.
2- Don’t get it right, just get it written (James Thurber):
I think this may be in line with Nora Roberts’ you can’t edit a blank page remark. Admittedly, both Thurber and Roberts have a great point. My first draft of my forthcoming novel wasn’t as good as the final draft because of the workshopping and editing process. My problem is that I am too critical. Of other people’s work and my own. I don’t give books with bad writing chances. Not that I think whatever I am writing is going to perfect the first time around, but I still want it to be good. I want to be able to read it and not hate it. To that end, I have tried and tried and tried to write down whatever I can in the hope of furthering the storyline, but I scoff at my own words and then I go eat an entire bag of microwave popcorn. If my wardrobe could talk (and see things for that matter), I’m sure it would express its preference for the blank page then deal with the repercussions of me wallowing over my growing waistline with great flair and drama when I don’t fit into my super-tight royal blue jeans.
3- Step away from the screen (Austin R Leon):
Admittedly, I have no idea who Austin R Leon is, or whether he’s alive, but I wonder if he has a crystal ball that sees into my study. If he did, he’d know that I need this particular source of advice a lot. I spend 90% of my day in front of the screen, lest I get a flash of inspiration. But I figured that it was probably hindering rather than enhancing the writing experience, so lately I have been doing a lot of other things. Having no-writing weekends (trust me, this is bigger news than the sex of the royal baby), going to the park, watching TV, making time for hobbies, going for walks. Even boxing. And squats with weights and chin-ups (and this is bigger than no-writing weekends). But no matter that I did, the words still wouldn’t come. Needless to say, I am back in front of the screen at 5:30am most mornings and unless my fitness-fanatic husband has anything to do with it, there will be no more chin-ups. I could only do three anyway, and I suspect he was helping me out for the confidence boost.
4- Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little (Holley Gerth):
This is actually the kind of advice I love. I admit that it’s a nice challenge and change from the adage of write what you know, which formed the basis of my first novel. But my proneness to word vomit and my desire to ‘expand my skill set as a writer’ meant that the idea I pitched to my publisher for the second book was one that, as per the advice above, scared me a little. I am writing in a different style, and about subject matter I don’t have personal experience with, only the experience gained on a secondary basis through interviews with teen case studies and experts in the course of my journalism work. I have a whole page of notes and ideas, and I know how the story should finish, but it’s the fill-ins that are freaking me out a little. The problem with this advice is that I am so scared; the words won’t come out at all.
5- If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet but you’ll never be a novelist (Neil Gaiman):
This is my problem. I love to ‘feel’ the story. I want to feel like I have had an intimate chat with my characters, like they’ve just told me a secret about their lives. I wait for the inspiration – it’s what made my first book work. Which kind of disproves the whole you’ll-never-be-a-novelist theory. That and my poems still rhyme; and I don’t think anyone in the industry is in the market for rhyming poems from a 26 year old. Perhaps this quote needs to be re-worked to say you’ll be a novelist who never meets the deadline. After all, that is where I am heading.
*These quotes are motivational and inspiring. I am not picking them apart because I think I know all there is to know about writing. I am just lamenting the fact that I can’t apply them to my current situation. Or that I am just really bad at it.