I’ve been getting along quite well with the current book recently and have been congratulating myself on being over the middle and racing towards the end when it all becomes much easier. I had a scene where I knew what was going to happen, what plot points I had to drop in, I could see the place it was going to happen in and there’s nothing delicately emotional in it so it wasn’t going to take hours of searching for exactly the right nuance. In other words it should have been a doddle.
Instead, it’s been like wading uphill through treacle.
My writing sessions have been going like this: go to office, switch on the computer, select music. Sit in front of the computer and read what was written yesterday. Decide music isn’t right so change it. Remember something earlier in book needs altering so scroll back and do it before it’s forgotten. Ignore notebook on desk which is there for editing notes. Stare at screen and add a sentence to scene. I delete the sentence. Decide Elgar is getting on my nerves and wonder if Bryan Ferry will help the creative process. Correct a paragraph up the page. Wonder if playing a quick game of Sudoku won’t unleash creative energy. Stare at books in book shelf and wonder if they warrant re-reading. Look at watch and see there’s only half an hour before starting to make dinner so must get cracking. A few sentences eventually appear on the screen. Read them and am not impressed. Decide that anything is better than nothing. Press save and switch off computer…
Standard advice is that if you’re stuck you should move on to the next scene and come back to the troublesome one later. Unfortunately I can’t write out of sequence. I need to get my scenes down in order and be reasonably happy with them before I can move on, which isn’t to say I reckon that they’re perfect, far from it, but the tone must feel right. Then I’m perfectly happy to move on, knowing I’ll come back and tinker with them later.
This has been going on for about ten days and I couldn’t work out what was wrong until this morning. I was in bed, in that half awake, half dreaming state where you get your very best and most creative ideas – the same one where your brilliant ideas have usually vanished before your feet have even hit the floor – and the answer came to me. And I remembered it.
I’ve been overwriting – massively. I loathe wodges of detail, so it’s hardly surprising that when I fell into the trap of doing the same thing I was boring myself into paralysis.
Of course my blinding revelation is of no interest to anyone but me. But this has happened to me before, and I haven’t learnt from experience. I’m hoping that by writing it down and publishing it this little axiom will stick in my head: just because you know everything about your characters and their surroundings doesn’t mean your readers want to.
Now to go and delete most of what I’ve written in the last ten days…