Why another Tyack & Frayne novella? What happened to the grand full-length novel that was scheduled to take up the best part of this year and explode on the world with drama and majesty early in 2015?
It detonated prematurely, that’s what. I actually had a bit of a disaster. And because I love you all so much, I feel that I should share with you my occasional total f*ck-ups as well as the good times. J
I had an idea, and a pair of protags, a terrific start and a great ending. You can probably see what’s missing here but I did not let that deter me. I was so wrapped up in adoration of these two guys and their situation that I thought I could make the book fly, and I blazed in and wrote the first third of it – two months’ work – before I could finally bring myself to admit that my wondrous new work was actually lacking a plot.
There’s a serious lesson here. I know a lot of authors can fly it by the seat of their pants, but I’m not one of them – not when I’m writing professionally and to a deadline schedule. All kinds of things can grow and blossom on the way but the plant needs a trellis, a nice strong shapely framework, and I need to build that before I start. No matter how long it takes, how much I’d rather just jump in and start writing... I need that.
And the death of this book really threw me. I spent another month trying to breathe life into it every morning, and every evening consigning it to the bin, and these repeated efforts became painful and distressing, a cycle of nonproductivity and self-doubt. Eventually Mrs H staged an intervention, hid all my notes and the manuscript I’d printed out so far, and suggested I try another episode in Gideon and Lee’s tale.
I really hadn’t planned to, not so soon. But it was such a relief to step back into their world. The awful sensation of struggle went away, and I’m pitifully relieved to say I’m more than halfway through, and pretty confident I’ll be able to release Kitto in time for midsummer. It’s a financial necessity for me to do this, too: at this stage of my career, I can’t afford three months without anything to show for the time! So I hope all you lovely readers who’ve been kind enough to say you love Lee and Gid will be pleased another story’s in the offing, and I beg patience of all of you – it’s long past time I delivered another full-length book, and I’d like nothing better. I just need time to get the air back into my lungs.
I am looking closely at why this happened. Yes, in part it was infatuation with an idea and a failure to create that scaffold. There’s other stuff going on too, though, and I’d be foolish to ignore it, even though DeNial is my favourite river of all. J I shan’t share biological detail (you might be eating, after all), but things do change for a female writer of a certain age. Or maybe that’s a huge generalisation. Suffice to say they’re changing for me. I never ever wanted a kid – why would I, when my sister has been kind enough to provide the world with a perfect one? – and have ploughed all my creative energies into my books. It’s disconcerting when the hormones and rhythms that have guided my body’s dance, the ebb and the flow of my writing, begin to falter.
And I miss the ease of it, the sense of capacity and fire. I can still do it, but I’m drawing on different parts of myself, and it’s hard. I’m not going to the wellspring any more. Looks like I’ve got an old, good, durable strata or two down there, though, and I’m mining.
What I’ve come away with is this. The daily fears, self-doubts, the plummeting sensations of failure – these are actually absolutely normal in a trade like mine, and more than ever to be expected at my time of life. If I say they don’t matter, that might sound heartless to anyone reading this who may have gone through the same thing. What I mean is that it’s bad enough to experience all these pangs and pains without the added grief of constantly trying to fend them off, to insist that we shouldn’t be feeling that way – that we’re so lucky to be writers – that we should be braver, stronger, thicker-skinned, whatever! What I’ve started to do is let them roll over me. It’s no fun, but at the end of it all I’m still writing. A thousand words a day, come hell or high water.
And that is the only – the only – thing that counts.