Friday, 4 October 2013

Wherefore Art My Writing Mojo?

Writing is flippin' hard sometimes.

Admittedly it's not 'hard' in the same way as, say, going to war or working in an A&E department is hard...

(I see you amazing people there... what's that you're holding? Oh - the world's smallest violin. Okay, well, that's fair enough...)

No - writing-flavoured 'hard' is a different kind of challenge altogether. Not least because, when it is hard, it has this magical ability to make you feel like you have suddenly become the most stupid person in the universe.

I started learning to talk from about... ooh, fourteen months old, according to my mum. I've been doing it ever since - maybe not as much as more extrovert people, but even when I was shrinking against the wall trying to be invisible I was still practicing in my head. I started learning to write at about five, when I first started school - and I've been doing that ever since as well. With both of these abilities under my belt, that's a lot of years of using words and stuff to get my point across.

So you'd think, after all that time, I'd have got the hang of it by now. And, for most of the time I believe I function quite ably. But, in those dark periods when Writing Gets Hard, it seems as if something freaky happens to my brain.

I know what I want to say. The movie scene playing in my head is very clear; I can see every detail of the action and hear every word of the dialogue. All I have to do is take what's unfolding in my brain and put it down on the page in front of me, right? Simples.

Except, for some reason, it isn't.

It takes me ten solid minutes of word-wrangling to convert one teeny-tiny aspect of the scene in my head into one sentence - and when it's done that sentence reads like someone whose native tongue is Chinese and they only just started learning English half an hour ago. When I read it back, even I think "What the heck does that mean?" I started writing 'The Renegades' because I thought I actually had the ability to do it - what the gubbins happened to my brain between believing that and now?

I can state with conviction that I didn't have this problem with Draft One. Draft One poured out of my brain in a crazy, uninhibited gush and I just spilled it all over the pages like a kid let loose with the nursery paints. That's because Draft One was my happy-fun-go-nuts-and-CREATE! time, when there were no limits and no 'wrong' way to do anything.

But now I'm about a third of the way through Draft Two - and  Draft Two is the time to put on the Serious Pants and say "Right - let's sort this shit out then." This is the stage where I'm supposed to be rebuilding the story foundations so they'll actually take the weight of the unfolding events, making sure all the pieces fit together and that it doesn't look so bloody awful it'll bring down story property prices for the whole neighbourhood. In Draft Two, it seems, there's a wrong way to do everything - and I seem to be pretty damn good at finding them all.

Everything I write looks messy and repulsive at the moment. I almost wish I could just pull out all the story-stuff dancing around in my brain and squish it onto the pages and say "There you are - ta-dah! Screw words and sentences and all that crap -  that's how it's supposed to look." But I suspect that would just look messy and repulsive in an entirely different way.

I have been assured by many writers that this is normal - indeed, some have even gone so far as to say that it's a necessary part of the Draft Two process. (Oh. Hooray then.) But it's not a fun part, no it surely isn't. Writing like a drunk idiot without the actual fun of first getting drunk and then behaving like an idiot is not good for the self-esteem, it has to be said.

But I made myself a promise with this book; I was going to FINISH IT. Come what may. Even if, at the end of all the hard work and effort, it turns out to be monumentally crap. And I intend to honour that promise. Because, even though I don't like how hard it is to get this thing written at the moment, I still like writing it. Crazy-ass writer-type that I am.

So I'm going to keep turning up, keep on truckin' through it and keep on working through the pain. Apparently (according to my writing friends) by doing that I can eventually come out the other side of this Tunnel Of Crapness and into the light of Yay, I Might Be A Writer After All-ness.

Until then, I may have to get emergency supplies of chocolate shipped in. Dig for Victory, and all that...

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