Writing magazines and blogs are full of helpful advice for how to deal with the problems we writers sometimes have to face – dealing with writer’s block, “soggy” middles, constant interruptions and even finding the time to write. I’ve even read articles about finding your best time of day to write – as if most of us could choose when we sit in front of our computer screens or pick up a pen – or the best place to write. One thing I’ve never seen written about, but something I frequently struggle with, is when life gets in the way.
Never have I been more aware of this than when writing the latest novel. In theory, I like to write a book a year. 2015 started well. I began writing on 1st of January, and despite the usual interruptions of holidays and a fairly long spell out to complete my training as a port lecturer on cruise ships, the first draft was finished by September. There was a major revision when it came back from my first editor before it went to my beta readers. Having worked through several changes that were suggested, the manuscript was almost ready to send to the copyeditor. Then in November, I was offered a port lecturing job on a cruise to Central America which called in at eight ports. It takes at least a week to prepare a presentation on each port so as the cruise was in leaving at the end of January, everything, including the novel, was put on hold. And so disappeared any hope of publishing Blood Hits the Wall by the end of the year. I’d already accepted a British Isles cruise leaving in late April which entailed six ports so as soon as I returned from Central America, I had to knuckle down to more research and PowerPoint once again. Ultimately, it was the end of June before Blood Hits the Wall was finally published. All in all, I suppose that it is true that it took a year to produce – it was just that life, in the form of two port lecturing cruises, forced a six month gap between the writing and the publication. All of which means that the latest novel, Blood Across the Divide, did not get started until July 1st!
I am not a fast writer, but despite the late start, once I got going the ideas began to flow and the words just poured out. That is why we writers do what we do. That obsession takes hold and the novel is constantly on your mind. As you clean your teeth, peel the potatoes, drive yourself to the gym, the next scene is in your head. You play out the parts – you hear the dialogue – you feel the protagonist’s fear, jubilation and worries. Those twists and turns of plot that you had no idea how you were going to solve are suddenly revealed as you load the dishwasher. You eat, sleep and dream the novel! You can’t wait to turn on the PC and see what will happen next. Once you started putting the words on the scene never quite plays out how you thought it would when it popped into your head, but that’s the fun part – when that spark of creation takes over transporting you to places you never imaged and everything falls into place as the story unfolds.
As far as Blood Across the Divide was concerned, everything was going well, better than ever before in all the years I’ve been writing, the words were tumbling over themselves to get out (perhaps it was all those months of pent up creative activity) and then…. life got in the way!!! We went away for a line dance weekend. I only had one more chapter to do, but that three day break just killed the roller-coaster ride. It wasn’t as though I was stuck for plot. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but I’d lost the momentum – the drive.
That was two weeks ago now and I’ve struggled to reach the end. Just one short final scene to commit to paper and it will be ready to send to my editor. I suppose I should be elated that I have managed to complete a first draft in just three months (albeit that it is 10, to 15,000 words shorter than most of my other novels) when all seven of my published novels have taken at least nine months. (The first two unpublished novels each took years to complete!) However, the last two weeks have been hard graft if truth be told. A few sparkles true, but that burning desire I had before, has gone. Perhaps I’m just burnt out!
I have no advice to offer. No valuable insights. I simply share my thoughts with you. The experience of writing, getting words on the page, can be the best thing in the world and sometimes is can be sheer hard work. But we writers carry on. We have no choice. Writing is an obsession over which we have little control.