I’ve reached the soggy middle! Strictly speaking, I’m not even halfway through the latest novel yet, but I’ve reached that point where I’m finding any excuse not to sit down and get on with it. I can’t whip up the excitement and putting words on the page is a chore. I’m trying to tell myself I’ve been here many times before and it will all come right in the end, but I’m beginning to have my doubts. I’ve no idea where I’m going with the plot. Yes, I know where I want to end up but how do I keep up the momentum? The big question this time is, have I left it too long?
Life has a nasty habit of getting in the way and there have been several stop-starts in getting to grips with this latest novel. By now I should be well on the way to finishing the first draft. I started ‘Undercover Geisha’ back in January and things progressed well as they often do at the start of a new book when the enthusiasm for the new idea is still high. But since until mid-February then, for a variety of reasons, I’ve only managed 4-5,000 words.
This last gap has been over a couple of months. I’m just back from a two week history lecture cruise. In the preceding weeks, preparing each lecture took well over a week to research, then there was the putting it all together as a PowerPoint presentation, finding suitable illustrations, getting the timing exactly right and, by no means least, the numerous run-throughs to ensure a good ‘performance.’
I really enjoy the research, the enormous buzz I get when members of the audience come up and say how much they enjoyed my lecture. It’s similar to that rosy feeling one gets when a new reader emails to say how much they enjoyed a novel.
If I was a plotter and not an organic writer, writing by the seat of my pants, perhaps the time gap wouldn’t matter so much. At least I would have some kind of road map to follow. As it is, I’m at a crossroads. Do I need to bring in the proverbial man with a gun? All I have is a holiday itinerary. Aunt Jessica and the rest of the tour group have reached Takayama, a town in the centre of Honshu Island, Japan famous for its Spring Festival celebrated with a parade of spectacular floats with giant wooden marionettes accompanied by lion dancers, singers and drummers. The setting is there but unless I can link all this firmly to a credible plot, the novel will simply turn into a travelogue. True, it would be easy to have something dramatic happen – I do have a couple of ideas – but sorting out the why it happened and what the consequences might be, could take me way off-track.
P D James famously plotted her novels in such detail that she was happy to write scenes out of sequence. As writing is a journey for me, enjoying the unexpected twists and turns along the way to my goal, I’ve only ever written in sequence. Perhaps the only way out of my doldrums, is to jump to the next big crisis point and fill in later. The trouble with that is, I’m not quite sure what that might be either!
The best piece of advice for any writer, is to write something every day. Even if it’s only a couple of hundred words, it means you are keeping the story alive in your head even if progress is slow. Good writing demands enthusiasm. True some days are better than others. Those last few chapters usually write themselves as you rush to the end. The words come more quickly than the fingers can type.
And just to complicate matters, we’re off on a proper holiday in a few weeks’ time. It’s a hard life!