Notes from a Writer’s Life #9

From despair to ecstasy…

The swings and roundabouts of the writer’s life

At about 10.15 this morning, I was sitting in the Costa Coffee in the local Next store, staring at the screen and seriously contemplating closing the file on Bleak Waters forever.

It’s now 1.30 in the afternoon and not only have I pushed through this malaise, I’ve really enjoyed writing the latest scene in the story. In fact, it’s been my favourite part to write of both drafts so far.

I’m pretty sure that this swing from one state of mind to the other is standard for anyone who writes or otherwise creates (whether that’s painting, music, stories, drawings, acting etc).

For me, the problem I faced this morning was that the scene I was writing felt melodramatic. A minor incident, and not even a negative one, had the main character Theo reacting in a way that was over the top.

The cause of this was a problem that I had written into the text a few chapters back.

Bleak Waters revolves around Theo’s search for his birth mother, having recently found out that she gave him up for adoption just after he was born.

He has arrived at her home village of Hickling on the Norfolk Broads, but for “reasons” I didn’t want him to blurt out his purpose there on arrival.

Initially, I had dealt with this by making Theo secretive about it, like it’s some big mystery. And it is… it’s just Theo doesn’t know that yet. And as the story went on, I could feel that resistance again, like an anchor dragging through sediment as I wrote.

I knew I needed to go back and change that for the story to come free again.

And while that seemed simple, making that one change in the scene when Theo arrives in Hickling meant changing elements of four separate scenes.

Hence my moment of doubt in Costa Coffee.

When I was a younger, more in-experienced writer, this was the point when a project would be shelved in a tantrum.

But today, with the benefit of years of experience behind me now, I sipped my coffee, scrolled through the text… and changed what needed to be changed.

Theo’s reluctance to reveal all became less a melodramatic desire for secrecy, more a nervous reaction to possibly meeting the person who should’ve loved you most but gave you away.

Much more in keeping with character, but also with the tone of the story at that point.

The tone will change as the narrative moves on, and I am now approaching the quarter point, where the first big revelation will happen, shifting Theo’s perspective further.

I think part of my reluctance this morning was also due to the fact that fixing things would mean going backwards again. At times, it feels like Bleak Waters is stalling.

The wise amongst you (we’ll call you Plotters) will be saying “Ah, this is why you need a plan!”

And yes, you may have a point, but I’ve always worked this way, and even when I have planned, when it comes to the actual writing the plan goes out of the window anyway as I realise the inherent plot problems within said plan.

Anyway, the problem was fixed, and I’ve added another 2000 words to the text, and as I said just written my favourite scene so far. Bleak Waters is rolling on again.

And whether you are a plotter or a pantser, I’m sure that you’ll agree that the most important talent a writer (or any artist) can have is a stubborn refusal to give up!

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