In the introduction to last weeks podcast I spoke about how I became stuck whilst writing the second draft of my latest WIP, which has the working title of The Comfort Zone (I already know that will not be the final title). I didn’t have writers block I just knew that I had reached a point in the story where I was writing all of my characters into a corner. I had two choices. I could either throw the entire project into the trash can or go back to the plan. I went to the plan. I’m one of the those people who can think more clearly when they actually have a pen and a paper in front of them. I spent two days going through my original chapter plan/outline and I changed things around, got rid of characters and changed the main characters arc.
I think that this graph by Maureen F.McHugh perfectly encapsulates how torrid the writing process can be.
In a week I’ve written 13,523 words and if you ask me, that’s a lot when a week ago you were literally standing at a junction wondering where on earth you were going to go next.
So here are we. Tomorrow it will be Christmas Eve. I have just wrestled the turkey out of the freezer, it’s quite big (maybe too big). Tomorrow, I will be spending the majority of the day in the kitchen playing music whilst I bake bread, make cakes (If you really must know, I’m making lemon and blueberry drizzle cake with a cream cheese icing and a double chocolate fudge cake), I will roast the gammon ham and then I will stuff the turkey and finally, I will stare at the fridge and wonder what on earth I’m going to eat. Then it will be Christmas Day. I will cook, eat too much and drink too much and then countdown to 2016. I can’t wait.
Now, during those funny days in-between Christmas and New Year I will not be writing a thing. My plan is take up permanent residence on my sofa, watching movies, reading books, eating cheese, pates, Quality Streets, wine, vodka, entertaining, working on my plan to take over the world.
But what about your writing I hear you ask. What about it? I don’t plan to write a bloody word. Why? Well, I’ve been writing all year and the year before that and I need a break from it all. 2015 was a good year for me. I published my first book, The Sisters, and my short story, Renata, appeared in the anthology, No Way Home. I was interviewed on a number of blogs and I interviewed some amazing writers for my own blog, Spectrum Books. In case you didn’t know, Spectrum Books is a site devoted to providing a platform to independent writers, publishers and anyone else who helps the indie writer on their publishing journey.
In addition to interviewing writers there were also book reviews. It’s hard work but I enjoy it. What else was there? Ah. I wrote the first draft of my next book, The Comfort Zone, wrote the first part of my crime fiction novel, wrote another short story and then came up with an idea for a children’s book series, started a manuscript critique service, carried on with my day job as a criminal defence lawyer and had an operation. Now, I come to think of it, the operation and the recovery period was in fact a much needed break as I couldn’t actually sit at my desk for a month.
After I recovered, I went back to work for a whole week until some idiot decided that the best way to leave a bus lane was to reverse, straight into my car. I had whiplash and the return of my favourite back pain, sciatica.
After a week, I went back to work, back to writing, interviewing, reading and then in November I hit the wall. Oh yes, just like running (remember the wall in Run, Fat Boy, Run’?) there is a bloody wall and you can hit that wall hard when you’re writing. Some may call it writers block but I much prefer ‘The Wall.’
I was writing but I wasn’t happy with what I was writing. It wasn’t flowing. My writing felt forced, contrived and most importantly it didn’t sound like me. It was frustrating, it was annoying and then suddenly I had a lightbulb moment. Leave it alone. Just leave it. Stop trying to force it. Close your laptop (well, your WIP) and leave it alone. Have a break. And that dear readers is what I did. It was the beginning of November. I was at the end of a trial and I was stuck on the second draft of ‘The Comfort Zone’ and I left it all alone. I decided to leave it all alone for the rest of the year. (To be fair, there were only two months left). So, what did I do with myself. I carried on with other things, I went to work. I read books, comics, I went to New York for five days.
I came back from New York (sick as a dog with flu) and went back to work. I then counted down the days until Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released. I then almost passed out from anticipation as I waited for those bloody trailers to finish at the IMAX and for that familiar theme tune to begin. I then decided that again, just like when I was six years that I wanted to be a Jedi and I really, really needed a lightsaber and now I’m getting ready for Christmas.
But during my self imposed exodus from writing a strange thing happened. I started to get ideas and I would pick up my giant green notebook and the brown one and the purple one (you get the picture I have a lot of notebooks) and I would jot these ideas down. The ideas came because I had taken the pressure of myself. There are times when we just have to give ourselves a break. Taking a break is not failure, it’s just giving yourself room to breath and to collect your thoughts and to start again.
So, my Christmas gift to you is this. My most important writing tip. Take a break. Don’t feel guilty about it and instead of losing sight of your writing you will actually gain a different perspective. Believe me. It will be a good thing. Like going on holiday without actually checking that your passport is valid, packing a suitcase, going to the airport and actually going on holiday.
Well, enough of me. There is a tin of Quality Streets with my name on it and Clash of the Titans is on the telly and I am now off. Have a Merry, Merry Christmas and I will see you on the other side in 2016. x