Starting something new is always difficult. Ironically, I sat at the keyboard for a good ten minutes, trying to figure out what the first sentence of this post was going to be. At first, I wanted to use it as an outlet – to tell you all of the woes of writing a novel, how difficult it was, scenes that took me to hell and back and scenes that still leave me stumped to this very day.
Admittedly, it’ll still be that, but before that I’ll talk more about what I’ve learnt so far whilst writing.
During my annual reread of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, (an excellent trilogy by the way, everyone should endeavour to read the series.) I came across a particular line that made me really stop and think: ‘Magic doesn’t come from talent, it comes from pain.’
I’m not arrogant enough to think that my words are either A: magic, or B: at the levels of Lev Grossman, (as of yet, anyway.) but the words really got me thinking. What does drive us to create something – a story, music, even a poem? Why don’t we just let it float around in our imaginations for a while, twisting and turning until it’s just a daydream? I know for some people, they’re perfectly happy with their daydreams, and that’s absolutely fine. Daydreams help us get through the day. For me, I had very little choice in the matter.
Full disclosure: when someone asks me how many words I’m on I laugh and say it’s a bit of a hard question. Sometime in May, I was fresh out the tracks, had a wonderful novel idea. It had depth, darker than anything I had ever written before, and it rang true to the quieter parts of my mind. I wrote faster than before, the words were flowing onto the page, and I couldn’t tear myself away from the screen. With the task of doing 2000 words a day, everything was going oh so well for me.
Until a period of nine days in May where I began to lag. I didn’t hit my word count, so I’d stay up for longer to try and hit it before waking up again. This involved going to bed at 2-3AM and waking up at 6-7AM. During the 7AM days I’d admonish myself for waking up ‘late,’ have a slice of peanut butter on toast and get cracking at the computer again. I did this for nine days. My original word-count before this was a nice thirty-thousand. I’m closer to the fifty-thousand now. However, the kicker was when I read back on those words I did in the nine days they were, to put simply, hot garbage. Yes, I have them still saved, no they will never see the light of day unless they’re heavily edited. I was burning both ends of the candle, leaving very little of me left.
Since then, I’ve taken a break. I’ve visited friends, took a weekend off from the normal day job, and was better off for it. But if there was one thing that I had wished, is that I had listened sooner to everyone who had told me to take it easy.
I remember writing one character hailing from a particularly small part of Indiana. Talia worked in a call centre and after receiving a full-ride scholarship into the University of Calvary, she’s determined to make her life much more different than her previous home. Throughout Blackout, you see her try to adjust to a new town, attempting to stand out above all the others. We follow the lengths she takes to truly be a remarkable person. And through her narrative, we learn what happens when she tries to become too good too quickly…
I’m still writing Blackout, but I’ve shifted the goals a little. I’m going to be writing a thousand words a day Monday-Friday. During Saturday and Sunday, I’ll use that time to write down other story ideas, write up blog posts, and just catch up on reading. I think it’s healthier to have that type of balance.
A large part of what I’ve learnt while writing Blackout is that there is a very distinct, very real possibility of burning yourself out, and if it wasn’t for sheer exhaustion and a very opportune weekend away, I would have written a very different post altogether. For now, I keep writing – albeit at a much slower and less compromising pace. And for that, I’m happy. Wouldn’t want to end up like poor Talia anyway…