13 January, 2015
Some people say writing is like any other job. Plumbers don't get plumbers block, they say. They have to get on with the job regardless, and so must writers. I have a lot of sympathy with this point of view - certainly more than I do for the Tortured Artist point of view. However, plumbers have a definite problem to solve. Writers have a definite problem to solve only after they've created the problem in the first place. As a writer of fiction it's easy to get to a point where moving the story forward feels so laborious it seems impossible. For me this happens almost invariably around the 40 000-point in the draft of a novel.
Middle-of-the-novel Mire is common stopping place for writers. A good idea will get you most of the way there, and the desire to bring things to a conclusion will carry you through the last 20 000 words. That middle bit is where you have to honestly decide whether you've got enough story to fill a book and/or whether your character is driving the plot or just a passive body who the plot happens to. (Writers who prefer not to plan at all and start off just with an initial idea, often talk of a much earlier sticking point - around chapter three).
Having a young baby has reduced my writing time dramatically. I now have to write in tiny spurts, often with little time to gather my thoughts beforehand. This is not making the situation easier. Despite this, I was plodding on and felt happy enough, finishing at Christmas at 38 000 words and ready to start afresh in 2015. And now I find I have no more words to come.
My comfort in this matter is remembering the past. My published novel The Art of Letting Go, started off as a 60 000 word mess with so little plot I had to make things up on the spot just to keep going. Eventually, it ended up a 90 000 novel, published and with a good handful of five-star reviews on Amazon. Even if what I write now is awful, nobody ever has to see it. Awful writing is at least writing that can be edited. Not-yet-written writing can't.
I don't know if this novel will work out, but I'm hoping to plough on through the mire for now and see if there is firmer ground in 10 000 words or so. Or perhaps I shall just take Raymond Chandler's advice - "If your plot is flagging, have a man come in with a gun." What do you do when your stories stall?