One of the reasons why this blog is so, um, spasmodic is my reticence in suggesting in any shape or form that I am an expert in this writing game.
Other writing blogs seem to be penned by published novelists (how I envy those who have crossed that great divide!) or tutors in the art of writing – whilst my only credentials are an A Level in English Literature, a clutch of published non-fiction titles about babies and breastfeeding and the like back in the 1990s, and a creative writing course courtesy of Oxford University Continuing Education. And 160,000 words of a first draft.
I am most definitely not an expert.
This said, I am an expert in being a novice, a beginner, one of the hopefuls milling around in the hinterland of yet-to-be-published – and if I don’t write now about how that feels, then I will miss the moment. (I already look back on earlier entries and cringe and consider the delete button – but resist because to purge these posts would be to lose those moments which, although embarrassing, are nevertheless vaguely encouraging reminders of progress made.)
So, to today’s Top Tip from an expert non-expert: How To Overcome Inertia. (I hesitate to use the term Writer’s Block because this seems to have almost pathological connotations.)
I don’t know if it is something to do with the sheer tactical pleasure of putting fingers to keys on my beloved MacBook but I find that just typing anything (however insipid or seemingly tangential) is often enough to get me going again.
A month ago, after a significant break from writing (caused by pressures of work, the trauma of Brexit, and other unrelated but nevertheless distracting events) I found myself dithering and digressing and making more tea and endlessly refreshing Twitter, quite unable to rescue my hero from the situation in which I had abandoned her a week ago.
And so I typed (apropos absolutely nothing except this part of the novel is based in northern France): “It started to rain again”.
And then I sat and thought about those words.
Why “started” to rain? Why not “still raining”? And why “again”? Why, indeed, rain at all? Is rain necessary or helpful at this point in the plot? A plot device or poetic scene-setting?
And, if it is to rain, what type of rain?
A cheerful April shower throwing a rainbow across the war-torn city? Sullen, sticky drizzle one from a sky of claustrophobic greyness? A torrential downpour at the end of a day of growing tension and billowing indigo clouds?
Which is most likely meteorologically?
Which best fits the mood of the moment for my hero?
And which form of precipitation had not already been used in recent chapters? (One can only take so many towering thunder clouds, even in wartime.)
And now that it has started to rain, what does that mean for my hero? Does it influence what she does or what happens to her? Does it change what she is wearing? How does it make her feel?
In the end, I don’t think it actually rained at all. But thinking about it raining had got me moving again.