Saturday, July 16, 2005


Right now, I seem to be doing everything I can not to make a start on my new idea... filling in the endless forms to do with my flat sale, weeding the garden (the weather's been perfect for dandelions and every other form of unwanted plant: sun, showers, sun, showers), emailing friends.

I've been trying to work out why I'm procrastinating even more than usual and it comes down to two things:
  • all the current uncertainty in my life, including the fact that I thought the timing of my next deal meant I'd have it sorted out by now, but everyone's back-tracking, which is really doing my head in;
  • the fact that the book I want to write next is the one that's closest to my heart, the one I have wanted to write for at least five years.

The first factor is annoying and frustrating, but I suppose that's showbiz. All writers' lives are full of these uncertainties: from questions about the MS (will my editor like it? Is this a load of complete tosh?), to worries about the marketing or the cover or what other books are being published in the same month, or whether the buyers from the supermarkets or the chains will like you. I mean, it. Actually, that is a Freudian slip so I will keep it in: the trouble with writing is that it's so hard to separate yourself from your work. If anyone has any hints about how to do this, I'd be very grateful.

The second factor is more interesting, I think. What I now recognise about writing novels is that an idea in my head is ALWAYS going to be a far more magnificent thing than the words on the page will turn out to be. To write, you need an imagination and of course, that imagination is often at its most active when you're picturing the beautiful thing that you're going to produce, the way it will amuse and inspire and move.

Then you sit down at your laptop and what actually hits the screen is garbage: random, not very elegantly composed, collections of words that frustrate or irritate or annoy.

The stage immediately before this is even weirder: I tend to plot with a notebook and pen, as I can draw little squiggles and underline things, it's more tactile and connected somehow. But at the first stage, it's all about cliche because cliches are the things that occur first whether you're working out plot twists, or characters. So at the moment I have a cast of a cautious woman, her bombastic boyfriend, a heroic octogenarian, a scruffy biker, and a collection of ideas that seemed great initially and now feel like they have all the sophistication, plot-wise, of a Janet and John book. Cliche-tastic.

I do know that I will move beyond this... that the characters will go from 2D to 3D, that the story will gain new depth, and will muddle somehow towards what I want to say. But it's rather horrid knowing I have to go through the 'this is tosh' stage.

Lovely Link of the Day:

Agent Irene Goodman tells it as it is. Some brilliant articles and straight-talking on this site... including the rather wonderful Seven Habits of Highly Effective Authors.


Anonymous Liz Pott said...


Thanks for this link - is fabulous.

I know what you mean about cliches...I'm writing a novel and find it incredibly hard to avoid the mundane or predictable, though it means that I often descend into sarcasm and farce. Bah. Back to the keyboard... :-)

12:59 pm  
Anonymous loopy1 said...

Hi, I was at the Unconvention, although sadly not in your small group. It's so reassuring to know that you feel the final result is never as good as the magnificent idea. Somehow that makes it easier for me to keep going!
How do you keep working through that to finally get an end result, instead of abandoning the idea halfway through? I keep getting frustrated, then something jogs me and I feel the idea is worthwhile after all. I just hope I can live up to it enough to make the effort worthwhile!

7:58 am  
Anonymous Kate Hardy said...

Kate, I think there's something in the air - most of the writers I know are procrastinating like mad at the moment and feeling really uncertain. Including me (and I normally have lots of things on the go at once, happily hyper). Bah. Let's sneak off and go eat chocolate...

4:05 pm  
Blogger Kate said...

Kate, thanks for the reassurance. I am sure my procrastination isn't entirely unrelated to world events - and events on my doorstep - but it looks like we may have to get used to it...

Liz, glad you liked the links. I suppose the mundane and predictable is always going to be what we come up with first, and then we have to go past that at the edit stage. Robert McKee's Story is very good at the business of forcing ourselves to go beyond cliche.

And, Loopy, it is comforting to know you're not alone, isn't it? I suppose what keeps me going is knowing how much work has gone into a book so far, and that EVERYONE gets saggy middles. Even though sorting out literary saggy middles are more painful to fix than sit-ups for the real thing.

3:52 pm  

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