So the second draft is under way; five chapters redrafted, and the sixth about to be embarked upon. Bits of it have simply flowed, and other bits are a struggle – chapter four was particularly sticky. Copious notes for the third draft are being made concurrently, in my super-large bought for that purpose Moleskine. And I’m fairly happy with the progress made so far.
Last night I printed off the first draft of what is about to be the sixth chapter. And I looked at it, and looked at it. I stared at the words on the pages, and they danced before my eyes, but they would not let me in. So I went back to the beginning, to the original short story that six years ago started this narrative chain-reaction in my head. And in the file next to it I found a printed copy of an essay by Neil Gaiman. I re-read it, and when I reached the final paragraph, I realised that I had kept a printed copy for exactly this moment of uncertainty. Here’s why;
You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.
I’m going to frame that.
Every writer needs to do it at some point, just get away from the mundanities of so-called normal life – the importance of Getting Away From It All is not to be underestimated. My day-to-day process of living largely revolves around my small daughter, so to be honest anything out of the ordinary, even for half a day, can act as a tremendous stimulus to my brain. But a whole weekend away – in heavenly Devon – and in perfect weather, has been a rare and wonderful treat indeed. In recent years the only time I’ve had to myself to escape and recharge has been the occasional long walk up a particularly steep hill. It’s a worthwhile stroll though; the view is a lovely one, even in thick winter mist. In the thick of the January snows this year I went for an eerie walk after midnight – an experience I was able to use in the fantasy work-in-progress-that-has-temporarily-going-on-for-five months-now ground to a halt. But the walk helped. Seeing the valley in which I live smothered under that silent sky, while the brook rushed endlessly nearby, helped. Saying hello to trees and hills and clouds – or last weekend, the sea – blows away those cobwebs, opens up the pokier recesses of my brain to let in the light, and stimulates the creative juices. I’ve had all sorts of odd ideas in the last few days – whether they’ll amount to anything is really neither here nor there, the simple fact that new synapses are firing their random bursts of electricity is enough for me.
Music has always been a source of inspiration. Some music I find invaluable to write to – for example Howard Shore’s Complete Scores for The Lord Of The Rings are perfect whilst writing the aforementioned fantasy epic. And new music conjures new thoughts and feelings, or a new light to see them by. One character – the infamous Bellisa – even has her own playlist. If I’m going to make any headway in the task I’ve signed up for (the one that begins tomorrow – see previous post) I’d better decide which music will suit. In the meantime, I have felt moved to make a list of four letter words, scrawled so far across three pages in my current Moleskine. I know, I know, an odd response to three days away, but hey, that just goes to show the unfathomable workings of the mind. Or my mind, at any rate.
So how do YOU do it? What does it take to kick YOUR brain into gear? What gets your creative juices flowing?