Wise people who are with me on my writing journey have told me on numerous occasions to trust the process. But, as with much of the writing journey, it’s something that’s hard to do until you’ve experienced the opposite.
I’ve just finished the first draft of my third book contracted to Boldwood Books, due for release September/October this year. And each book so far has been a completely different experience emotionally, even as I have discovered my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, which make each book technically easier. But for writers, separating the technical and the emotional is impossible sometimes, which means it’s part of professional development to learn to deal with the emotional aspect.
This book has been so much harder to write, now I properly understand the high standard of books out there and the different tastes of readers. Despite trying to make myself understand that not every reader will like what I write, no matter how good it is, I couldn’t help trying to win over a load of diverse readers with every word – which is an utterly impossible task.
Part of my approach with this book was to just keep writing – hoping, more than trusting, in reality. But the other way I processed the pressure with this book was to channel my thoughts and feelings into a character. It was almost cathartic. And it connected me to the book at a time when I was struggling to create that connection.
The result was Piero. He is the hero of book three and I can’t tell you too much about him, because that would ruin the story. But he’s an artist (of a sort), who’s reached a creative crisis, when we meet him at the beginning of the book. He’s heartbroken, blocked, uninspired, disillusioned and downright grumpy. But the straight-talking heroine pulls him out, not by helping him find his creative spark again, but by giving him some perspective on life, love and friendship.
He comes to appreciate his work as a craft, as well as art, and craft is something we feel we have a little more control over. It’s a lovely metaphor for my emotional journey in writing this. Ascribe the art too much importance and you lose the point: the craft of telling your readers a story.
Writing fiction is a creative pursuit, but writing fiction novels is also in large part hard slog and learned craft. You don’t get a novel that drips inspiration in every sentence. You want a novel that tells you a cracking story in an engaging way. We writers have to convert each word into a whole that we can only see in a vague, out-of-focus way. We’ll never get through it without trusting it will become something more than 95,000 random words. A guarantee unfortunately doesn’t exist, but I sure haven’t heard many stories of writers reaching the end and then giving up on the entire thing.
I hope that, when I start book four, I will remember to trust more and worry less, because it’s proven true this time. When I look back at book three, now, it has all the elements of my work that I aim to deliver. I have some editing to do on one of the character arcs, which only came into focus about halfway through the story, but the structure is there, the characters are there, the ridiculous banter is there, the moments of slapstick and irony are there, the sarcasm is certainly there, the little snippets of unexpected wisdom are there.
I’m learning to trust in what I do, the way I do it.