Monday, October 20, 2014

On Writing - The Slump

The slump after you have finished a book.

I have read a lot of blogs and books about the process of writing. Mostly out of interest rather than thoughts of educating myself. I say that not because I am arrogant enough to believe I can’t be taught anything, but because I firmly believe writing is a personal process and the only way to learn is to actually write.

All of the books and blogs I have read offer great advice, none more so than Stephen King’s, “On Writing,” but what I have yet to read is someone talk about the experience of finishing a project and starting a new one.

When I finished Ritual of the Stones I was elated. It was surreal to see my book out there on Amazon and garnering favourable reviews. It spurred me on to want to write the sequel and the one after that and the one after that.

I had the bug, I knew what it took now to get published and I had learnt a lot along the way. Even better, I could not wait to get back to the characters I loved and tell their story.

I remember sitting down at my laptop feeling invigorated and ready to take on the world. I sat there and I sat there and yep, you guessed it I sat there. “This is stupid,” I said to myself. I knew what I wanted to say, I knew the voices of my characters but I could not find them in my head.

I ground out a measly 300 words and put it down to a bad day and having a bit of rust. After all, with all the proofreading, formatting and cover designs it had been two months since I had written anything except blog posts.

However, the next day was the same and the one after that. After a month, I had around 10,000 words. They were 10,000 words I knew weren’t very good and knew I would be rewriting at some stage.

I decided to adopt a different approach. Something a reviewer said stuck with me. They had read my work before and liked my humour. They wanted more humour in my books. To be honest after the grim and dark, Ritual of the Stones, I needed it too. I came up with the idea of Pewtory the Lesser Bard, a bard who would travel around Frindoth and sing about the characters in the Ritual of the Stones. It would be a great way to garner interest of my first book and introduce the characters to a wider audience as I could give the book away for free.
Pewtory the Lesser Bard would be delivered in short snappy chapters of around 1,000 words. The formula worked, I committed to writing 1,000 words a week on Pewtory and writing book two for the remainder of week.

Pretty soon, I found my rhythm again and my output was tremendous. Pewtory the Lesser Bard failed in his purpose as a short piece of fiction and morphed into a story of his own. One I am very proud of. The only headache I now had was I wanted to concentrate on just the one story. In February I made the decision to focus on Pewtory and ended up with a novel of 53,000 words. Not too shabby at all, for what was only intended to be a gimmick piece of writing.

Meanwhile book two – The Stones of Sorrow, grew into a monster of a novel. Yes, I was worried at the size but I decided to just go with the flow and maintain the output I was producing.

By the time I had finished the book I had written more words then I had ever written in a single year. I had already sorted out the cover and knew where I was going in terms of the proofreading.

The whole process was a lot smoother then the first time as I was more familiar with it. Yes there were headaches but the sense of satisfaction was there. I was getting better at this. I was learning all the time and I was sure that the next book was even better.
I sent the Stones of Sorrow off to the proofreader allowed myself two weeks off and then sat down to begin work on book three. The aspiration was to publish it one year after book two.

I sat there, I sat there and I sat there. The same thing happened again. I could not find the words again. These were characters I had spent over 370,000 words with, yet I could not write more than 300 words on them.

No problem I thought. I will just write a short story like before. Only this time the formula hasn’t worked so well. It is not writer’s block as such. It is just that I have lost my rhythm. I know it will come back, I just need to get myself mentally prepared.

As I type this, it has been two months since I penned the last word on The Stones of Sorrow. This morning, I wrote 900 words. Yesterday I managed a 1,000. This afternoon I fancy writing some more. I am not saying I have the rhythm back just yet, but it feels like it is getting there. Do you know what else I realised? The “slump” is not a slump at all. It is my recharging time. Having made the switch from writing to editing it is the time I need to flick the switch back again.

I try not to focus too much on word counts, but I do have rough goals in mind. My aim is to write a decent amount of words on this new novella before November. I will then use NaNoWriMo again to deliver a large chunk of that book and maybe even finish it.. Only time will tell if I can achieve that goal. I think I might.