Monday, 15 August 2011

On Writing Novels...

“Writing a poem is like a short love affair, writing a short story like a long love affair, writing a novel like a marriage.” ~ Amos Oz

Having not been married, I don’t have the full first-hand experience of this comparison, but I have written plenty of poems (make of that what you will!), and in October 2009 I finished writing my first novel (the editing process took a few more months) – so I can relate in some way to this quotation.

Writing my first ever novel was a huge learning curve – and I shackled my creative self to it, certainly for the 14 months of writing it, if not quite for the previous 4 years of thinking about it.  I didn’t write anything else – no poetry, no snippets of pieces to be filled out in the future, no new ideas.  I devoted myself to it – and now I can see that that was rather desperate of me, because after receiving 5 agent rejections (a paltry number compared to ole J.K., I know – stamina is something I need to work on!) I decided to stop sending it out.  And without it, I was bereft.

I didn’t know how to handle not writing, not editing, not thinking about that novel – and so I hid behind happy smiles and declarations of the creative exercises I was going to do to free up my mind, to write again.  And yet though I tried a couple, nothing came.  I had no ‘flow’, as we writers say.  I stalled and entered my own personal hell.

In another post sometime, I’ll open a debate on writers’ block and whether it exists, but suffice it to say not writing kills me.  It took me about 14 months to rediscover my creativity – God knows where it had been hiding because I did try to seek it out with lots of varied reading and scanning through the writing magazines I subscribe to, but I say hallelujah that it returned.

Back in May this year, it slapped me in the face with an idea for a sequence of poems based around my early writing influences and motivations (I started storytelling when I was about 6, but I’m not going to be that juvenile in this collection...she says!).  I’ve written two and am working on the third – I think there will be about eight, give or take – and I’m loving it.  Who knows where I hid the key, but somehow I’ve unlocked the door to my creativity and its visiting me on a regular basis.  And I’m really glad, for it’s who I am: I can’t separate myself from my writing, and I’m good at nothing else (except talking – any news yet on this as an Olympic sport, ’cause I could win us gold next year!).

Novel Number Two awaits, its basic plot intact (I know how to get from A to G to Z, but the bits between need filling in), and I have two inspirational and motivational things ahead: I’ve enrolled on a vocational advanced writing course starting in a few weeks; and, as I intend part of Novel Number Two to be set in Paris, I’m visiting that chic city in November with a friend for a writing-and-research trip.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from Book One is not to commit myself so literally to a project that I become consumed by it and thus am so bereft when it is over – I’m going to try to keep writing other things, like this blog and my poetry sequence, while I begin initial work on Novel Number Two.

Juggling may turn out not to be my forte – but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Wish me luck!

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