Are they? I only ask because I’m sure I once killed one. You’ve heard of fratricide and patricide. This was a case of ficticide.
I didn’t mean to. I meant to nurture it until the day it would fly from the nest and bring back a lovely plump book deal wriggling in its beak.
Instead, it suffered the equivalent of being eaten by a neighbourhood cat. And it was all my fault.
Here’s how I did it.
Exhibit number one:
This is just a hunch, but I think the fact that I didn’t do any writing had something to do with the story’s failure to thrive. What I did instead was endless planning. This was an attempt to distance myself from the way I wrote its predecessor. My first attempt at a novel was put together in a state of wild abandon and unplannedness [yes reader, I was a panter of the highest order]. The result was a plot that had, shall we say, a loose and relaxed structure. In other words, it was rubbish. So this time I intended to plan my story to within an inch of its life.
Exhibit number two:
I was always waiting for the right time to get stuck into it. I had the excuse of a newborn baby at the time, but in my heart I know that wasn’t the real reason. The delay was really because I was waiting for news on the first book [ie, the rubbish one. Try and keep up]. I waited for a whole year to hear from one agent. In which time, I hardly wrote a word of my new project.
Exhibit number three:
You’ve heard the phrase ‘careless talk costs lives’? A tutor on a course once cautioned against talking about your plot too much before you have it on paper. She said that ideas are fragile, ethereal entities that visit us when we least expect them, and can also leave when they feel like it. I found this out the hard way. Instead of WRITING IT DOWN I talked about my brilliant idea to any poor fool who asked the question, ‘How’s the writing going?’ The result was that every time I opened the document and tried to write something I just felt bored. Why bother going to all that effort when I’d already described it in detail?
In the end, I did so much planning, prevaricating and blabbing that it brought on a crippling attack of writer’s block. I just couldn’t make this story work. When I made the decision to can it and move onto something else, it was a huge relief. But with a big dollop of regret. Maybe it might have been halfway decent if I'd only treated it well.
So here ends this cautionary tale. Look after your stories. After all, if you don’t, who will?