Monday, 4 April 2011
The naughty step for novels
While I was waiting for the verdict on my first draft of book two, my editor dropped me a line to say the edits were soon on their way. So, I pressed her cheekily, what kind of pain should I be expecting? Were we talking routine hernia op, or was it more like open heart surgery? ‘Oh, routine hernia op,’ she said. ‘Nothing too major.’
I did a little jig at this because deep down, I was expecting something even more extreme than open heart surgery [my medical metaphors broke down at this point].
But then the edits arrived.
And they’re looking a darn sight more than routine op to me, let me tell you. I’d say they are at least on par with... I dunno... some sort of ruptured organ repair. Or an eyeball replacement. Something horrible and painful. And messy. I think she was just being kind and trying to keep me calm.
So a week on, I’ve read and digested all her points and made copious notes about what needs to be done. I’ve done a chart with lots of different colours on it [one storyline is highlighted in a very fetching aquamarine.] I’ve paced and thought and walked about and banged my head against a few walls. I’ve done a bit of growling at my family and stared into space a lot when people were trying to communicate with me.
I’m not by any means there yet. But maybe, just maybe, some small cog in my brain has shifted imperceptibly. I’m hoping this will lead to something that feels like progress soon.
I’d love to say what it was that helped this along but half the time, I don’t know how or why something has worked for me. But I do have one blinder of a tip.
I can’t claim credit for it because I read it in a ‘how to’ book on writing. No idea which one, sorry. But it’s brilliant and it works.
Here it is: treat your story like a naughty child. [Stay with me here]. When you’re stuck and your imagination is starting to feel like a popped balloon tell yourself that you are going to ignore it. Just ignore it.
Don’t muse on plot points. Don’t even allow your brain to veer in the direction of your book. It’s like putting your story on the naughty step. After a day or two of being ignored, it’s going to be jigging up and down with its hand in the air wanting you to look at it. And incredibly, this can lead to breakthroughs when you least expect them.
Try it. It might just save you from an eyeball explosion.