I am about a quarter of the way through the first draft of what I intend to be my first full sized novel and I am struggling with it. Not because I have writer’s block or anything like that, I know where I want the story to go, I have plotted as far as I want to and I know how I want the story to end, but I don’t love it. I’m not feeling it yet. It’s not exciting me. Is that a bad thing to admit? Is it a sign that this is a story that shouldn’t be written?
I am blaming the weaselling story ideas creeping around my head, shouting loudly that they would make a far better novel than the one I am writing. The more they peck at my brain, the more I am starting to believe them and rethink the story I’m drafting. I suppose this is the cancerous self-doubt that I hear about so often, the single largest contributor to thousands of half finished manuscripts gathering dust in unfulfilled writers’ drawers.
I know that the first draft is meant to be an imperfect canvas, a starting point from which to improve and I fully intend to go back over the draft many times and add layers where I need to, but I really expected the whole process of putting pen to paper to be more satisfying as the tension of an escaping story unknotted.
What I am actually finding is that the tension is replaced by my own inner conflict. I am impatient. I want to race through the first draft, pour the words out onto the page, get it down, but there’s a real discipline to unfurling your tangled plot in just the right way so your reader tumbles headfirst into your tale. There’s also the need for a long term commitment, that painstaking dedication to unravel your nucleic characters and plot a piece at a time. These two don’t sit comfortably with a story that strains at the leash.
I’ve tried to just write, not to look back over what I’ve written previously for fear of being lured into the editing trap, but since I’m such a novice at this I’ve had to flip back several chapters many times just to add a hint of what’s to come, the glance of an important object, the mention of a foreshadowed revelation and I guess this is what the writing process is all about. I’m embracing the new ideas as they sneak unbidden into the story, trying them out, removing them when they’re not right or giving them a home if they refuse to be deleted.
Are these the signs of a story that shouldn’t be written or signs of a story improving as I go? I know the answer to my own question, just writing this blog post has been quite cathartic. I’ve written myself a little post-it which reads: ‘For the love of God, just finish it woman!’ – and I will. If it turns out to be really shit, I just won’t let anyone read it so they’ll never know.