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The Fickleness Of Inspiration, Or ‘Why I Keep Cheating On My Novels’

25 June, 2008

On the 5th of May this year, I wrote a post on writing, here on this blog. In it, I said I’d just started a new novel and was about 7000 words into it. At the time, I was sure that that particular novel was possibly the best thing I’d ever written. The most lyrical, the cleverest, with the most believable characters. Until I decided that I wasn’t having fun writing it and that there was no point carrying on.

Skip forwards to the 2nd of June, when I made another post, in which I detailed the joy of beginning a new novel. Yes, I’d started something new, something that I’d been thinking about for a good three weeks. It was a Young Adult fantasy novel and I was absolutely convinced that it was, once again, going to be the best thing I’d ever written. And yet, a few weeks later, it lies more or less abandoned. I might go back to it and keep plodding on, but I have no immediate concern with finishing it. This time I realised that I wasn’t enjoying writing about two sixteen year olds so I gave up.

And now, of course, I have yet another new idea, one that I’m sure will be brilliant. I’ll start it over the next couple of weeks and see how far it goes.

It all sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it? A slew of failed novels. “You’ll never get published that way,” I hear you cry. Well, perhaps I won’t. The truth of the matter is more complex though. After all, I have finished novels in the past – four, in fact, over the period of about four years. And that’s alongside all the ones that I abandoned: the ones that I have realised aren’t going to work, because I don’t like the characters, or the plot is weak, or any number of other problems.

Clearly, if I ever do get published, I won’t be able to carry on this way. For the moment though, with the freedom of obscurity, I can pretty much do whatever I want. I’m determined not to get into a rut where I hate what I’m writing. The best way I can see to avoid that is to keep experimenting, keep trying new novels, until I find that ones that stick and that I love well enough to see through to the end.

Now, I’m not advocating throwing in the towel on a novel as soon as it gets difficult. However, particularly if you’re not a published writer, I think it’s a good idea to always remember why you write: hopefully, because you enjoy doing so. If you’re not enjoying what you’re writing at the moment, maybe you need to rethink it. Change the way the story is going, add in a new character or simply start over if that’s what you need to do. Just make sure that you really are having fun with your writing. After all, it’s better to scrap one novel than to end up hating the whole process and giving up writing altogether, don’t you think?

One Comment
  1. K. Jayne Cockrill permalink
    20 July, 2008 7:24 pm

    Yes, I do think it’s better to scrap one novel — if you’re not far into it — than to end up hating the whole process. But I would hope I’d find some ways to get excited about it by adding new elements, settings, characters, plot twists, histories that make the character fascinating, etc. Minor changes in the way one is writing can sometimes add a whole other dimension of that jazzed feeling toward your story.

    Good luck!

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