Monday, 24 October 2011

Back in the Saddle again

For the last few weeks my cup hath runneth empty. As I wrote in my last post, my output has been zilch. I've gone from writing 2000 words a day (or so) to writing nothing. Nada. Not so much as a squeck of flash fiction. Damn, I've barely known that it was Tuesday, never mind writing a tale for it!

I think it was a good time to take a holiday. After the wrong turn with New Voices and working like a demon in the day job, I'd kind of lost my mojo.

But it's back.

And hooray for that. I've got a few people to thank for bringing me back round but the main person is - and not for the first time - the fabulous Andrea Walpole (@AndreaWalpole), critique partner extraordinaire and walking inspiration. Not only does her writing go from strength to strength, but she's solid in her encouragement to get back in the saddle. So I have.

I've jettisoned the ill-favoured Star-crossed and embarked on the story of Sarah and Richard, two support characters from Merely Players who have always deserved a story of their own.

There's something particularly enjoyable about working with characters you already know. I know their family backgrounds. I know how they behave when they're under stress. I know their back story inside out - because I wrote it in Merely Players. The danger in that is that because I know them so well, I don't put in the information a reader needs to get to know them.

I've taken a break from Regency London and moved my novel to Paris. Why? I fancied a change. I wanted them to be out of their comfort zone. I wanted sensible Richard to be in a place he could cut loose far from his responsibilities and famous Sal to be in a place she was a nobody. Plus I have a soft spot for Paris, engendered by an abiding affection for the infinite wonders of These Old Shades - one of my favourite Georgette Heyer books of all time.

I'm being guided around the Paris of the early 1800s by two fine gentlemen, Paul Hervé and M. Gaglignani who wrote the exceedingly useful The new picture of Paris from the latest observations which is available to read on google books right here. God, I love google books.

This weekend I wrote chapter one, 4,500 words. I'm calling the new novel Boundless as the Sea - another Shakespearian reference, to keep with the theme established in Merely Players.

I would like to think that following my experiences with Merely Players, I would have carefully plotted this book. I haven't. I've dived right in with nothing but the most rudimentary roadmap to show me where to go. And I'm loving it.

I know that I no longer have much time to write, but I hope that when I do find the time, it's always as satisfying as it has been today.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Input versus output

I recently increased my working hours to full time. Previously I was contracted to work three days a week, but was working full time hours (the curse of the part time worker) now I'm contracted to work full time and thus am working full time and then some.

Plus of course, being a mum, which is always full time.

The impact of this, inevitably, has been on my writing. From writing three or four hours a day crammed into every moment available, I've gone to writing.... nothing. My head is entirely occupied with weaving strategies, setting stuff up and writing proposals.

But fiction writing is important to me - isn't it? It's the thing I want to do - isn't it?

Well yes, it is.

But it's a question of capacity. Not of hours in the day. I can prop my eyelids up with matches if I need to. It's to do with creative capacity and mental energy. When I was spending more time in the home and working primarily on work I was familiar with, my creative output was underutilised. I had to put it somewhere.

Now I'm engaged with new work, which requires creativity, strong focus and lots of mental energy, my output is exhausted and all I can do is suck creativity in. It's a curious balance I've noticed in myself. If I'm working at a burn-out high level of productivity in the workplace, at home all I want to do is read fiction. Or paint. Or draw. Or bake. I can't write fiction anymore.

When workplace productivity is on a downward dip (mundane work, or work I know well), or when I'm at home being a mum, my head is simmering with words which need expression.

I don't think my writing is going to die. I haven't given up on it. It's composting. Pretty soon the pendulum will spring and my creative brain will burst out of hibernation and into blossom.

And hopefully, it will be better for having had the break.