I’ve started writing again. This may not seem like news of the particularly momentous kind, especially in a month when I’ve launched a brand new novel and written approximately eleventy billion words on this here blog, but trust me, it is. At the end of November I crossed the magical fifty thousand word mark on a project currently known as ‘Europa’, and promptly collapsed, my writing legs having buckled with all the grace of a drunk reaching a Wetherspoon pub just before last orders. Since then, words have completely abandoned me. This wasn’t writer’s block, this was a proper, full blown writing meltdown.
Part of it was the project I was working on. Europa is my second attempt to write a story that’s been kicking around my head for the best part of a decade. While I’d reached the 50k mark in my allotted time, it was clear to me that all my meticulous planning and research had not proved a silver bullet to the problems that had plagued me on my previous attempt. Even for a first draft, it just felt like there were too many things that were broken with it to fix. I abandoned my plans to finish the first draft by Xmas, and set it aside.
In the meantime, I had Sleepwalk City to concentrate on. I had the final edit back, and I knew I felt pretty good about that one, so I threw myself into getting it ready for you, my adoring public. As to what I’d do next, I had no idea. After my first year of being an indie publisher, I felt pretty burned out, and didn’t really want to think about writing any more. There were a couple of other things that happened that played into that, too, the usual kinds of neuroses that every writer will know about.
At one point I had half made the decision to walk away from writing altogether. I figured that with the full Blood on the Motorway trilogy written, I’d focus on getting them finished and on sale, and then just kind of leave it there. I’m very proud of those books, and of what they say. I love those characters, but I don’t think there’ll be any need to return to their world once readers have finished the third book, so I figured that it might just be best to leave it there, and move on.
Anyone who makes any kind of art as a side gig will identify with the feeling that there’s just not enough of you to go around. I have a full time job that's pretty hard to do, two amazing kids that I have to, you know, actually parent, and a Netflix queue that’s basically just everything on Netflix by this point. Trying to do something as time consuming as writing novels on top of that is positively exhausting at times, doubly so if you then go down the route of indie publishing, where there ain’t nobody gonna go out there and do the marketing, the production, and the financing but yourself.
But, it turns out it’s not that easy to walk away. Especially when there’s a story in there, burrowing away in your head. Yesterday I pulled open Scrivener again, and looked over the tripe I’d written. Except, it’s not tripe. It’s a long way from good, and there’s some pretty serious structural problems with it, but it’s not the worst thing that’s ever been written. And besides, I think I know the problem. A bit of distance has helped me see things a bit more clearly.
This is one tale in a much larger canvas, all of which only sort of fits into my brain at the moment. I've been writing only one narrative thread, and a single thread does not a tapestry make. There’s other parts to the story, somewhere out there in the ether. But I need to know what they are in order for this story to work.
Looking at it with a few week’s distance, I see now that I’m looking at the whole thing wrong. I’ve been working to a schedule, one eye permanently on a release schedule that I drew up before I’d even launched a single book. All the indie author advice says you need to crank out your releases on a regular schedule, because that’s how you get your readership to grow at a sustainable level. Except, what if that’s the worst thing for your story? What’s more important, getting a good book, or getting readers? Do you really want to get readers if all you are doing is shovelling shit at them? Am I just going to keep asking rhetorical questions?
What I need is to not worry about release schedules, and worry instead about the story I want to tell. I’ll still have A Final Storm to release this year, and maybe another music book, but the story I’m writing now might take me a few years to sort out. It might well be that I have to write a full trilogy before it’s ready. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. If it means I don’t release anything for a few years, well hell, it might give me time to make my money back on the Blood… trilogy.
First off, however, I need to write the damn thing. So, last night, I hesitantly returned to that first draft, with an aim to get 1000 new words down on digital paper. At first it felt like pulling teeth, but it soon evened out to something more akin to pulling nose hairs. All told, it was pretty painful, but I reached my target. I’ve already started to remember what it was about this story that I liked. It’s going to need to be entwined into a larger story, but at least I’ve now given myself permission to follow that path, wherever it might take me.
Blood on the Motorway – An apocalyptic tale of murder and stale sandwiches, is available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and more besides. The sequel, Sleepwalk City, is available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and many more.
Welcome to Discovery Park – the chronicle of my increasingly frustrated attempt to listen to every album on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of all-time list, is available now on Amazon Uk, Amazon.com, iBooks, Kobo, and many more.