Friday, 27 January 2012

First aaaarrrggghhh of 2012

So, this is the way it goes.  I start a book, brimming with confidence.  I have written 50+ books before, and therefore I know what needs to be done, right? I only need six weeks.

I rattle off a rough draft,  not worrying that it’s rubbish, because that’s all part of the process.  Then – vital stage – I write myself out a timetable, and I’m kind to myself. A bit too kind, perhaps.  The very first day, I only told myself to write a single page (and it was a struggle, too!).  Now I’m ahead of schedule.

But what’s the point of being ahead of schedule when the story isn’t working, the characters are leaden and every word is an effort?  I’m going to have to go back to the beginning and start all over again.  Am not sure if it’s a good sign or a bad sign that I am still on Chapter 2, and usually make myself labour on until Chapter 7 before hitting crisis point. 

Anyway, this too is part of the process, so why am I panicking?  I’m not panicking (much).  I just so hate this part when the characters refuse to come to life and I can’t imagine ever getting any momentum going.  I know it will happen (please God, let it happen soon!) but until that wonderful click when it all falls into place, I’m just plodding away and feeling desperate, which is not quite the same as panicking, but nearly as bad.

Part of the problem may be the nagging feeling I have that Frith wants to write her own story.  I’m resisting this because (a) readers traditionally don’t like romances written in the first person, and (b) I’m the author, which means I ought to be in charge.  How many books has Frith written, after all?  Once we let these characters off the leash, who knows where it will all end?    It’s all reminding me uneasily of my on-going battle of wills with Douglas, a very pretty but very stubborn tabby, who is refusing to use the new cat flap I had installed at great expense.  Clearly, it’s time for me to wrest control back and for cats and characters to learn their place.

And control is badly needed, as I have agreed a deadline at last with my editor and there can be no more messing around.  (Are you listening, Frith?)  My Chief Plotting Advisor is coming to stay this weekend, and she’ll have no truck with recalcitrant characters.  I’m banking on Frith, Douglas and I all being smacked into shape by Monday, at which point I can get back to normal procedure, i.e. writing the entire book in a rush of adrenaline just before the deadline.   

Ironically, this blog has been nominated for a top writing blog award – see button top right of the page and feel free to vote! – allegedly because of useful advice about writing.  So if anyone’s reading this in the hope of picking up tips, here’s my absolute top one: do as I say, not as I do.  


  1. But I really liked your last first person romance so if that's what the characters are telling you... Hope you smash through the block over the weekend. Good luck!

  2. I loved Oh-So-Sensible Secretary too, but category romance readers are notoriously resistant to first person narratives. It also makes for more writing somehow, as you can't spend any time on the hero's pov ... we'll have to see if Frith is as stubborn as Douglas!

  3. Hope it all slots into place soon and your characters start behaving themselves - well, not too well behaved, just enough to let the words flow and the story work... Best of luck.

  4. Aaaaaagh indeed. But may I be incredibly selfish and say how heartening it is to hear that your words don't just fall onto the page in delicious order? That you struggle with a crappy first draft and unresponsive characters the same as us mere mortals? Seriously, thanks for sharing. This kind of honesty is just as helpful as all the craft blogs out there. Hope it all falls into place on Monday :-)

  5. Glad someone's happy, Louise (she said glumly) ... Actually, I'm mostly cross with myself for not just accepting that this is the way it is instead of getting in a state. I do this in every other context, too. Aren't we supposed to learn from experience?? But then, if I met every deadline and negotiated every relationship without crises and agonising along the way, every one would hate me, wouldn't they? I'd hate myself, that's for sure!

    Enjoy your weekends, everybody!

  6. It's so re-assuring to know that even well-established writers sometimes struggle to get things going.
    I enjoy reading first pov person and loved your 'Oh So Sensible Secretary'(probably my favourite M&B so far)and I enjoy writing in first person, too.
    Good luck with Frith!

  7. Hi, I voted for you on the Your books look good.

  8. I know this may not be much comfort, but it does help me to know that someone who has written as many great books as you still has problems trying to make your characters come alive. Maybe there's hope for me yet! I certainly feel inspired to keep on going with my own leaden characters :)

  9. I hope your Chief Plotting Advisor got Frith to toe the line!!