Sunday, 12 January 2014

Self doubt

I am currently working on the first draft of my next novel. I say “working” because that is very much how it feels: the words just aren’t flowing. Nor are the ideas. Nor is my confidence.

The new book is very different to my previous ones. My first four novels were all set in the same world, and three were narrated by the same character – someone I knew so intimately that I could just slip into her mind and voice without thinking about it. This book is set in the real world – in Prague in 2010 – 2013 in fact. There are two very different POVs in it – one a male detective, the other a young British woman – and both are totally unlike yours sincerely.

In November I took part in NaNoWriMo and hit the 50,000 word target for this book, but then I lost momentum. One reason was that I needed to do some research. This was achieved with a stay in Prague and questioning various Czech friends. But still the log jam did not shift. I came back to the UK to Christmas, an elderly father in hospital with a broken pelvis and the rest of the family collapsing with various bugs, so no work was done for several weeks.

Now I no longer have any excuse, apart from the usual ones of work and family pressures. But still I can’t settle down and start writing again. This is more than the usual problem of starting the engine post-Christmas. I just can’t work out what is stopping me. I have at least booked my flights for four weeks in my Czech writing refuge. But my plan was to spend the month rewriting, not writing from scratch.

I have a number of methods of overcoming writer’s block:
  • going for a walk often works, but with floods and torrential rain that isn’t really an option,
  • boarding myself up in my Czech cottage (see above),
  • writing first thing in the morning, indeed working on the story even before I get up (a friend of mine swears by it),
  • forcing myself to sit down and write, which so far has been unproductive,
  • writing something else (such as this!).
I fear it all comes down to self-doubt. I am worried I have not the skill to finish what I have started. There is always in my experience a point in writing my books (usually at 30,000 words) where I have a dark night of the soul, where I doubt my ability to finish. I wonder whether this 50,000 crisis is worse, because the NaNoWriMo target made me press on through the 30,000 word barrier, when I should perhaps have taken a break to reflect on where I was going. I don’t know.

Will I come through this? Watch this space

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