|Sharing a joke with Eileen Ramsay.|
I wasn't sure that the two events were linked, but on reflection, I realised that feeling good about what you're doing – and knowing that readers are enjoying your book – are a great stimulus.
All year I have been struggling with my work-in-progress. The block stemmed in part from taking time out to publish two novels independently, a process that proved a major distractor (interesting though it was). Another part of it was that I felt I was writing into a vacuum. I was getting reviews, most of them favourable, but I didn't feel as if I was getting validation. On top of that, my writing felt clogged up. I over complicated the plot lines for my new book.
We need to keep readers turning the page, but I'd allowed plot to outweigh character, so much so that I stopped being able to hear my characters talking to me. When I finally realised this, I printed out what I'd written so far and rewrote the first chapter to get the two main characters together more quickly. That felt as though it was starting to move the book in the right direction. Then I turned my attention to the hero and heroine and sorted out their drivers and motivations. I ruthlessly stripped away superfluous characters and plot lines and lost about 8000 words – and, finally, I began to see where the novel should be going. More importantly, I took time to get better acquainted with my characters. Instead of trying to fire ahead with the plot, I slowed down and got inside their heads more. There's a tricky balance to be found here, but I have come to realise that slowing my writing down to let the characters speak more for themselves doesn't necessarily mean slowing the book down too, because if the reader is truly engaged with the character, he or she wants to know what's going to happen to them.
I've cleared my head, got rid of the excess fat and focused on the muscle of the book – and I am rediscovering why I like to write. I'm getting that sense of fulfilment and excitement that only really comes when everything is working well.
Stepping back from the book, being objective and focusing on what's core have all helped. But most of all, I think I'm beginning to enjoy writing because I know that readers are now beginning to enjoy my books.
How do others get around the dreaded writers' block?