Saturday, 1 November 2008

Trapped in Chapter Nine

Everything had seemed to be flowing along quite happily with my current novel when, three weeks ago, I started writing Chapter Nine.

At the beginning, I thought that it was still going well; I knew what needed to happen and how my characters might react. It was almost there – it just wasn’t quite right . . .

As the days wore (slowly) on, I began to spend more time rearranging and deleting than writing anything new. By the second week, I wasn’t simply questioning my characters and each of their stories, and the novel as a whole - I was wondering how I ever imagined that I could write in the first place. I could hardly read my own shopping lists and even my strongest coffee didn’t help.

Everything around me had solidified into a kind of muddy sludge.

This insecurity was accompanied by a sense of deja vu, as I realised that I’d become swamped at exactly the same first-draft chapter-nine point with both my previous novels. Unfortunately this knowledge didn’t help.

But I kept writing. And deleting. And rewriting. And somehow (I don’t really know how) emerged, gasping, on the other side.

Now half term has happened and I’ve spent the past few days dealing with play dough and missing gloves and pumpkin mush and hardly writing anything at all. I still can’t read my shopping lists - but I can’t wait to return to my novel.

Perhaps I need my chapter nines. They force me to step back and take a fresh look at my current story, and at my writing and motivation more generally. Or perhaps I need them simply to remind myself that I still love it.

Or perhaps I’m just insane.


watching9987 said...

I'm glad you too have this problem - I often reach points where I simply want to rip the computer plug from the wall and use it to beat my note books to death.
It's comforting that proper writers go through this - and i think you're right, a step back is often a good thing.

Megan said...

So are you saying we're not insane then - hurray!
I can't speak for the proper writers though . . .

Eli Regan said...

I can't even begin to imagine writing one novel, never mind two, never mind thinking about a third, so I'll just say that even though these might not seem like words of encouragment, they were meant to be.

I'm nervous about our portfolio due in 2 yrs : 1250 lines of poetry, aaaaarggghhh !!!

Megan said...

Oh, Eli, that is very kind, and hugely positive of you.
Don't worry about that deadline - I have no doubt your poetry will flow (and sparkle)
m x

Anonymous said...

Hi Megan

It maybe isn't so nice that, I too, am glad you're having chapter 9 problems. And it probably doesn't help much to hear that.

I hadn't touched my novel for ages. Left it round about that chapter 9 stage and found many other things to write about instead. But now I'm getting right back into it (and not just because I have to).

I'm steaming ahead now and although i do have 'chapter 9' moments I think i've broke the back of it and can see the light.

good to hear your keen to get going again, just hope the cupboards aren't too bare after all those unread shopping lists.

all the best


Megan said...

Hello Jim!!
Good to catch up. I'm very pleased you're full steam ahead now - cannot wait to read your finished, published novel.
So many people have told me they've felt stumped around this point too though - I think it might be because it's a bit of a now/never moment, either you're committed from thereon in or you're ready to abandon it altogether (though this might just be me)
m xx

Jon M said...

I think it's quite a common feeling. I always reach a 'middly' or just before 'middly' point and I want to stop. A bit like running a long way too, there's a point you want to stop. You did the right thing carrying on. David Almond gives some tips on his website for s-t-r-e-t-c-h-ing out your writing when you hit a slow patch.

Megan said...

Thank you Jon - I checked out David Almond's website (I loved Skellig) and you're right, some excellent practical tips.

Jon M said...

Skellig is ace.

DJ Kirkby said...

I am so glad to read I am not alone in this...I am stuck at the moment, have no idea what my people in 'The Plump WAG's Club' should be doing next :( and becuase I am worrying about that I am not writing in my other novel either :( :(

Jon M said...

I've just 'paused' at chapter 10 and have been dragged off to do something completely different instead which kind of help cos then I go back with new eyes..not literally of course.

Megan said...

Oh, DJ, my sympathies - but don't worry, keep your head down, keep going and those characters will stop being unco-operative and drag you through . . . and 2 novels on the go - wow, I have no idea how you manage that?!?

Jon - I reckon you're probably right. A break (though not too long, I reckon) and new eyeballs (-; sounds helpful (I think)

Very best to you both!