This is probably no shocker to you writers out there. I think anyone who writes feels this way. It could even be applied to blogging as well:
I believe the toughest time writing for me has always been the start of a new novel – when the ideas for what is to be written are still entirely inside my head. That is also where being the writer must kick in. Everyone has imagination – even me, despite my mother once joking with me when I was a child that I had “no imagination” – and uncountable ideas, but it is in the transference of what is in your head onto the pages that creates the book.
It is impossible to “imagine” 300-600 pages in all its detail from start to finish. Over the weeks and the months that follow you will certainly “lose” some of your original ideas as the actual writing progresses; yet the upside is once you are writing new ideas pop to mind as well. As you gradually write ideas down and they evolve and/or are discarded and/or new ones appear, what you may have imagined at the outset that the book would be will lead that book by the time you are finished with it probably to be something at least somewhat different than the book you had originally thought it would be when you had first started typing.
I have discovered also that even when you are “on holiday” naturally you cannot just switch off your mind or your imagination. Even if I tell myself I’m not going to write anything for a week or two, I always find myself scrambling to write down ideas that pop into my head. When you are an author, you never really get a vacation.
Unexpectedly last week in France I did get lots of new writing done. At the kitchen table in our La Clusaz rental where I had repeatedly set up (when I could) my Microsoft Surface, I paused at one point late one afternoon and reviewed what I had just written. I realized I had mostly NOT pre-planned what now appeared before me.
Frankly, I could not believe what had ended up on that screen. I recall once sitting next to him over two decades ago in his Newport, Rhode Island study and having “a snoop” at what he was doing, and my uncle telling me that as he began a writing day when he first put his hands to his keyboard he would ask himself, “Okay, friends, so what are we going to do today?” That has now proudly become my daily mantra (really, any writer might use it) as well.
And after you have gotten to the end of that day, you may realize that day has not been an exactly great one for them:
There are pages and pages of more of that which unsurprisingly I won’t show you here this morning; you’ll see it all eventually in the released novel. (“Robert” in the novels is not really meant to be me; but unavoidably I know he has lots of me in him. Like him, I may offer barbed comments and resort to sarcasm. I tend not to suffer fools gladly either… and I “explode” too.) Perhaps I had indeed been “inspired” again by being in that Alpine region? Although it goes unmentioned above, La Clusaz itself – as the tiny mountain village it was in “1799-1800” – suddenly became a story location too.
As I was typing, it had all taken on a life of its own. I returned home here to England on Saturday afternoon feeling pretty good – a rarity when you write. I sensed I had crossed an important line: I’m at the point that the new manuscript is I believe taking on at last its independent identity in my mind separate from its predecessor, Conventions: The Garden At Paris.
Over a year and a half since I put its first words on a blank screen, Tomorrow is feeling increasing “today”: daily it is more complete. I had laughed to myself while sitting at that La Clusaz table as well that whenever it is finally finished, you may again think as you read some of it – as with parts of Conventions – that I have lost my creative mind. However, if that is the case I hope I did so once more at least in entertaining, exciting, readable, and perhaps even thoughtful ways:
I have learned as well that I like to push the envelope a little more with each new book and try new things on the pages. And that makes sense. For what’s the alternative? Standing still and writing “the same” book again and again?
This one will certainly be “different” in various ways from those before it. I’m hoping it will be the best book yet. But of course every writer also always says that, I know… and, yes, I admit I have written that here about all of my previous books since my very first one. 😉
Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂