“Oh my god, I’ve forgotten how to write!!!” If you’ve heard that at some point this week then you’ve likely been around my house. I started writing Wildfire (note the naming convention I’ve started) this week and, as you can probably tell, the second book in my series isn’t going very well.
As the first book took so long to write and went through such a major rewrite, I decided it would be an idea if I really knew what I was getting into this time around. I spent a good two months outlining the book, getting all the major events in place and then setting them into the chapter structure I wanted. Then I went through and took a look at all the characters who would be more than a side character for the mains to play off, and spent building character sheets for them so that I knew how they talked and had a basic description in place (while rewriting Wildwood I found my main character had two different eye colours mentioned and her fathers hair changed colour as well). Then I set up a file for each location and started making notes about things that could be heard, smelled and felt in those places, so that I could scatter details into scenes and make them feel more realistic. With a plan that detailed, how could I go wrong?
The answer is quite easily. You see, for the two months that I’d been outlining I hadn’t really been writing at all. I’d tried to keep myself in practice with a weekly storyline on a forum I visit, but felt confined by the format into having to tell a simpler story than I’d originally wanted to. Before that the only writing I’d been doing for a couple of months was editing Wildwood, so I’d been pretty much out of practice for three or four months when I started Wildfire.
The first chapter went well enough. It was part of the thirty thousand odd words I’d cut from Wildwood during my major rewrite of that (it was actually a part of the taster I gave away early on in this project), and I only had to edit it down and then rewrite it a bit. At the end of that I had something that was as good as anything in that first book, and it bloody should have been considering the amount of rewrites I’d done on it. Then came the second chapter and I noticed something had changed in my style of writing. When I’d started this set of novels I’d been very heavily writing description because I wasn’t confident in my ability to write dialogue. That’s changed since then, and I’ll happily drop both dialogue and internal monologue into a chapter. As a result the chapter felt rather dialogue heavy and description light. It could have been set anywhere at all and the conversations wouldn’t have changed. Sure that I could fix it in the edits, I moved on to the third chapter and was horrified when it came out the same way.
That’s when I screamed out my lament at having forgotten how to write. Had I an old fashioned fainting couch (and one day I will have one) to hand I would no doubt have fallen upon it in a dramatic swoon, placing the back of my hand upon my forehead and waiting for the morphine this overly dramatic version of myself would be taking to have an effect.
Of course, I hadn’t forgotten how to write. Chapter four proved that by being both totally new and one of the best things I’ve written so far. No, my skills had evolved to the point that I was using them in a different order and the process I was employing was so different to what I’d done originally that it was no wonder this book would flow a bit differently. I look on those not so good chapters and I can see how easily they can be fixed with a little more detail – a far cry from the total rewrite my first attempt required. I had somehow gotten it into my head that this change in process to make things easier was a way of cheating myself out of having to do the hard work. I thought that by doing things this way I might not be able to do what I’d already done and write a book.
Wildfire is underway then and I just hit ten thousand words. I’m forcing myself not to think about the editing process and what it can add just yet, and to instead have confidence in my own skills as I go. “Trust in ze process!” has become my new mantra, although I do tend to sound like a comedy nazi when intoning it. Wildwood started out much worse than anything I’ve done in this book so far and I fixed that up beyond the level I thought I’d ever be able to produce, after all. That was without all the preparation I’ve done for this entry in the series.
On the subject of Wildwood, that is going through external proofreading at the moment. I got Kim to go through that book while I was outlining Wildfire and she helped identify problems such as solutions being too easily arrived at or confusing dialogue, which I fixed as she went through. Her grandmother was interested in the book so I let her try a copy, but she didn’t get very far, I’m afraid. It was just too confusing for her and she was mixing up the characters early on. It’s a shame as I wanted it to be something that was suitable for her to read even if she wasn’t the main audience for it. As for that main audience, I’ve just got the book into the hands of someone who actually fits that description. She’s reading it on her phone and recently mailed to let me know she’s enjoying it so far.
So no, I haven’t forgotten how to write (this is true no matter what you think, future version of myself who is about to edit Wildfire). I’ve just experienced my first real bout of nerves about this process; something that so many writers apparently go through when starting a new project, according to my research. It actually feels nice to have experienced something like that and come out the other side of it – like it somehow legitimises me as a writer in ways that writing a book hasn’t done.
Yes, I know I’m weird, but I also know I can write.