I’m taking a blog break to do another Project October. In place of my normal blog posts during July, I will be posting in nine parts a writing journal I completed as the major assessment piece of my final master’s subject called The Writerly Self.
This is Part 8.
1 May 2007
Well, I went back to working on my novel. I wrote nearly three thousand words before I realised I didn’t like any of them. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘What is the point of this scene?’ And I knew the answer. It just wasn’t being achieved. It’s not working. So I’m going to throw out the three thousand words I’ve written and start the scene over again.
My approach has always been to find some useless but interesting fact and open with that. When a character needed to go to the Pentagon, I researched the Pentagon and discovered they had over 67 acres of car parking with 8,770 car spaces. So the opening line became, ‘There were sixty-seven acres of parking at the Pentagon capable of housing 8,770 cars, but it wasn’t until Xavier was detained by the parking lot security guards that it occurred to him that he might not be welcome in any of them.’
My useless facts are so wide and varied. I open the novel with Alexander Pope trivia, move onto the requirements for having your own file at the FBI, hover for a moment around a poster on the wall of one character’s office that reads, ‘Sleep is for wimps! Wake me gently’, then arrive at the Pentagon parking lot.
But I can’t think of any useless facts relevant to the scene I’m working on. It usually just takes some thinking but I was so ready to go back to the writing, I thought maybe I could just fake it. Guess not. Another lesson learned. There are no shortcuts when it comes to writing. Well, I guess there are shortcuts but they just don’t work very well.
Maybe that’s the difference between good writers and bad writers (or good writing and bad writing, because I’m pretty sure Oscar Wilde said there are no bad writers, only bad writing). There are shortcuts but the use of them is pretty obvious in bad writing and non-existent in good writing.
2 May 2007
Okay, so writer’s block is over. I went back over the scene that wasn’t working and realised that the character from whose perspective it was being written was venturing into a place he had been offered a job at many times previously looking like he’d just come out of the boxing ring. That was my opening hook and after I got that out of the way it all just seemed to flow. Yay!
I’ve now written 86,000 words and I’m approaching the climax. I think I will definitely finish the book this month and it’s another of those exciting but scary moments. Yeah, I will have written a book but what the hell do I do with it? Try to get an agent? Try to get it published? How? Where is the class that teaches you how to do that?
This is the problem with being a writer. I try to write this without ego, but I’m a great writer, not a great salesperson. If I’d been a great salesperson, I probably would have headed in a different direction (and I’d probably be a lot wealthier than I am now). But it’s a necessary quality in order to be a successful writer. I know because I’ve seen less talented writers get publishing contracts simply because they know how to sell themselves and have no qualms about using each and every contact they have, no matter how minute.
I think I’m going to have to swallow my ideals and impose on everyone I know who knows agents and publishers. It will be hard because I hate asking for things. I just prefer to go out and get them for myself. But I suppose it would be harder to never be published after all the years of hard work I have put into becoming a writer. Gulp! That’s me swallowing my pride.