When I have a Bad Writing Day – and let me tell you that I have them ALL OF THE TIME – I can go barmy very quickly. Barminess is not fertile ground for good writing. So I’m offering a series of tips from my own personal experience to help you with your Bad Writing Days. Take what you like and leave the rest…
Tip #5: GET SOMEONE ELSE TO WRITE THE DAMN THING.
Here is what my head says when I hit on problems with my novels:
Oh God oh God oh GOD, I’m doomed. My agent is on holiday. I couldn’t possibly send it to my editor because she’d then realise that I am not perfect. And I’ve never understand what the hell people are on about when they talk about having a ‘writing mentor’ so I ain’t got one of them either.
I AM TOTALLY AND UTTERLY FUCKED! ARRRRHHHHH! Nobody else understands this book like I do! It would take hours – nay, YEARS – to explain it to someone else! And who would I go to for help anyway? THERE IS NOBODY WHO CAN HELP ME, remember? I am alone! DOOM! DEATH!
But look! Is this a dagger I see before me? Fucking brilliant! I can end it all right now, Macbeth style! A Shakespearian suicide! Even though that’s not how Macbeth dies! I couldn’t give a shit! The end is nigh!
*One minute later: no stabbings yet.*
Hmmm. Maybe death is not the answer?
DON’T BE A DICK. IT’S THE ONLY POSSIBLE SOLUTION. BECAUSE YOU ARE ALONE. THERE IS NOBODY OUT THERE WHO CAN HELP YOU. YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON WHO UNDERSTANDS THIS NOVEL. ALL IS LOST.
ARHHHH! *Grabs dagger, howling and stuff*
Well then. Firstly, take a deep breath. Secondly, you’re talking absolute bollocks. Of course you can’t do it all on your own! And of course other people can help you! And – this is the best bit – you don’t need to get help from a Proper Writing Expert. They’re useful if you’ve got one to hand but all you really need is someone who likes stories. Which is almost everyone in the world.
Grab someone who you think might enjoy your book. Tell them the story and explain your problem. Ask them what they think.
… And bingo! That’s it! They might solve it on the spot, they might suggest something so awful that suddenly the right answer is blindingly clear to you but what they will always, always do, is offer an alternative narrative path to the one in your head.
I tried it with The Man recently. I took him out for a very tasty breakfast, explained my problem and he agreed that the route I was going down was basically a load of codswallop. He made some suggestions. Delighted, I re-wrote. It still wasn’t quite there, but my re-write led me to the final solution which worked perfectly.
And that was it. I felt like someone had taken a bloody BUFFALO off my shoulders. Who knew? All I had to do was get off my high horse and forget the stupid notion that I’m the only person who can understand my book.