In the first week of July, I began writing a “fast-draft” of Skeletal.
I had the first 30-odd scenes plotted, gave myself 15 weeks to do a full draft which gives me enough time to have days off, research twists as I go and re-plot when needed, and still end with a completed story.
I only wrote 700 words on that first day, due to feeling ill.
When I came back for day 2 of writing, I realised why it had been so difficult. My beginning did nothing for me: I didn’t like it. There was no spark of life in the character or landscape. No humanity nor intrigue. No hook to catch my own eye.
I began to doubt myself. I re-wrote that scene; adding in a little conflict, and some more character quirks. And still, my character was as flat as the laptop screen.
It took a week or so to analyse where the block is. If I’m blocked; it’s usually a sign that somewhere, the story doesn’t work, or that I don’t care enough about the character.
This time, it seems I had the opposite problem.
In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion in the Western world. Political shifts, innocents killed, coups and mental health stigma. It turns out, my novel hit a chord within this particular month.
Writing about a character struggling with mental health, hiding from the political changes within her world, where danger lurks above ground and the inciting incident feels a little too real considering the past month’s events — I couldn’t connect with the story without reliving the hurts of the real world. Even the first scene, where there is only a small hint of conflict, brought my attention close to the truth of what is already happening in my world.
So I let myself take a break. I returned to the plot; making progress on the storyline and figuring out how much of these feelings I wanted to include. I then returned to reading and adjusted my word-count goals.
And when I had the full weekend to work on it, I re-read my query letter, which contains the most interesting aspects of the story, and I began a different scene, focusing on introducing what I love about my characters. I let myself be open to what came; telling myself I just needed to get to know the character again; and thus no pressure to ‘write the perfect scene, following my outline.’ As long as I am writing, it will all support me to tell the story.
Three thousand words later, I was in the story’s world, and my character has made her first major choice. I had separated enough of this world and these people from my world, and I could return to my outline and let the drafting commence.
Yet even then, more of the news circulated, I became tired and I just kind of… lost momentum. So here I am, back at my outline, looking for that spark to re-ignite. But I know it’s there, and with a little gentle coaxing, that ember will be once again a flame.