George Lucas said about writing the original script for Star Wars: “When I sit down, I bleed on the page, and it’s just awful… It’s a terrible way to live. But I do it; I sit down and I do it. I can’t get out of my chair until five o’clock or five thirty… It’s the only way I can force myself to write.”
That’s as honest a description of the difficulty of writing as I’ve read. By his own admission, Lucas isn’t a natural writer – he’s a filmmaker – so he’s going to find it tough. But sometimes it feels the same for authors. Sometimes the words won’t come, you’re too tired, you’re not in the mood, the Muse just isn’t talking to you. When that happens, you just have to get on and do it anyway, just like Lucas forced himself to when penning his greatest work (I, for one, thank God he didn’t give up).
When I’m writing a novel, I set easy targets – around 1,500 words a day, with weekends off. Quite often, I’ll exceed that, sometimes even double it. But all too frequently I’ll fall short, occasionally squeezing out little more than a few paragraphs. At those times, that voice in the back of my head tells me I might as well give up; it tells me I’m not good enough as a writer, that I’m writing rubbish, that I’ll never finish the book on time and nobody’ll like it even if I do.
At times like that, I just keep reminding myself that I’ve been here a hundred times before, but that it has always worked out in the end. I write the scene, I finish the chapter, I complete the book before the deadline. That’s the benefit of experience, I suppose – when you’re halfway up the mountain, you can always look back and see the peaks you’ve already climbed.
Having recently returned from three weeks in the States (hence the absence of posts this month), I’ve been struggling to get back into ‘writing mode’. I’m getting there, slowly, but another benefit of experience is you can afford to go a bit easier on yourself. I used to feel rotten when I missed my target; now I just shrug my shoulders and tell myself I’ll get there. And I usually do.
I’m going to London to chat with my publisher next week. The second Heracles book, The Wrath of the Gods, is currently at the editing stage, so we’re going to chat through the editor’s suggested changes. We’ll also talk over other things, such as covers and marketing, and if all goes well the book could be on sale as early as October. I’m also going to check progress with the paperback for Son of Zeus. As mentioned before, there has been some positive movement here and it looks like all seven of my books will be made available in print. Good news!
Just as a taster, here’s a snippet of what my editor said about the first draft of The Wrath of the Gods:
“It is, as I’d hoped, another brilliant work that handles some difficult plot aspects with extreme skill. It’s got the polish and quality that comes across in all of your books and, as in the past but perhaps even more so than ever, it’s an imaginative explosion; it realises the fantastical in just a consummate way. It drives the reader forward even as they know what is likely to happen. Heracles is an extraordinary character, one whom we have a real affinity for, even as, with every challenge, that touch of the divine in him seems to become more evident. The (labours) have something special about them – that takes great skill and invention as a writer.”