Friday, January 07, 2011

When a Story Just Won’t Gel

I’m sure it’s happened to everyone at some point – you have a great idea for a story or a novel, and you start work on it. The initial idea is great, you can see how it might pan out, you make notes, develop characters … then for whatever reason, it starts to die on you.

Sometimes it’s because you leave it for too long and the passion fades, or you forget what made you think it was so good, so original, so full of potential. Sometimes it’s because it stops working on the page. You write and write, and it all feels like rubbish, or a waste of time. Or the vision you had for the story has turned into cottonwool or mud.

You leave it for a while, and a while longer, and it becomes harder and harder to get back to. You procrastinate, tell yourself you’re giving it room to breathe, and if you just leave it a bit more, it’ll bloom without you realising. You’ll come back to the beautiful plant you always knew it could be. You hope.

Sometimes you avoid it, revisit it, try to prop it up or inject it with a new idea, and nothing works. What do you do then? Abandon it? Yes, that always has to be an option. Sad but true. Maybe you just left it for too long, or maybe you beat it to death with too many meaningless words and boring characters.

But sometimes, when you least expect it, the original magic returns. You pick up the notes and the draft (what you have of it) one day and sit down with a coffee and suddenly, there it is again! This is what has happened to me over the past two weeks or so. A novel I have been working at for eighteen months, one that I thought had died on me, despite various attempts to re-energise it … I’ve found it again. Whatever “it” is. The characters are talking again, the plot has launched itself into more enticing waters, and I feel excited about it all over again.

Thank goodness! I really didn’t want to let this one go, but I couldn’t see what it needed. I’m still not sure why it came to life again, but I strongly suspect it’s because I’m not teaching and I finally have some truly creative headspace back. Now to make the most of it.

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