So why can't I write?


Sitting all alone in the garden, enjoying the warmth of the hazy sunshine, I let my mind wander freely. As usual my thoughts turn to writing which I have to admit is probably one of my favourite things to do. So why is it that I can instantly come up with a hundred reasons why I can’t do it?


I’m not afraid of showing my work to people. I believe that most people will enjoy my writing but I’m also realistic enough to know that there will be people who will criticise it and may even say horrible things. Everyone is entitled to their opinion although I would obviously prefer it if they weren’t horrible to me. Bid red bloodshot eyes isn’t a look that really works for me.


Writing is what I do. Even more, it’s what I have to do. So why aren’t I spending every free minute of my day (and if I’m honest there are plenty of them) writing?


Because writing is hard. I don’t mean the actual art of picking up a pen and writing in a book or even switching on the computer, opening a document and starting to type. I’m talking about the part that requires real brain power.


Let’s take my current Work-in-Progress. It’s a story about the adventures (and mishaps) of four people who work in an art gallery. It’s based on fact and many hours of talking to a couple of art consultants who worked in an art gallery and were definitely my inspiration for the story. I actually showed them an early version of the book and they both loved it – probably almost as much as I loved their praise. In fact, one of them wanted to be my publicity manager to promote it but that’s another story… 


Anyway, so far so good. I was actually writing although I have to admit that there wasn’t much brain power involved at this point. I would just sit down and write about whatever amusing incident came to mind. That was about six years ago and I have enough plot, stories and amusing incidents for at least three books. So where can I this amazing book? I hear you cry. Currently it’s undergoing its 17 re-write of 2019… And this is the point where things suddenly get difficult. So difficult that I considered abandoning the whole thing and continuing the book about the ghosts and the film crew.


I couldn’t abandon it because I have written over 60,000 that is almost a complete book. Also friends I have shown parts to sometime ask me about it… But there was a bigger problem. I knew the book wasn’t working but had no idea why. There were some parts that were laugh aloud funny, some that were terrible, some parts I loved, some parts needed to be removed immediately and – more importantly – some parts had still to be written. In other words the plot of my book was a mess, a big tangled up knot of a mess.


For the briefest moment I considered giving away all my notebooks (and yes, they do number in three figures) but that spark in me that is a writer refuses to give up. So what could I do? I needed to devote some serious brain power to this.


Finally after many hours of thinking spread over a few weeks - and accompanied by a couple of headaches, I had an answer. I’m definitely a pantser when it comes to writing which means I just sit down and write whatever is in my head. I don’t have a plot and if I’m really lucky I might have a vague idea of how my book will end.  This, I realised, was my problem.


I have some amazing sections of writing which I think are great but there is no plot that weaves everything together. I needed a plan but to get a plan, I needed to dissect my book piece by piece and be willing to sacrifice those sections that didn’t make the grade.


I actually considered scrapping everything and rewriting the whole thing from a blank page but that was just plain daft. There was actually several thousand words that were perfectly good and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to write them that good second time around. Equally why would I want to? There was nothing wrong with them.


I was now doing more thinking about writing than I had done for a very long time. How could I create a plot but still keep all the good parts? I remembered seeing a sample of how J K Rowling plotted her Harry Potter books somewhere on line… That could be a good place to start.

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Eventually I tracked it down and more thinking followed as I tried to adapt it to suit my needs and also to design it so that I could use it on the computer. I could actually see a lot of cutting and pasting in my near future. Using the opening of the book, I summarise the first part of the action broken down into small steps. Finally I had a template that could work.


I changed the name of the book and set about breaking it down into sections making notes as I went of sections that I needed to add or re-write. This is perhaps one of the hardest writing tasks that I have ever set my mind to.  By the time I had finished I had broken my masterpiece down into 150 sections, had a full page of character names and places and also brief plot outlines for all three of the books. I also had another headache.


Unfortunately, I had completely emptied my writing well. It was a good feeling knowing that I had the complete plot of the first book although I also knew that I would continue making minor changes. Writing wise, I was completely exhausted so the plot when into the desk drawer while I waited for my writing well to refill.


The book and the plot stayed in the dark drawer for quite some time as a couple of other things happened in my life that took centre stage. However, the time to take the plot out did finally come around and it still looked good.


The problem that I had was how to pull all the sections of the book, rewrite the new sections and still make everything flow. There were some major changes with minor characters getting an upgrade and a whole new section about a serial killer. I could see at least one headache and a couple of buckets of tears on the horizon.


I would be lying if I said that this wasn’t incredibly hard. Sometimes I could get into it and everything would be going great – until I had to stop. With 155 sections to be written/inserted and the whole thing joined up, there was no way that this was going to be completed in one sitting. How could I find a good stopping point, one where I would be able to come back to it and instantly be back into the mind set with the mental list of things that need to be done? I discovered that this wasn’t possible and there were so many times when I just thought about abandoning the whole thing and getting on with the ghost story which wasn’t anywhere as far along. 


In the end I just made notes on my Plot Outline and kept going for as long as I could. I also discovered that if I tried to do too much in one sitting, I developed a headache and quickly became so tired that I couldn’t think straight. It was time to walk away and do something that didn’t require quite so much brain power.


 A few days later, I was back at it and working towards a good stopping point when I found that I had inserted a section in the wrong place. I had over 20,000 words and 57 pages so I had to making progress. I had checked and edited all those pages so everything was in the right order and the story flowed. I had two choices: I could either move the section in the story or I could move the section in the plot outline. One would mean more writing but which worked best for the story. I had come this far, I couldn’t cop out now.


In the end it didn’t matter that that particular section had moved forward a few pages so I was able to move it on the plot outline. But boy, this was so much more hard work that anything I had done before. Next time, I was going to do the plotting before the writing. Just think how easy that would be. Write a section, check the outline and write the next section until the book is finished. Wow. I have no idea if this will work (but I will let you know when I get to try it) as I’m still working on The Art of Murder.