For someone labelled a chatterbox from the moment I could say “Mum, mum, mum,” I’ve been oddly quiet lately. Well, here’s the thing. I’m pregnant again!
No, not physically (ha!) I mean, creatively. I am experiencing what I call pen-swell. I have a new draft on the go and can’t stop writing. My pen and laptop runneth over. My pen swells…
I’ve read enough of writers discussing writing over the years to know that this is completely normal, that my raison d’etre is to exist in a mostly fertile state. To be firing off ideas for all kinds of projects – and to be noting them down. But I’ve had an almost fallow period on that score, lately.
I came to realise that, after delivering the NaNoWriMo crappy first draft, 70,000 words of a thriller and been helped to produce, beat-sheet and edit it with Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris (who I called “the Creative Midwife”), er, that I had actually delivered a stillborn. Or, if not stillborn, then a draft that I’m not strong enough to yet face thoroughly editing. It would have to remain in intensive care.
Author-led, not truly character-led, I was thrilled with the plot and subplots, the suspense, the humour, the setting. But it was more or less a vendetta against anyone who’d ever had the nerve to wrong me and, boy, I was going to give them justice! The people were disguised but I knew who they represented. Awkward.
That makes it difficult to edit because many edits would mean I then had to re-live again and again the pain of what those people had put me through. And, like many humans, I’m not all that strong and I’m not all that mean. I could deal with childbirth better.What I have learned is that I am not alone in producing a stillborn draft. In fact, that happened to another of my novel drafts years back. I could confirm, though, the sense of postpartum depression I went through from December to March was not peculiar to me. C.S. Lakin describes it very well on her website Live Write Thrive in the post “To Dream, Perchance To Cry” and received a lively response.
I had to experience, I guess like many of us with a rubbish draft to go through, a similar grief – identified even by my psychiatrist before I saw it – and grieving procedure to those who have had to deal with a stillborn (idea or work) of any kind, which is just the same as the normal grief process: denial (but this draft is amazing!), anger ( this is the main character’s fault!), bargaining (please come back, please let me have a relationship with you again), depression (Oh. My. God. This is Awful. Obviously, I can’t put pen to paper let alone write, I am crap) and then acceptance (Ah. Oops. You’re never going to be “the one” and so…) I’m happy to say I am now at acceptance and that’s why I can move on.
In March I took part in a Write-1,000 words-a-day-in-a-Month challenge. I finished the month at 23,852 words because I’d had what I thought a great idea for a children’s book and I set to it with gusto. I had to file it away, though, because the whole time I was sitting on that particular egg, I was being smacked in the face by a story that wouldn’t go away. By characters that I was curious about. By people who exist out there somewhere. By circumstances I couldn’t ignore.
And that’s where I’m at. The NaNoWriMo 70,000 word draft was not a waste of time. It was, I now see, the plug jamming up my ideas. I needed to deal with it, get it all out, before other and better ideas could flow.
The new draft is at the write-the-outline-and-do-research phase. I am loving it, though. Because it’s fun. Like a swan, I am sitting protectively on the eggs of an idea. I cannot stop writing/planning/outlining.
One thing that fits in well with all this is that I learned about JuNoWriMo. It’s roughly the same as NaNoWriMo, well-organised, good website, supportive group, etc. amd held during the month of June. I’m pregnant with a new book and so this is great for me. It means that you do exactly the same amount of writing as in NaNoWriMo, i.e. 1667 words a day. And then edit and send it out there, she says in a casual aside.
With JuNoWriMo, you can write fiction, or creative non-fiction (like memoir, creative travel, history, science) and that’s it. Nothing stopping you. Or else you’ll be dealing with grief, or egg-bound, like I’ve been. And that was horrible. But JuNoWriMo is great news for me. I have a few weeks to do research, complete the outline, etc.
Is anyone else up for it? I still have Nail Your Novel and thus my novel midwife. But I’d love more writers to participate in June’s journey, writers who are brimful of novel ideas, too. Birth partners (or ante-natal companions), if you like. Come on, let’s make a baby! And I want this particular baby to have a life.