Since my last post on 22nd of September, progress on my novel has been painfully slow. I’m a bit stuck again. My character is at a turning point and I thought I knew what would happen next, but there’s a nagging voice telling me, ‘she wouldn’t do that, she’d do this instead’.
If I follow that path (which I sort of know I’m going to) it’ll lead to even more work and planning/plotting. And it may mean more cuts, too. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept that you have to cut work that is perfectly good (“murder your darlings”) and it’s always daunting to know that there is a lot more work to do than you’d thought. But, as I keep telling my students, there are no shortcuts. Well, there are, but if you take them, it’ll show. So I need to resign myself to the fact that I still have a great deal of work to do, despite having thought a few weeks ago that I was ‘nearly there’. Oh such foolish optimism!
A quick look over my writing journal for the last two weeks reveals that I didn’t work at all on the novel for an entire week, although I was writing notes about possible ways forward. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve had a break, I find it terribly difficult to get back into it. It’s true that the last couple of weeks have been busy – I’m teaching again, which involves a lot of preparation, and I also have a few events coming up, so preparing for and publicising these has taken up time, but if I’m completely honest, that’s an excuse!
I find the hardest thing is to actually open up the document – it feels almost as though I’m afraid of it! But once I make myself start looking at the work I find I am gradually drawn back in. I usually go back to the point just before the troublesome bit and start editing/rewriting. That way, I’m drawn back in at just the right place.
So that’s what I did, but I’ve not made much progress – probably a few hundred words a day, if that. But I’ve done a great deal of thinking and making notes about possible ways forward. It’s not nice being stuck, but I don’t feel as horribly stuck as I have done in the past. I know there’s a way through, and it may be that I have to write two different scenarios to see which one can be made to work. Whatever happens, there’s a lot of work to be done here, and sitting around moaning about it isn’t going to help! How do you get back into your WIP after a break?
On a lighter note, one of the things that kept me away from the novel for a couple of days was an event at the Ilkley Fringe Festival. I was sharing the stage with fellow authors (left to right) Bill Allerton, Bryony Doran, Jenny Rodwell, Linda Lee Welch, Angela Robson, Ruth Valentine and Danuta Reah.

We were talking about our diverse experiences of getting into print, and it was fascinating to hear the other authors’ stories of their personal journeys to publication. Having already spent the afternoon at a book signing in WHSmith, we were keen to repair to the pub afterwards for a well-deserved glass of wine. It’s always lovely to socialise with other authors and I came away from the weekend feeling I’d made new friends.
Next morning, we met for breakfast at Betty’s tea shop in Ilkley. Here you can see us holding advance copies of a short story anthology called Watch and Wait, published by Cybermousemedia in support of the Lymphoma Association. 
More about this in the next post, but I’d just like to mention the launch of the anthology, which is happening in Sheffield on 21st of October. Full details are on the news and events page of my website – it would be great if you could come along!
Last bit of news – I’m teaching a one day Creative Writing class in Sheffield on Saturday 11th October.It’ll be inspiring, productive and brilliant fun! Full details on the workshops page of my website

New Amazon reviews:
The Secrets We Left Behind – one 5-star, one 4-Star
The Things We Never Said – two 5-star, two 4-Star

Follow me on Twitter @sewelliot or ‘like’ my Facebook page

9 thoughts on “THE WRITING LIFE

  1. Jo says:

    Would love to be able to attend the workshop you're running, Susan, but October is such busy month for me this year. I've also met Danuta Reah (at Harrogate Crime Writers' Festival). Isn't she lovely? I was very fortunate that she helped me to workshop the opening scenes of my novel last year. As for stuck days.. I think I'm permanently stuck on my novel. I know the feeling about not being able to even open the document. I really don't feel as if I can get back into mine at all. I've lost faith in the whole project. I'm happily writing lots of short stories while I contemplate whether I'm capable of ever finishing a novel. Good luck with the new direction yours is taking.

  2. Susan Elliot Wright says:

    Yes, me too! October always seems to be a busy month. Danuta is lovely, isn't she? I very much enjoyed meeting her. So sorry to hear you're stuck on your novel. It's horrible, isn't it? I totally understand. I have had quite long 'stuck' periods in the past where I have truly thought I couldn't possibly finish the novel. But then something happens, I start thinking in a different way or I just keep trying different things, and suddenly there's a possible way through. Good luck with yours – maybe after a break, where youth focused entirely on short stories, you'll feel better able to get back to it. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

  3. Amanda Egan says:

    I find if I don't write every day, I'm doomed! A break never works for me – even if I write words that I know I hate and know I'll delete, just being with the characters and listening to them every day seems to help.
    I've also learned to listen to ME. I have roughly 3 novels that hit the 30k word count and I knew I was flogging a dead horse. Instead of thinking, 'What a waste of time' I now give up and move on to writing the right novel instead.

  4. Susan Elliot Wright says:

    Yes, I think you're right – I can miss one day, but if I miss two, it tends to stretch into an unplanned break that's very hard to come back from. Very brave to have given up on three novels! A difficult decision, but quite liberating when you know it's not working. I've abandoned two – one at 20k words and one at 40k – definitely the right decision!

  5. Jo says:

    Interesting that you've abandoned novels. Deep down I've known this one wasn't working for a long time. I question whether I'm even a novel writer at all!

  6. Susan Elliot Wright says:

    I abandoned the first one because I started it before I was really ready to write a novel. I did a better job of the second one, but it was pointed out to me when I started an MA in writing, that while I could clearly write and while my characters/setting etc were very good, I didn't actually have a story….

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