So here I am, living the dream, and suddenly I’m not happy with my novel.
I’m doing everything right – right? Writing every day, getting the action going early, bulling on through with my usual spit-it-out-and-fix-it-later approach. Although I don’t do outlines, I do have a list of things that have to happen. Why do I suddenly get the feeling that this novel isn’t working?
First, I panicked. (Look, I know I’m going to panic sooner or later, so best to get it out of the way.) What if I was wrong about being able to write a second book? Why is this so lame? What am I doing wrong? What if this is like the modernist painter, who didn’t like the nose on his latest portrait, but couldn’t fix it because he didn’t know where it was??!!
Then I distracted myself by bathing the dog. She needed it anyway, and why the hell should I be the only one who was miserable?
Then I stared at the back of the fridge for a while to see if anything interesting was going to grow there. I am barely past a week of My Summer of Writing, so I haven’t switched into the need-food-at-home phase yet. We don’t have a corner store in Wharncliffe, and the impulsive-eating-of-three-bags-of-cheesies becomes less impulsive after you’ve driven twenty minutes into town to buy them. There are always eggs. I could bake a batch of brownies and eat the whole panful. Fortunately it was a hot day, so I settled for making lemonade.
I shovelled the catbox. Yes, I did. And cleaned the bathroom. This was the nadir. I am not a writer who avoids writing by doing housework, or anything resembling housework (aside from baking brownies).
Whether it was the hose-and-soap, the fridge-staring, the shit-shovelling or what – maybe it was the panic after all? – it came to me. I needed to switch two events around. That was all. That was it. The one I was writing now had to come before the one I’d written earlier. I found the nose – it was on the chin and just needed moving up.
So I’m happy with my novel again. Actions make sense. Motivations are convincing. Plot rules. Writing is happening, and the dog and the bathroom are clean. The bathroom, at least, has stopped sulking. I’ve avoided eating a whole pan of brownies, bonus.
I really hope it was the panic that did it and it just needed time to kick in. If it’s doing housework that makes things shuffle into place, that will completely suck (although not as much as Sky will think it sucks if it was the dog-bathing thing).
On the other hand, my bathroom will be clean. And the writing will work. That’s the point, isn’t it?