I started this writing blog back in 2013, to chart my progress in writing and (eventually) self-publishing my first Sam Plank novel, “Fatal Forgery”. My aim was to impose some discipline on myself – it’s harder to slope off to the shops where you’ve promised to report back on how much you’ve written that day – and to share experiences with other amateur writers. After all, writing can be a very solitary activity, and I know I sometimes wonder whether I am the only writer struggling with plotting or dialogue or marketing or whatever. (Spoiler alert: I’m not.)
The point of all of this preamble is to remind you and me that I am resolved to be honest in this blog – there’s no benefit to be gained, for any of us, unless I tell it How It Is. And at the moment, it’s painful. Yes, I am lucky enough (amazingly lucky) to be able to take a fortnight off work and hide myself away in a private little apartment in Switzerland, with wonderful views and lovely walks. I know that a retreat like this is beyond the reach of many, who have greater family commitments and more financial constraints than I do, and so I am not complaining. I am simply saying that location and opportunity are no guarantee of good writing.
I have written about 85% of the words I need for “Plank 4”. The Sam Plank novels are short – they seem to come out at about 62,000 words – so the end truly is in sight. I have the plot all planned, so I know where I am going. And despite my recent MacBook collapse, I have managed to scrabble back to about where I was, with only one complete chapter now to be retrieved from the dead-ish machine – and I can work around that, as I know what it is about, even if I can’t recreate it exactly. But things are just not “zinging”.
I remember days when I couldn’t wait to get writing – when I had words tumbling out, desperate to be recorded. But yesterday was not a day like that: it was hard work. But the words have to be written, and to sustain myself I remember two things. Firstly, this is why we have editing: as long as I get something down, I can polish it later. You can’t edit nothing, so something is better than nothing. And secondly, this is A Phase. I remember it from when I was writing all three of the previous books, and interestingly it always hits at about the 80% mark – when I wonder whether this is actually not a very good story and perhaps I should start again. (This is not a realistic option, as the unforgiving countdown on the left reminds me…) So my remedy is this. Later this morning I will drive down the mountain and treat myself to lunch, and allow myself an hour after that to gaze at the lake or mooch around the shops or eat ice-cream, or all three. And then I will drive back up here, turn on the laptop and write.