Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Chapter One

It's been a long time coming. Two years, in fact. Two years coming. Wow.

You lucky souls who have stuck with me for several years may remember the long-ago pre-industrial misadventure that was 2012's NaNovel, Ikarus. No, scratch that, you probably don't - to my mind I've hardly mentioned it since. Unsurprising. Between then and now, I did my A-Levels, moved to university, moved house (twice), and wrote and published another novel. Just, you know, while I was at it.

Since university, the amount of writing I've done has fallen off dramatically. Since books, the study thereof, and writing extensively on that subject has pretty much become the focus of my life, I fell a little out of love with reading and writing for pleasure. It comes and goes in spurts - a reading week here, a cancelled lecture there - but the burnout has been strong, and I've been seeking other ways to wind down, to get my mind out of the dementedly complicated alleyways that the study of literature entails.

Luckily for me, I have two things that saved me from falling out of writing altogether: incredible friends who also proudly call themselves writers, and an over-active sense of guilt.

One of these wonderful friends - guess which one, go on, I dare you, I probably only mention her every third post or so - has the ability to straddle both.

On top of that, Ikarus was the start of something between us. Namely a war of who can cause the other the greatest degree of emotional anguish in the most maniacally evil way possible. But more on that another time.

At long last, I was finally dragged out of my Slough of Unproductivity, and began work on what I feel increasingly may be my magnum opus somewhere down the line. With the incentive of providing weekly installments to the people who waited two years for the rewrite that I promised would eventually appear, I set to work on writing again.

By the end of that week, I had a Chapter One. My first Chapter One for a long, long time.

And I absolutely, undeniably, irrefutably hate it.

Getting back into writing a novel after a long, long period of not writing a great deal at all is a bit like trying to remember how to ride a unicycle.

 First: You take one look at the thing and immediately baulk and the apparent complication of the endeavour - you don't want to do this, you'll be awful, you'll disappoint yourself and everybody who's come to watch you.

Second: You take hold of the unicycle and take a deep breath. You cling to the wall and tell yourself, it's okay, you're not going to remember how to ride it in just one session. Just for now, you'll work on getting up. You can fix your balance and presentation and really unflattering facial expression later. Right now, you'll just get up. That's all.

Stephen King (along with the world and its gerbil) informs us that first drafts are always awful and we should be perfectly prepared to accpet that, and write the wretched book anyway. I know this. I've known this for years. That's not the point.

The point is the third part of remembering how to ride a unicyle - realising that you never knew how to ride it in the first place.

There's no way to remember how to write. There's no specific methodology to it at all, save that you impose on yourself. I haven't had a proper writing methodology for the better part of two years - not for novels, anyway.

It's not about a rewrite, or editing, or even anything terribly specific about Ikarus itself. It's about coming back to something I haven't been doing for a long, long time, and finding my feet again. It's about picking up the unicycle and saying to myself, okay, let's take this slowly, let's start at the bottom.

I've got my unicycle. Chapter One is there, in the light of day, physically present to be hissed at and ignored until the right time for its revisal comes. It's there - like me, wobbling atop my unicycle with my hands outstretched, making a face that would see Jabba the Hutt crowned Miss Universe.

It's there. And I'm learning how to stand up again.

The next thing is forward motion. I can't wait.

~ Charley R


  1. Uh. Your blog ate my comment. Which was simply "Muah ha ha ah ha ha ha ha" and then an observation that you didn't even approximately get my URL right in that link. Honestly. I'm kind of impressed by how much you mangled it.


    Thank you. Thank you, because I needed this. I'm in the middle of chapter one of a rewrite that's been a long time coming and trying not to freak out because a) I've never rewritten an entire novel before and b) it has been a long time since I both actually really wanted to write and had time to.

    So, thank you for the reminder. (Even if you wrote this a month ago.)

    -- Amanda