In the Limbo of Writing a Novel
Writer’s block is active laziness.
After writing fourteen thousand words of a new book, which I knew was going to work out, I stumbled. I kept writing. The new book crashed and burned.
A few days after leaving the smoldering ashes, I could see why it flopped: it had no center . I didn’t know what I was writing about.
The book was based on the opening of a different novel. This book was going to act as an introduction to that one, a stand-alone book but also a warm-up.
I was more interested in finishing something than in the story I was trying to tell. I didn’t know where I was heading. I resist outlining, but it isn’t such a big deal, just signs on the road you want your characters to travel. I had the signs, and the road, but no destination, so the book died.
To keep writing I am working on an adventure involving a character I like. I’m having fun with it while I figure out what my “real” next novel is going to be. I might even get a whole new book out of this piece which I’m writing just for fun, just for something to do. The characters are alive, doing their thing, and I’m just sort of sitting back and watching and taking it all down. I’m writing thousands of words a day and coming up with too many ideas for what these characters could do, as opposed to struggling and pushing characters to go to their next mark on the stage floor.
(A sign the writing is poor: Characters do a lot of looking at each other, and I describe them walking. Deadly.)
I’m going to assume you know what I’m trying to say about books written out of a sense of marketing duty and those written for enjoyment. It’s not as simple as “You write for the market or you write for personal enjoyment.” I don’t believe I can write for The Market in that I can build something just because “The Readers” (whoever they are) will buy it. 50 Shades of Gray, fantasy novels, action novels — they’re junk to me. I should be able to knock off some junk if I’m so much better than that stuff, make some money.
Except it doesn’t work that way. The writers of those books love those kinds of books, or at least understand them. A writer’s contempt or ignorance is palpable, if the writer is at all talented. His real feelings about a genre come through. The reader may not be able to articulate it, but she closes the dishonest book and never opens it again.
If you write what you enjoy, at least one person liked it. But that’s not enough if you want to be read.