My first teenage novel (and 14th published book) came easily enough. I wrote it by the seat of my pants, in what I have come to realise is a state of normal ‘writer’s schizophrenia’ (voices in the head telling me what to do, arguing with me, having temper tantrums, sulking loudly when I won’t write the way they want—that sort of thing).
Then it happened. Exactly two weeks after I’d finished Hootcat Hill and put myself out to grass for a nice long rest (ie catching up on the very neglected housework, garden, mending and more of the massively mundane but practical things writers forget about while writing), the Next Big Idea struck, totally unexpectedly. Marvellous! I thought, a little surprised, but grateful to the Muse anyway. Scribble, scribble, tap tap etc. I even told people—family, editor, agent—that I was writing something. Oh tempting of hubris! Oh bad mistake! About 10,000 words in, second novelitis came crashing down on me.
Never before have I come to a complete full stop. I sort of know where I’m going, but not how to get there or indeed if I ever will, and it’s terrifying. Maybe it’s because I decided to be organised this time (an alien concept to me), make lists, write down research sources so I wouldn’t have to spend hours tracking down a vital piece of information like I did last time. I even went on an Arvon writer’s course to try and get going again. It worked for a bit—but I destroyed half the novel, and now have a large, scary file marked ‘Bits to be Used Later (If There Is a Later)’.
It’s not that I’m not writing other stuff. I am. But the unadorned and horrible truth is that the voices for this second novel have disappeared—for now. I hope they come back, because I miss them, need them, am less without them. But until they do, I have a secret fear that I may have joined the ranks of the dreaded ‘one novel wonders’. Perhaps I should threaten them with Charlie Butler's Naughty Drawer, that might work…I’ll keep you posted.