I finished the first draft. Didn't like it. Good beginning, good ending, tangled boring mess in the middle. And by "middle" I mean all but the first three and last three chapters. Yes, short chapters.
Left it for a few months.
Attacked the snakepit again. The snakes seemed to have multiplied in my absence, revealing a whole load more flaws that I hadn't seen before.
More crying in the night. More wrestling. More wondering why it was so hard. Other writers were finishing novels left right and centre. What was wrong with me?
Eventually finished the second draft. Didn't like it any better. More crying.
Left it for a few months.
Attacked the pit for the third time, in a spirit of "I will do this if it kills me because I will despise myself if I don't." Put other work on hold - including a book that has a contract and a deadline, which this one doesn't.
Tried a storyboard technique. It didn't work.
Tried mind-mapping. It didn't work. But it had pretty colours.
Tried my patent mathematical drama-versus-time graph technique (which I'd invented to solve a previous book's problem, successfully.) It didn't work this time, though it did show me something - that the snake was bigger than I'd thought. And there were more of them.
Tried a new technique which I haven't got a name for but which has the effect of identifying each snake's position, firing a tranquilliser dart at it and, while it's semi-conscious, manoeuvring it into place and then sticking pins in it so it can't move until I say so.
At the same time I was revealing my desperation to anyone who would listen on Twitter. I described it as wrestling an anaconda-sized plot problem.
These were the well-meaning responses I received:
- Take a break from it. (I'd done that twice already.)
- Go for a walk. (Works well for worms, but not anacondas. Also, it would be a hell of a long walk.)
- You can do it. (Not necessarily.)
- Eat chocolate. (Good idea.)
- How come you have this sort of problem when you've written so many books? (Good question.)
- You write my book and I'll write yours. (Since that was Joanne Harris, that was a GREAT idea. Actually, I think I'm confusing two conversations, but still.)
- Awww, poor you. [[[hugs]]] (Thanks.)
- Introduce zombies. (Not helpful.)
- Or penguins. (*glares*)
- Or zombie penguins. (You're not taking this seriously.)
Now, (*whispers*,) thanks to my tranquilliser dart technique, the signs are currently positive but I'm not going to tempt fate with anything approaching hubris. What I want to say is something which most writers know and which non-writers might be interested in knowing:
- It's horrible, lonely and emotionally draining when a book behaves like this.
- No one can really help. Although talking things through with friends can sometimes reveal the key, essentially the answer comes through our own hard work, no one else's.
- Although it's painful at the time, the satisfaction of success is huge - and probably true that the greater the pain, the greater the satisfaction.
- We don't necessarily get better at it. Each book is a new book, a new start and a new challenge. Some books just come out more easily and some are harder. Success is not guaranteed, and practice does not seem to make perfect.
- Determination is necessary.
So, tomorrow it's back to the snakepit and I'm telling you: it's me or that pesky snake.