Tuesday, 15 May 2018

When the urge to give up is overwhelming - by Rowena House

Back in February this year, in the run up to the launch of The Goose Road, the work-in-progress stalled and I was seriously thinking about quitting the world of fiction. Three months later I’m up to my ears in historical research again, and carefully crafting the opening scenes of Book 2.

Why the change of heart?

Because in the intervening months I came face-to-face with the reality of not writing another novel – and ran away screaming.

I won’t go into details about the alternative career path I thought I could follow, beyond saying it would have been full-time for at least 18 months, then, potentially, given me some free time to write.

What I will admit is that on Day One of the initial training course I found myself in tears, because beneath the surface of the rational decision ‘to get a proper job’ there were demons who turned out to be worthy of Hieronymus Bosch.

These demons demanded more than time in return for a wage. My public behaviour and the sort of values I would have had to promote were also prescribed. When faced with such a loss of autonomy I couldn’t go through with it.

There were other, more practical factors at play as well, but standing at that cross-roads, with a yes/no decision to make, I saw more clearly than ever what a privilege it is to be able to express one’s worldview through fiction, and how much I’d regret turning my back on the opportunity to do it again.

So where next?

In terms of the work-in-progress it’s back to France, this time in 1944.

It is sad to be leaving the First World War behind after more than four years dwelling there in my imagination, but the Great War’s impact on France fed directly into the country’s role in the 1939-45 conflict, so the knowledge acquired for The Goose Road certainly isn’t going to waste.

In terms of character, I’m making deliberate efforts to differentiate my new heroine from the protagonist in The Goose Road, and finding the OCEAN personality profiling system hugely useful once more.

I blogged on ABBA before about these Big Five character traits and how they can be useful when plotting epiphanies. The link in case anyone’s interested is here.

One thing I didn’t expect back in February was how much the fun and games of launching The Goose Road would liberate me to write Book 2.

In fact, the month of guest blogs and pinging around social media all but exhausted my interest in Angelique’s story, which isn’t exactly helpful when the marketing effort for the book has in many ways only just begun. But it is great in terms of engaging emotionally with Manon, the heroine of Book 2. A good writer friend told me this might happen. So thanks, Eden. You were right!

Plotting Book 2 prior to the launch did, however, yield another unexpected benefit: because I knew that the heart of this story was something I truly cared about, the decision to return to it whole-heartedly was a positive, concrete and informed choice, not a mere cop out when confronted with those ‘proper job’ demons.

This little lesson might well not apply another time, nor to anyone else, since most of us feel our way into a story through instinct, trial and error, rather than by thinking about themes up front. But given how tough this business is, I wonder if delving into the heart and soul of our works-in-progress might not be a useful trick to maintain – or regain – momentum whenever the urge to give up becomes overwhelming.
Happy writing!

Website: rowenahouse.com
Twitter: @houserowena


Mystica said...

Good luck with Book No 2 and kudos to you for taking your fate into your hands. Very courageous.

Rowena House said...

Thank you! Still trying to work out some sort of proper job that will allow me to birth Book 2 as well as pay the bills! I've immense admiration for people who can be creative and hold down a full-time job.

Penny Dolan said...

Wishing you well for Book Two, and thanks for the information about the OCEAN technique.

Chitra Soundar said...

love this post! I'm going to use it on the train this week as I head into Kent, Devon and Cambridge. :)

Rowena House said...

Thank you, Penny, and I really hope OCEAN comes in handy. Just thinking about all five traits seems to enrich the sketchiest character for me.

Gosh, you do travel a lot, Chitra! Hope the train schedules kind this weekend and the journeys productive. All the best.