Well, not really a block, but a definite hurdle. Here’s the nature of the problem. I am always eager to get writing because after some months in the library I have a fat bundle of research, scenes I really want to write formed in my brain, and what seems to be to be a solid plot sketched out. That initial enthusiasm takes me through about 30K words. Then I feel floundered, a bit lost, confused. It is not a nice feeling. The book feels like it has got out of control and I no longer believe in the plot I laid out initially. Told you it didn’t feel good, but thank the fates, having completed three novels, it is at least familiar.
So what is it, and why does it happen. Well, a book feels like a living thing as you write it, and if it’s going well the characters should feel alive too. That means they develop as individuals as you write them, and as you write them they grow their own stories. And those stories are often very different to the rather dry sketches I had when I planned. One also hopes to be inspired as one writes. Writing seems to make your brain produce fresh ideas and avenues. Now at 30K words it seems that enough new material has appeared and started clamouring for attention, and some of the old ideas have withered that it is time to step back, take a very deep breath and rethink.
This is very hard work, and can feel rather dispiriting. You feel like you have to unpick all the work you’ve already done, and lay out a new path going forward. It’s daunting. The thing I have to keep remembering is that the same hurdle appeared during the writing of Instruments, Anatomy and Island and in each case I got through it. I must ask around my writer acquaintances and see if they have something similar. Maybe it’s the dirty little secret of published novelists everywhere.
I have a lot of friends who have started novels. I wonder if it is at about this point that many of them stopped.