“Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” Stephen King
I have two works in progress, one is a murder mystery and the other is a literary fiction novel. The latter is entitled “Emergency Landings” and it is the one that continues to grip my imagination. Unfortunately, due to my long working hours, I have not had time to work on either. But as I mentioned in my first blog, I have renewed my commitment to my craft, even if that means adding to my novel 50 words at a time. Any progress is better than no progress.
Last weekend, a girlfriend of mine read the synopsis and an excerpt of Emergency Landings. She did not read it as a fellow writer, as she neither writes nor aspires to write; instead, she read it as a reader. Funnily enough, she did not even know I wrote it because it was under a username that she did not know was mine.
After reading the pieces, she asked to know who the author was and how she could get the book. I thought she was joking, but she was entirely serious. When I said that I wrote it, she was excited and asked if she could read what I had written so far.
Wednesday, inspired by her genuine interest, I opened the first chapter and read it with the intention of cleaning it up a bit. Imagine my horror when I realized that what was supposed to a compelling introduction, the death notification, was actually quite boring.
Maybe this was not the story that needed to be told—at least not by me, anyway.
The next day, however, I decided that I could still tell this story as it was, in fact, my story. And more importantly, it was the story that I still loved and felt compelled to write. I was just going to have to scrap the opening chapter and try to come up with another beginning!
Or not. Despite my optimism, I ended up frustrated because the death notification was the right place to start and I could find no suitable alternative. Why do I do this to myself?
Finally, I found the above Stephen King quote in a pile of papers. I had come across it before and was so inspired that I printed it in large font with the intention of putting it on my wall. Reading the advice that sometimes we have to keep going even when it feels like all we are doing is shovel shit from one page to the next, I knew that I would keep the first chapter. If for no other reason than to get to the next one.
I pinned the quote to the wall, opened up Scrivener and set about editing the first chapter from a purely grammatical and structural point of view. In the process, I unexpectedly ended up rewriting a large portion of it. The scene came to life and as I put myself in Claire’s (the protagonist) heart and mind, I actually cried.
I am hoping that the next time I read this chapter, I won’t find it boring (which I seriously doubt I will). If, however, I do still think it is boring, I will persevere, because I love my concept too much to give up on it. And because “stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea.”