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Diffuse(d) intensity

I’m now in the final stages of redrafting my fourth novel, tentatively titled “The Bhel Sea”. I previously wrote a YA trilogy squarely based on Nordic mythology, but for this latest story, I wanted to create my own world, own peoples and histories. A big ask, and overwhelming at times, but satisfying when little parts of this new world become filled in, bit by bit. On the other hand, this has been the source of a universe of frustration for one (or actually two) big reasons*: my wife and I had a baby just after I started planning the novel. Then two years later we had another one. All of a sudden, my consistency in producing a novel a year nose-dived. I’m absolutely sure this is the same for most people, if not with kids popping out, maybe with other life distractions and interludes and events. But for me, having now finally completed this new, longer work of fiction, I can look back and see just how amazingly difficult it can be to adjust a writing habit around family. And that’s how I thought of it, which already shows the difficulties I had. You don’t adjust anything around family, not when it arrives in the form of newborns. Family was it. Basta. Period. At least at first. Gradually, over weeks and months I found time around work and home to plan some more, write some more, create my world some more. But it’s tough, and frustrating (really? only 30 minutes this week?), and guilt-inducing (shouldn’t I be spending time with daughters/wife/parents instead? shouldn’t I be working on my novel instead of just spending time with daughters/wife/parents?) and the fear of failure and of writing drivel and of never improving sufficiently is ever-present. I guess I had to learn a new way of finding time. I call it “diffuse intensity”.

- think about the story most days, particularly while commuting to generic office job that isn’t particularly fulfilling
- take notes and record ideas at spare moments
- wait days, sometimes weeks
- then write your butt off when you get half a day or even a few hours.

It still adds up. It still got me to the end. Maybe half an hour every day of the week would have been better, but for me it just wasn’t possible.

Most of all, I learned something about what realistic expectations were. Maybe 500 words in a weekend was all that I could do and not the 2000 words I expected. Maybe the final chapters wouldn’t be done in 3 weeks, but would need 12 weeks. In fact, I originally hoped to have the story written in just under 2 years. It’s now almost 3 and a half. And all of it is OK. It really isn’t a race.

Let’s have another list and call them rules. Here’s my five for writing with a young family:

  1. Don’t start. Quit now.
  2. If you do start, don’t expect to get anything more than an hour or two clear in any day week.
  3. Don’t insist on a certain start or finish time. (You won’t get them. If you get a finish time, your 1 year old will bring it forward to 2 minutes after your start time.)
  4. Don’t think you can have special music, or quiet time. (You’ll almost certainly have Dora the Explorer, The Wiggles or Play School on in the background. These can all add flavour to that fight scene you’re writing.)
  5. Be grateful if your partner understands what you are doing, but don’t expect him/her to. Don’t expect him/her to read what you write straight away, or to even like what you have written. (Raising one child is a full-time job. Add more jobs for more kids. Reading a 145,000 word fantasy epic might be one job too many.)

Or just break all these rules, like I did.

*For the record, my kids are each worth a best-seller to me (i.e. true love). This isn’t a “oh-poor-me-who-has-a-family-whinge” but it might sound mighty close to it…. Maybe not three best-sellers though.

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Reader Comments (1)

I'm just having a quiet giggle at the prospect of Captain Feathersword making his way into an epic fight scene.

January 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramanda

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