The Writing Life: Feeling the Fear, but Still Having Time for Fun

I’m beginning to feel the fear. In a good way. I have deadlines looming, and many miles to go before dawn. Right now there is actual uncertainty about whether or not I’ll get everything done on time.

This is okay. Not the idea of missing a deadline, but feeling the fear early enough that I can act on it. It may well be that as zero hour on various projects draws closer I shall have to put this blog on hiatus, or cut down to once a week in order to satisfy my other commitments. I hope I can avoid this, but want to acknowledge the possibility, in the hope it drives me to work harder.

I wrote a difficult scene a couple of days ago. What I created is probably only a fragment of what will ultimately be delivered to the reader for consumption, but the core is there. I have to remember this is a draft, not the final product. Broad strokes for now, even if I like to paint them with a tiny brush sometimes!

Writing fresh scenes like that, discovering more in them as I go, even if I know some of those revealed details might not make the cut, is one of the quiet pleasures of writing. Feeling the fear and having the motivation to get that writing done, to put those ideas down, is another. New threads have been added that recall earlier ideas, reinforce motifs, perhaps create new wrinkles that I might decide to echo earlier in the book to give them more power – the joy of rewrites and editing! This aspect: the creation of the new that then needs to be retrospectively added in to the preceding text, is both a blessing and a curse: a blessing in that I feel it is refining the overall depth of the book, a curse in that I have to watch against falling in love with such extra echoes and keep adding them to the story’s detriment, either by padding it out unnecessarily, or by calling attention to my artifice by overdoing it, and risking the reader being broken out of their suspension of disbelief by the intrusion of the author showing off!

Often, in writing The Thief and The Demon, I would throw in lines that I realized echoed or paralleled things before or after simply because it pleased me to do so as I wrote, it made me smile, and felt right. The linked images, or mirroring lines could be hundreds of pages apart, no-one might ever spot that I did it, but for me, it was part of the fun, the pleasure of writing the book. I also thought at times they added irony, or pathos, or thematic reinforcement, and so took the risk of it perhaps looking arch or forced. I hope my readers do not find these touches leaden and overplayed, but that is the chance you take when at times you write for your own private satisfaction, but then justify it as something that improves the novel as a whole. There is a fine line to walk there, as is so often the case in writing, but when it feels good to me, rather than feeling intellectually forced in for the sake of a rhetorical device’s presence, then I am inclined to let it remain, and leave it to the audience to decide.

In feeling the fear might you might imagine that I would cut down on these little bits of writer at play, but so far I think that as I write, if the ideas are flowing, those little mental associations just pop up, and at this stage of writing it is fine to throw them at the wall and see if they stick to it in pleasing patterns. Ideas, images, word play, stylistic games and thematic structures are all there to be experimented with now, because if not now, when? There is always time to edit, to refine, to cut, to kill some of those darlings, and perhaps invent others!

Here’s to feeling the fear, and having it fuel some unexpected fun in the race against the dreaded deadline.

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One thought on “The Writing Life: Feeling the Fear, but Still Having Time for Fun

  1. And if your deadline is late, don’t worry about it. It’s better to produce high quality work than sloppy work. I know that for me sometimes I just have to put my work on hiatus, work on something else, or don’t work on anything at all for a bit, and then come back to it with a fresh mind. As writers we have to give ourselves a chance to breath. Our minds will thank us for it.

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