Let me sleep on it

I had a breakthrough with the novel on Wednesday, and typically it didn’t happen at my desk but in bed.

I often take myself off for a little nap (luxury I know!) on writing days. Sometimes it is because I am cold and I’m too cheap to put on our heater (our bedroom gets lovely afternoon sun, which surprisingly the cat doesn’t mind sharing). Sometimes I want to read someone else’s work. Sometimes I’m just too tired and frustrated to work anymore.

So the nap on Wednesday was the latter; and because I was frustrated I never actually went to sleep. My mind was still working away on the problem with my novel.

When I began writing the novel I didn’t think I would be able to fill 200 odd pages. Sure I had written 120 page dramas, but have you seen a script? There’s a lot of white space man. So to get as many pages as possible I cooked up the most convoluted way that January and Mae could meet.

Mae is a graphologist. To make a living she analysises handwriting samples for companies so they will know who to employ, who to promote etc. January is applying for a promotion at her company and they use the services of…Mae!

It takes a whole lot of set up ( January is unhappy at her job but applies for the promotion anyway “just because”) and felt a little too coincidency.

The biggest problem I had with it is that January was too passive. Mae finds her and has to convince her to work with her.  January just falls into learning graphology.

At the moment things just happen to January, that she never makes a decision. That’s partly because I wanted to explore someone like that – someone who doesn’t seem to have any ambition and just floats along in life. But to make her compelling I think she needs to make some decisions. Even if they don’t feel life and death at the time. I’ve written some great events/”turning points” that seem to be wasted because January cannot act upon them. Or if she does it is too convenient. I got the feeling that if January bought a Lotto ticket she’d win, and then collect it – no panic that she’s lost the ticket, no deal with someone else that she has to con her way out of, no fakey that she got the wrong results (last week’s numbers). January’s obstacles aren’t hard enough and I’ve sapped out all the drama.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve made January’s journey too easy while making the writing of it too hard!

So again I’m going to simplify ( the theme of this year? My Life?). Cut the pages chapters(!) of set up. Make January more active; make her convince Mae that she needs an apprentice… I think if I change that the “events” that I’ve already written will have more weight.

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7 Comments

Filed under On being a Writer, The Graphologist's Apprentice

7 responses to “Let me sleep on it

  1. This is great! I look forward to reading more of the process as it unfolds. 🙂

  2. Things often come to me when I’m bed – must be the old brain relaxing enough to let things flow!
    Sounds well thought out, and knowing what I know of you, like more brilliance is imminent!

  3. I am often surprised – quite honestly, caught off guard – when something I’ve been noodling over for days suddenly resolves itself because I’m doing something like laundry. There must be a link between telling our conscious mind that we will quit dwelling on something, and our subconscious mind hearing “I can’t spend waking energy on this anymore.”

    Whatever the reason, congrats on the finished product and the inspiration.

  4. You’d be amazed (or perhaps you wouldn’t) at how many novels ar ebing written about people who don’t “seem to have any ambition and just float along in life”. I read a lot in my previous existence as a manuscript reader for publishers. And you’re right – they’re not interesting enough (I don’t think any of them made it to publication). Characters do need to want something and badly, and it is much better as a reader to wonder what they will *do* next rather than what will happen to them next.

    Funnily enough of those manuscripts I read, they were most often written by young men. And since young men often don’t read fiction, I had to wonder how many of them wrote these novels without ever picking up a good novel.

  5. ps

    I am going through the same struggle with my new novel. My main character just seems to mooch around the house a lot, thinking. I have a LOT of work to do!

  6. w

    Just came upon your blog, and am sending you awesome cutting vibes. Looking forward to more!

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