So, I’m writing again.
A couple of years ago, that wouldn’t have been news, since I used to adopt a policy of moving straight onto a new project as soon as I finished one. But 2017 has been a bit of a rubbish year for writing. In fact, a few weeks ago I found myself trying to remember if I’d written anything at all, since I didn’t have a 2017 subfolder in my writing folder at all. Then I remembered I’d redrafted Butterfly of Night in February-March, and thus the year hasn’t been entirely unproductive, but it still felt that way. Especially since that book still needs vast amounts of work and I’m not sure the latest version is particularly an improvement on those that predated it.
A few days ago, though, after chickening out of it half a dozen times, I started rewriting the first Death and Fairies book.1 The plot, as far as I can work out, is reasonably solid, but I’ve changed so much of the worldbuilding for this series since I wrote the second draft in April 2014 that it would need to be completely rewritten even if it wasn’t also stylistically weak. Seriously, this draft is so wordy. I’ve been doing my best to cut the unnecessary description wherever possible, but I’ll probably need to do another pass when I’m done.
It’s funny, actually, seeing how weak the writing appears to be. I wrote it for Camp NaNoWriMo during April 2014, which probably explains some of its flaws. I also definitely dictated some of it — I can tell from the type of errors, which are different to those I might make while typing. Both of those would be factors in why it seems badly written. And, well, it was 2014. I’ve improved in the last three years, I hope.
But I recently I reread a book I wrote in late 2014, the second draft of Bloodied Wings. I started it during NaNoWriMo, and then worked on it during December before finishing at the start of January. Like Death and Fairies I, this was a second draft. Unlike D&F 1, however, it’s probably the best book I’ve ever written.
Seriously. I was reading it through, and I think that’s the first time in my life I’ve ever enjoyed my own writing style. I mean, it still needs work, especially because I made changes to book one (Butterfly of Night) that have created inconsistencies, and it’s possible the pacing is off, but on a sentence level, it’s the most enjoyable I’ve ever found my own writing. Now and again I was honestly caught out by realising that I’d written it.
It’s a shame I’ve never felt this way with, like, anything else I’ve ever written…
Reading through Bloodied Wings (then going back to read Butterfly of Night and realising its sequel was drastically better) is partly what gave me the confidence to start working on Death and Fairies 1 again. Frankly, I don’t have the energy to fail at writing something right now. I don’t have the confidence, either. I need a win, and it felt unlikely that I’d be able to (a) rewrite an entire book without giving up partway through and (b) do so in a way that was actually an improvement on the previous draft, so I was just avoiding trying at all in the first place. Which, granted, isn’t the best way of dealing with things, but it’s how I felt.
Bloodied Wings proved to me that I’m capable of writing good books occasionally. They may only be one out of eighteen or however many I’ve written so far, but they exist.
Also, I realised I missed writing, because I’ve done so little this year. I don’t remember the last time I wrote a poem. My achievements this year have mainly taken the form of small scenes that might one day become part of the Death and Fairies series, or might represent moments between books that I’d have to figure out how to allude to. Because those all get filed under Death and Fairies, nothing has been filed under 2017. And that feels like a failure in and of itself.
I mean, they say you get to be a writer by not quitting, right? And by continuing to create even when the world’s going to hell around you, even if that doesn’t mean writing every day? Like, ‘write every year’ should be an achievable goal for someone who wants to make a career out of this one day.
But I lost my nerve. These things happen. (Here is a Twitter thread about anxiety and creative paralysis from a few days ago.)
I found it again by digging out the opening chapters to a third draft I wrote in December last year before getting distracted by something or other. They had gaps, and a couple of bits weren’t any good, so my first job was to go through filling in blanks and rewriting sections. Once I’d done that, it was less intimidating to continue where they’d left off — far easier than starting from scratch.
I probably kept about ten thousand words of those opening chapters, out of around fourteen thousand. Maybe slightly more. By the end of my first writing session I had about eighteen thousand words. It seemed like a productive start.
Anyway. Here I am a few days down the line, with a total of 44,969 words. I’m trying to remind myself that I can do this. I’ve always been a reasonably fast writer: not the insane kind who regularly writes around 30,000 words per day (I had a NaNoWriMo friend who, several years running, wrote 50k on the first day), largely because my wrists wouldn’t tolerate that. They can just about stand a series of days writing between 5k and 10k, although they need breaks. That’s more than many people; less than others. I can do that in about two hours, so it doesn’t have to be the only thing I do. I’ve also been dancing, and reading, and setting up new bank accounts because I am an adult and have to do financey stuff.
Oh, and I’ve been ignoring the reading / preparation I should be doing before I go back to uni. I think maybe the reason I got over my creative paralysis is because, while writing is intimidating, medieval Welsh is worse.
So that’s what I’m working on right now. I’ve been having crises about terminology brought about by knowing a lot more about medieval Irish literature than I did in 2014. I keep reaching points where the worldbuilding has changed just enough that character motivations need to be reconsidered. But, you know, I’m making progress. And most importantly, I’m writing again.
1 Don’t know what Death and Fairies refers to? It’s my long term pet project, which I think is unlikely to be published because it’s kind of niche in terms of genre, but which I haven’t been able to resist working on for years anyway. Originally it was a trilogy: I wrote about that back in 2012. Then I wrote a prequel. Then I realised that was a far more interesting place to start, and it turned into an 8 book series with the trilogy forming the last three books (although they’ll be drastically rewritten once I get to that stage due to HUGE changes to worldbuilding, character backstory, etc etc). When people ask me what it’s about, the honest answer is, “Death, and fairies,” so although the series title originated as a joke, I think it’s stuck now. Here’s a post about it from a couple of years back.