Friday, 19 November 2010


Hello blog readers. Another Friday, another post. And today, I'm going to talk about giving up. Because that's what I've been wrestling with for the past couple of weeks.

You guys may remember that I've been revising FF (FrostFire, the companion book to Daughter of the Flames) lately. And I've been struggling. The Epic Fall and Evil Virus didn't really help, but they were not the cause of my consternation. In the last day or so I have come to an unavoidable conclusion: I need to give up on this draft. Wait, wait - before you start screaming, let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

(If you got that joke, give yourself a bonus point).

My normal writing process, as documented on my website and all over the internet, goes thusly: Zolah buys a notebook. Zolah scribbles in the notebook. Around once a week Zolah types these scribbled pages into her computer, changing and revising as she goes. When she has reached the end, she prints it all out and leaves it to mature for a couple of weeks, reads it over, revises again and sends it to her editor. She calls this her 'first draft'.

That's the way I've always worked, and because of that, I simply did not realise how VITAL each stage of the process was.

Then I went full-time. I started writing from nine to five or later each day, and I found that my terrible eyesight (which causes me to crane over the page in order to see what I'm writing), and the resulting bad posture while writing by hand were causing me serious neck and back problems. It's one thing to fold yourself into a pretzel for a fifteen minutes during a teabreak, or even an hour in the evening. It's another to sit that way for eight hours a day. I couldn't handle the pain. So I simply cut the notebook stage out. I began writing everything directly onto my laptop. My neck and back thanked me, and I was hitting 12,000 words a week. Awesome, yes?

No. No. No.

When I came to revise my 'finished' first draft, I found to my horror that it was all wrong so very very wrong OMG what HAPPENED HOW WHAT ARGHGGHG! Instead of the fairly polished first draft which I expected to read, I found an incoherant, badly paced, badly written mess. In skipping the initial scribbling and revising stage I had effectively created a manuscript that read like those scribbled notebook pages. Because of course, using the notebook method, what I had been calling my 'first draft' was in fact more like a second or even third draft.

Trying to fix this with my normal polishing and revising process was like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. It might take your mind off things and give you an illusion that you're being productive, but in the long run you're still heading for a disaster. And so, after a week of hiding my head under the covers, groaning and baking (holy granola guys, you should SEE my kitchen right now. I've had to borrow cake and biscuit tins from all over the place) I've finally come to the realisation that it is time to give up.

Not on the book. On this draft. I cannot fix it. I can rearrange, revise and polish it until the cows come home, but it still won't be right. I need to scratch at least 70% of this manuscript, get out my trusty notebook and propelling pencil, and start again.

This, as you can probably imagine, is a hella scary position to be in. My deadline on this book is around the tenth of January (since that's when my editor gets back from her extremely well deserved holiday), which leaves me just under two months to write the new version. And those two months include Christmas and New Year, when I will have various committments to family and friends which I just can't toss aside. So you'd think I'd be freaking the heck out right now.

But I'm actually not. The sheer of relief of finally letting go, giving up on what can't be fixed and making a decision about what needs to be done, completely drowns out any sense of panic. I'm not only quietly confident that I can do this; I'm really excited to do this. I'm filled with glee at the thought of getting stuck in and making this book as good as it really deserves to be. I'm well aware that I'm going to be working flat out and that it will be really, really hard, especially at this time of year - but it's also going to be fun.

I hope.

Anyway, I leave you today with this video from the amazing Jackson Pearce, who not only has profound things to say about giving up, but also manages to BATHE HER CAT (yes, in actual WATER) and survive. If I tried to do this to either of my cats I'd end up needing prosthetic arms for the rest of my life, and probably a breathing tube as well. How does she do it? I suspect that she may be a witch. Or an elf. Or both.

Is there anything that you guys are struggling with lately, that you might need to let go and just give up on? Tell me about it in the comments.

(P.S. I have just ordered a box easel to put my notebook on when I'm writing. Hopefully this will allow me to write by hand without crippling myself. Win!)


Nattasha said...

I hope so, I have neck and back problems and have to go to a chiropractor every six weeks so I feel your pain. I'm so glad you aren't giving up on your book. I'm just struggling with tech - we are doing level 3 word processing and my typing speed isn't good enough and because I have to sit at the computer for 1 hour 15 mins straight my neck can't handle it which makes my typing even slower and causes me to make even more stupid mistakes. I know I will fail this exam which is on the 10 decmeber epppp! I also have to go and get a lump cut out of my arm on the 1 December and i'm terrifed of needles :( And the list goes so I'll leave it there.

Good Luck with your deadline Zoe

Zoë Marriott said...

Blimey oh riley, Nattasha - and I thought *I'd* had it rough lately! You poor thing. Best of luck with your exam and the op too.

Nattasha said...

Thanks Zoe xx

Isabel said...

Good luck with rewriting FF, Zoe! Without notebooks I don't know how I would ever had started writing the novel I'm working on now. It took me about a month full of planning and aimless scribbling to finally put together a good story outline. The "story" that I was originally going to write has absolutely NOTHING to do with what I'm writing now. Without the notebook method, I would never be able to write a story that any sane person would be able to read. So I know how it must have been with FF. I hope you'll be able to make your deadline!

Zoë Marriott said...

Yep. I've always loved my notebooks, but I never realised before just how much of the hard grafting I did in them, and how indispensible they were to my method. I won't try to skip the notebook stage again.

Alex Mullarky said...

I'm actually struggling with socialisation right now. I'm hormonal, my boyfriend just went home and I have a day at university today called Raisin Sunday which is basically inexplicable but involves being "adopted" by Third Year students and basically drinking until you can't drink any more. All I want right now is to curl up in bed with a hot chocolate and a movie. :( sad times.

Zoë Marriott said...

Well, as far as the drinking thing goes, I don't think that's socialisation you're struggling with. It's just not being an idiot. I like a night out and a drink as much as anyone, but why it's supposed to make you dead tough to drink until you pass out is a complete mystery to me. Switch to water or lemonade when you've had enough and tell everyone it's gin and tonic or straight vodka. That's what I always did.

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