Don’t look down

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I feel like I’m walking a tightrope with this edit at the moment. I’ve mastered the juggling, just about, and am pleased with the pace of progress I’m maintaining. But as I get deep into the novel again I’m realising just how tricksy my main character is – and the considerable challenge I’ve set myself to take you, the reader, with me on her journey.

I’m finding myself wondering just how far I can go with Grace before I lose you… Her mental health is fragile from the start, although she’s becoming a little less insular – a little easier to relate to. Her disintegration, though, is crucial to the plot. It is linked to her own substance abuse, and the man who takes advantage of this and her, and his own narcissistic tendencies, and how that makes her question her perception of reality. And that’s just the start of it – but I don’t want to give too much away.

Not only do I want you to care about Grace, I want you to literally come with her on her journey – to question things as she does, and ultimately to question her. To doubt her, but without fearing that she (or I) have purposefully misled you in any way.

I’m focusing on the end goal, the solid ground of another completed edit, but each step I take towards it needs to be made carefully, gingerly – just one foot after the other. And I can’t look down, otherwise I might lose my nerve altogether.

In the earlier stages of working on this novel the worry was that Grace wasn’t likeable enough. I’m not so worried about that now, but I do want to make sure that you believe in her. And it’s that process I’m finding fascinating at the moment: how, as a writer, we carve out a version of reality that appears to be true.

It’s not as simple as just telling the truth. The truth is often dull, or off-putting, or just plain difficult to believe – particularly where depression and anxiety and psychosis are concerned. My job is to create something that is truer than true: that captures an essence of reality that many different readers will relate to whilst at the same time preserving Grace’s uniqueness and humanity.

And in doing this, I’m not just walking a tightrope – I’m dancing on it. Each word, each step, is part of a complex routine that feels clumsy at first but will appear increasingly seamless, even effortless, the more I immerse myself within it.

I’ve never thought of writing a novel in quite these terms before, but it makes a strange kind of sense. The end result needs to be a performance that will play out flawlessly in the reader’s mind. I am no stranger to performing – be it a sequence of moves on a trampoline or bringing a character to life on the stage, you may begin with a clear idea of what you want to achieve but it is only through practise, through gruelling rehearsals, that you begin to get close.

And that is where I’m at right now, twirling the words around on a tightrope in the sky, waiting for the moment when they are finally ready to present to the world. And whatever happens I won’t look down until I get there.

 

Muddled Manuscript

 

10 thoughts on “Don’t look down

  1. Mummy Tries

    There’s so much behind the scenes stuff that goes into writing a novel, my head is spinning after reading this. Just wow. Good luck with the rest of your edit honey, can’t wait to hear more…and don’t look down xxx #whatimwriting

    Reply
  2. maddy@writingbubble

    Your book sounds so compelling – I’m dying to meet Grace! I wish I’d got far enough with my novel to identify with the editing and perfecting process you’re going through but you sound totally on top of things to me. I thInk you’ll get there without falling off the rope! Thanks for linking to #whatimwriting

    Reply
  3. Emily Organ

    I think one of the biggest challenges a book presents is keeping readers engaged in your character’s journey. I think it’s something that even bestselling writers get wrong at times (in fact the book I’m reading at the moment isn’t exactly gripping me). I think the first hurdle to overcome is to recognise you need to engage your readers and that’s exactly what you’ve done. Good luck with the next part, it sounds like you’re making headway. For my second book I drew up a checklist of the traits I felt my characters needed to make them likeable and interesting – I got ideas for this from advice I read too. I think I managed it with all but one, my editor told me I had to work on one character a bit more. It’s tough, but at least you recognise the task which has to be done.

    Reply
  4. Nicola Young

    She sounds like a complex but very interesting character. It sounds like a real challenge to bring all the elements together to make them work. It’s such an intricate process. Good luck.

    Reply
  5. redpeffer

    Yes, the analogy is perfect. There is so much more to writing than just the words themselves. I hope you find that balance just right and allow yourself the comfort of looking down when ready x

    Reply
  6. Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    I find this fascinating as all I’ve tried to do so far is hold people’s attention for 300 or 400 words, and then I think it’s almost more about what you don’t say… the thought of tackling a novel is still just so daunting to me. I have to say, from the snippets you’ve given us of the story, and of Grace herself, I am dying to read this book xx

    Reply
  7. Morgan Prince

    This is one of the things I love about writing, the process itself. Learning about our characters and them becoming real people. Choosing just the right words at the right time to ensure our readers are engrossed. It sounds like you’re having a great time and I’m excited to read more about your book. Good luck with the edits. xx

    Reply
  8. Pingback: On words, and perceptions of reality | Sophie is…

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