Solitary profession

A quick update on where I am now. I’ve done the bulk of the writing on the Fifth Warrior and am now leaving it off to one side for the moment. I was feeling a bit odd about it as I started writing it about three years ago and I’ve learned a lot about plot, story and character development. But it is such a huge amount of work that I feel I can neither turn away from it permanently, nor shape it to fit into a planned template for a “good” plot. So I’ve put it down for a few months.

In the nature of an experiment I am starting from scratch with a far more commercial novel. I have my copy of “Plot and Structure” next to me and I’ve just read “On Writing” by Stephen King. I’m attempting a balancing act here – trying to keep my integrity and use the ideas that I feel contribute to my unique voice, hopefully packaged up in a wrapper that will appeal to the mass-market reader. I have certainly never planned out a novel this thoroughly before I started. I started about five weeks ago with character outlines and now have a complete plot worked out – beginning, middle and end.

I did find the Stephen King book a bit odd – he doesn’t plan anything and he smooths things out a lot on the rewrite. But while I won’t take his comments on planning to heart, I will take his comments about work-ethic on board. I’m interested to see how many words I could write if I have a clear plan and know where I’m going. Hopefully I’ll go from struggling with a novel over three years to knocking out a first draft in a few months!

Which brings me round to the title of this post. King has very firm ideas on what you should and shouldn’t share with people – he keeps the first draft under wraps, then uses beta readers to see what they make of the next draft. I think I agree with this. But it does mean that I am totally alone. I come up with ideas and characters and slot them into the synopsis and plot. Every now and then there is a niggly voice that asks if this idea is good enough to make it into the book. The truth is that it’s totally up to me at the moment. This is the stage when as a writer, I take all the responsibility. Later on, hopefully, there will be agents, editors, PR, and a publisher. Then it’ll become a team effort. But for now, it’s just me and a blank page. If it’s good I’ll take the credit and if it isn’t, well, that’s me again!

For me this is the attraction of writing, even when I am beset by doubts. I’ve worked in offices where you have to work with managers and colleagues who may not agree with your ideas. Even (I’ll whisper this bit) people who may not be as intelligent or as hard-working as you are. And as an employee you just have to get along with them. But here, it’s just me and the laptop. So while it may be lonely, at least it’s mine and I can take a bit of pride in the results.

What do you think? If you are a writer how do you cope with the solitary nature of the profession? I know there are courses and retreats and seminars and things, but they don’t absolve you of any responsibility!

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