Working Against the Grain
I’m almost thirty thousand words into my latest story and finding it heavy going. The first twenty thousand words came relatively easy; we were at sea on a cruise boat heading to Papua New Guinea and I would take my laptop to the Champagne Bar [before it opened for business] and settle to write after breakfast. Two thousand words a day wasn’t hard to generate in this setting and I was pleased with the finished product. Alas: the momentum was interrupted by a fortnight in China and then the round of Easter services and as I take up the story again I have lost the spark that promised much.
I guess real writers battle something like this. Apparently Thackeray would write 1500 words a day – and stop mid-sentence when his quota was done for the day. Dickens worked for hours at night and in the early morning, sometimes managing ten thousand words in a couple of days. Part of the problem, to be frank, is that I don’t know how the story is going to end. Of course my stories are predictable: it’s going to end well for the girls and badly for the villains, but managing that conclusion is the challenge. I have some little vignettes that will work their way in there. I plan to have a heavily made up Emily [without her glasses] working in a taxi dance bar in Shanghai at ten cents a dance. I also plan to have Katie and Maisie fleeing down the Nanjing Road in a rickshaw while the villains pursue them in a motor car. The problem is to integrate the chief villain into the story. This is a Sherlock Holmes story and so Professor Moriarty needs to appear at some time- emerging from the mists above Suzhou Creek, perhaps. I love the setting in early 1918 Shanghai but I’ve hit a dry patch in the last week.
My own strategy here is to fake it until I can make it. I sit and review what I’ve done so far, then write some more. Over time, the germ will reappear, I hope.