Tibetan Buddhists believe in a drifting state between lives, where the soul waits to find its new home. Me? I don’t believe in rebirth or reincarnation, but a purposeless state between lives I absolutely get.
A month ago, I submitted my latest, and possibly last, draft of my novel to an editor. It’s been nine years since I started it, so coming to an end leaves me kicking my heels. The obvious answer is to get back into writing another. I already have an incomplete novel, started during a time when I thought the last one was done with, but I’m no longer excited by the premise and the writing now seems clunky.
The ideal was to start something new. I already had an idea. A friend of mine is a real character, so it seemed like a good idea to start with him. Then another character popped up, someone else I know. Then another, less clear. I had fun writing a past and present for them, and then began to get stuck.
I have a guilt-provoking belief that proper novels start from character, and even though this is not how I have always worked, I keep trying to do it. I found myself in a mid-state, flicking between character studies, and searches for purpose. The main character seemed to be stuck in his house and bedroom, the writing became thinner. I stopped.
On Saturday, I had a day free and decided to go for a walk in London. As usual, I headed for the bookshops. Foyles in Charing Cross Road seems to have regained its status as the place to go, so I went for coffee and cake, then walked down through the floors. In Reference, I looked through Grammar and saw a display of How to Write books.
One stood out. Ready, Set, Novel! Another guilt-provoking belief I have is that you shouldn’t use ‘How to’ books to write a proper novel. But flicking through, I liked it. Lots of space and simple exercises. And something struck me. I have been writing properly for 13 years. Two novels completed. Haven’t I earned the right to go back and have fun?
And it has been. Scribbling pictures in a blank square; brainstorming places and things that inspire and excite me; randomly assigning the top nine to three ‘novels’; and using the ‘What if?’ etc. etc.
Lord knows what will come of it, but I’m motivated to continue. And in the meantime, I seem to have recovered my sense of purpose and, maybe, a new life.