My hair is brown. An icky boring-growing-out brown. And its at that length. You know the length. Where it sits in the collar of your shirt and isn’t long enough for a long swishy ponytail but too long to leave the house without doing something with it.
But it hasn’t always been that way. Before this, it was blond and preschool-mum short. Before that it was elbow-length and gorgeously chestnut, before that platanium and boob-brushing before that red and flicky, before that…well you get the picture. I can’t make up my mind.
I’m famous for it. I’ve moved house 21 times. Yes, you read that right. 21 times, to 8 different towns in three countries. I just can’t make up my mind.
When it comes to writing, I’m finding I’m a little the same. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about different writing techniques and every time I read one I think – a-ha! That’s it, that’s what I’ll do, it makes perfect sense. And it does, but then those crows of self-doubt start to circle. A few chapters in I start to think that I’ve lost my mind. This is crap. An almighty heap of steaming crap. So I start again. And again. And again. And everytime my perfectly crafted plot loses it’s way.
So then I decided to chuck out the plot and let the characters lead the dance. But my characters like to talk, and talk and talk. And they like to spend a lot of time just looking around, checking out the scenery. Get on with it! I scream uselessly. This is not working, so I went back to the plot and – you guessed it – started again.
It was like my hairstyle. Going nowhere, slowly. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t see a perfectly adequate hairstyle on it’s way to becoming a mane of glowing chestnut locks. I saw a sad, tired, old woman surrounded by frayed dry ends. Just like my manuscript. A sad, tired old plot heaving with lifeless, cliched characters.
I needed to do something fast, before I lost motivation all together.
So I challenged myself to write a story in 3000 words. A beginning, a middle and end and two well-thought out characters.
Well stone the bloody crows!
It made me condense the plot, reduce the action, focus on the dialogue and the character development. In 3000 words I was able to capture the story I was trying to tell. It made me see that the whole point of the story is the relationship between the two main characters. How they feel, how they react and why they react that way.
Derr. I already knew that but it took condensing the story for me to get it. Really get it.
So after that, as I stood in the shower (because that’s apparently where my muse likes to talk to me) I let myself think. Think about the two main characters. I let them talk as much as they liked and I let them tell me their story. Tell me why they want each other and what else they want. Then they described their world and I listened without interupting with my own ideas. I let them talk and talk and talk. Then, with that in my head, I was able to pull out the important bits. The bits I needed to tell the story. I grabbed the index cards and wrote a loose plot. Nothing about the two characters and how they feel and act though, just the time and place, where they need to be and when they need to be there.
Now the story is barelling along. My characters are happy they can tell their story without my telling them what to do and I feel more in control as I know where they’re headed. And I’ve also stopped reading all my chapters back each day. Just the previous chapter. Then my internal editor is left un-fed and unable to shout at me for being such a nong.
So far – this is working for me. I can see the ending and am enjoying losing myself in the emotion again. It may not be perfect or even any good but I know it will get there and when it does, it’ll be gorgeous.
And as for my icky-growing-out-brown hair stuffed in my collar I’m focussing on visualising the long gorgeous chestnut mane I’m heading towards. I’m not going to change my mind and dye it blond, or red or say ‘stuff it’ and cut it all off. I’m just letting it do it’s thing and in the meantime, I’m staying away from mirrors.