Yesterday I sat staring at an empty notebook and began to jot down ideas for Book 2. I then tentatively started to write, three paragraphs no less. Now that might not sound a lot but it was a massive mental step for me. A dam had been opened and the floodwaters of creativity began to gush across the barren plains of my mind. I was writing again, not much, but it was a start. And at at last I could answer the question that had been repeatedly popping up in day to day conversations with folk.
‘Have you started the next book yet?’
No longer do I have to prevaricate over my answer, feeling weirdly annoyed and guilty in equal measure. I don’t owe people anything, least of all another novel. Some of those asking the question expectantly haven’t even bothered to read the first one. Yet, still the question is asked. And still I shuffle awkwardly from one foot to the other like a nervous schoolboy who has forgotten his homework, desperately scrabbling for an excuse. No more.
‘Why yes, I have actually.’
I’m not going to tell them I’ve written roughly half a page, but I have started. And, what’s more, I needed a break. Book 1, from cradle to grave, was a two year process. It was draining, a slog which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yet at the end of it I held a book in my hands with my name on it. I was proud of my achievement but tired and in need of a rest. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again. Writing is hard work. Give me a marathon any day of the week.
‘Actually, Kirkwood Scott is part of a trilogy. Possibly more.’
Oh shut up, Stephen. Stop telling them that. Now they expect three books, possibly more. Can’t you quit while you’re ahead? Well, no, I can’t actually. This crazy story in my head needs to be told, I need to get it down on paper or I fear I’ll go quite mad. It’s a literary exorcism and, lacking a creepy priest, it’s up to me to drag it kicking and screaming from my imagination. I’m afraid there is no other option.
I now know how George R.R. Martin feels. I’m in no way comparing myself to the great man, in terms of ability or success. I’m many light years from either of those, but if he had a dollar for every time he’d been asked when the next ‘Game of Thrones’ book was coming he’d be a very wealthy man. Or an even wealthier man than he already is. I used to be the same. Just write the flipping book, man. Stop being so lazy and give the people what they want.
I now understand that it doesn’t work that way. In my day job I turn up at my desk at 9am and leave at 5pm. In between, there are eight (mostly) productive hours. There is progress, achievement, activity; a tangible product to show my boss should they suspect I’ve been skiving all day. I don’t even have to think very hard about it. I go to work and I work. Writing doesn’t quite work like that. There are days you turn up and nothing happens.
Make that weeks, months. While writing Book 1, I had a two month period where I didn’t go near it. I had nothing until, one day, I had something. Writing is not a regulated, uniform flow. It can be a rushing torrent, a steady trickle or a rusty faucet offering not a drop. Which is why so many of us are plagued with doubt. We can be J.R.R. Tolkien one day and utterly unable to string two sentences together the next. There are no constants, no norms when it comes to the telling of stories.
I’m writing again. I was bursting with excitement yesterday as I checked over my latest brainstorming session. But for now, I’ll keep my powder dry and my head down. There will be no ‘spoiler alerts’ on this blog, I can assure you. But it is happening and it will happen. Possibly even before the next Game of Thrones tome. I’ve no idea when that is either. I’ve stopped asking.