Facing The Blank Page, by Emma Tucker
Over the last few weeks I have begun to seriously sit down and write a book. It’s a daunting endeavour, and it’s not something that someone can really tell you how to do – you just kind of have to find your own way, feeling along in the dark, as it were. I’ve always written stories, and a lot of the time (particularly if I’ve been reading excessively) I find myself narrating scenes in my head. It’s sometimes irritating, but mostly it’s fun. At some point I thought it would be a good idea to write these down.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not doing anything else while I’m writing this – that, of course, would be the goal, and the sheer amount of time, effort and energy that goes into a book means that often there is little time for other undertakings. I currently work full-time though, so I usually spend my evenings and weekends writing. I hope that, if the right things fall into place, I will be able to write full-time at some point in the future.
This first part of the writing itself hasn’t been too hard; when I started I had a very vague idea that I wanted to write a crime novel of some description, with a little bit of romance tossed in and plenty of horror for dessert. I love to read horror, I have just today finished “The Shining” (Stephen King) for the first time, and find myself incredibly in awe and inspired by its mastery of the genre. The attraction for me is the suspense, the not-knowing, the desperate, manic desire to get to the end and find out exactly how this dreadful adventure will conclude. While horror stories very rarely present with a “happy” ending – I think to do so would cheapen the whole experience – but an at least satisfying resolution is of utmost importance. Classic horror themes – like paranormal experiences for example – can offer an exciting sense of ambiguity and mystery that I hope to include in my own writing.
I digress. Back to the writing itself…
My starting point was incredibly nebulous, but within these few first weeks, I’ve written a draft outline of where I want the story to go and really defined my two main characters, as well as sorting out the nuts and bolts of how the story will be structured, and what kind of perspectives and themes I want to include. I have just this week finished (a very rough first draft) of chapter one (and it’s a short chapter, at that, but it’s something!) I actually like it very much at the moment, but as I said it is incredibly rough so perhaps in a few weeks I will look back and cringe and rewrite the whole thing. At the moment I am focusing on getting my ideas down into a structured narrative – it is too easy to get caught up editing one line for hours on end. Even when something doesn’t fit quite perfectly, I try to move on to the next thing just to get the general flow and shape of the story down.
Being part of the Novel Manuscript Development Program run by The Australian Literature Review has been hugely motivating. I work well with deadlines; I think a lot of people do, and being told that I have to write the first few chapters or an outline or whatever my task is for the week ahead, puts the pressure on – in a good way – to knuckle down and get on with it. I am finding that to be one of the most valuable things.
I am in fear of the blank page, though. A big worry is that in a few weeks, I’ll end up in a middling place in the novel not sure where to go, and again, I feel the comfort of having the class with me to push me through it, bring our my best ideas and write what I hope to be a great book. With my characters nattering away in my brain the way that they are at the moment, I have the feeling that I will be okay in the end.