Writing is a complicated thing. For the record, I don’t mean to imply any, deep, pretentious artistic connotations about my stuff, but it is a weirdly layered practice. I write because I love it, but it is not as simple as just sitting down, making up a story, and typing it out. Sometimes you have ideas that seem great until you have to write them, and then they just don’t work. Sometimes you can’t make a story what you want it to be until you realise you’ve been approaching it the wrong way all along. Sometimes, some beautiful, rare times, it just flows so naturally and it’s like a dream.
And then there’s Phoenix.
This story has been the biggest challenge of my writing life. Every time I think I have a handle on it, I’m wrong. Sometimes it goes smoothly until I realise that I’m staring down the barrel of an enormous plot hole. That happened just this morning, after spending hours changing around the whole structure of the story to make it flow better. I felt like I’d done a good job, set down to write some more and then realised that a major plot point essential to the conclusion of the novel makes no goddamn sense. And I’m furious because, for the life of me, I can’t see a way to make it work.
This is not the first time this has happened. Phoenix is like a problem child; all through it I come up against walls of my own making, dead ends that I have to completely reshuffle the narrative to work around. Part of that’s an issue of plot; the novel has five main characters, all of whom have their own subplots that intertwine with the others. It’s more complex than anything I have ever written, and it’s driving me totally insane.
By contrast, Windmills was pretty simple. The novel was divided into four parts, the first three each from the perspective of a different character. They weren’t really intertwined; they were like their own individual but related mini novels. That structure was easy.
The irony is that, where Windmills doesn’t really subscribe to any genre or target audience, therefore making it a little too odd and left of centre (and unmarketable) to get it a widely promoted release, Phoenix was meant to be a more straightforward, commercial young adult thriller. It was meant to be simpler than Windmills. It has turned out to be anything but.
I’ve merged the plots for the first and second book, which turned out to be a good idea, but now I’m sitting on 60,000 words and it looks as though I’m gonna have to re-write the last ten thousand of those to get around this stupid plot hole that I idiotically didn’t see coming. The way I see it, it can go one of two ways; either this will all be a baptism by fire and the book will turn out excellent, or it will just be a poorly thought out mess that was ultimately a waste of time. And yet, I’ve come way too far to drop it now.
But am I just forcing a story that doesn’t want to be written? Maybe there could be something better for me to focus on. Yet here I still am, biting my nails, drinking coffee after coffee, sitting in my room staring at this unwieldy manuscript which has become exactly what it wasn’t meant to be; a gigantic pain in the arse.
Writing words about writing words.