Abigail Rieley

Writer and Author

The Blank Page

So my novel is finished and with my agent.  A whole summer of feverish writing and editing came to an end just as the first leaves fell off the sycamore tree in the back.  I’m pleased with what I’ve written.  I like my characters, I’ve got rid of the plot holes and the thing comes to a satisfactory conclusion.  As far as I’m concerned it’s done.

I’m not saying that it’s absolutely done and dusted.  It can’t be just yet.  Up until it goes into print there will still be time to tweak and trim but from now on it’s not just my baby.  My agent’s got it now and soon we’ll be dangling it in front of publishers to see who bites.  Any changes made to the manuscript from this point in will come from either agent or eventual editor.  I’ve done what I can with the images I had in my head and now it’s out there.  It needs other pairs of eyes over it now.

Which leaves me with the problem of what to do while I’m waiting.  I had hoped to segue happily into a nice juicy trial as the Central Criminal Court kicked off it’s new term this week.  But life has a habit of not being particularly accommodating and the interesting, news worthy trial I was hoping for failed to materialise.  So I’m sitting in front of my computer, staring at the wall in front of me and quietly going mad.

It seemed like a good plan to start the next book on my list to occupy myself while the novel was doing it’s thing away from me.  I have plans, notes, even research on not one but two new books.  There’s another true crime and another fiction (the sequel to the one that’s so recently finished).

After much deliberation I decided to let the sequel sit – for the moment at least.  My characters need a rest and I need a break from the intensity of conjuring up all their emotions, fears and hopes.  It’s hard not to be slightly method when you’re drafting a story.  Editing gives a distance that allows a far more pragmatic approach but a first draft requires throwing oneself in head long only coming up for air when eating becomes a necessity.

So no sequel.  Instead I’ve turned to the next non fiction book I want to write.  It’ll be another true crime book like Devil but a bit wider in scope.  I’ve high hopes for this idea and have been looking forward to working on it for months.

So why is a blank page staring back at me?  I have everything in my head for this project.  I know what order the chapters will go in, what sources I’ll use, all the rest of it.  I even know how I’ll tell the story.  But when I sit down to write, the words will only drip onto the page in sulky fits and starts.

I’ve had the same 300 words squatting in the middle of the page for a week.  Occasionally I’ll move some of them around but for the most part they sit there staring at me accusingly.  On their own they look a little silly, insubstantial, flimsy.  They need the weight of a couple of thousand companions before they can do the job I’m giving them.

But waiting for the kettle to boil for the umpteenth cup of tea today I recognise my predicament.  I’ve been here before.  Every time I’ve started a book, every time I’ve started a long article, going back further, every time I started an essay.  This is apparently what I do when I start a new project.  This is the noisy, frustrating birth of whatever the latest project is.

I wish I could work some other way.  This way is annoying and gives me a headache.  But apparently this is what I do.  I’ll chip away for the next hours, or possibly days, and eventually the block will shift and the words will flow the way they’re made to.  In the meantime,  I think I’ll make another cup of tea.

1 Comment

  1. Keep chipping away!

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