Icebergs, and What I’ve Been Doing

It hasn’t escaped everyone’s notice that I didn’t put out a new YA novel in 2012, and in that time the question has been levelled at me from time to time; what are you doing?

Well, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs, not all the time anyway. I’ve been working on the Elf Girl and Raven Boy series, and on that graphic novel I’m doing with my brother, and on a screenplay with him too, and on a play version of My Swordhand is Singing, and all of these things are taking slow steps forward into the world, but they take a loooong time to actually arrive. So to the outside world it looks like I’ve been slacking 😦

And I did want to write a new YA novel, only the problem was, I couldn’t think of one. Did I have writer’s block? Maybe I did, but despite two years of failing to get a book written, I’m still not sure if it actually exists. That must sound pretty stupid, and I can’t really explain what I mean. Only that I had ideas during this time, but something about them wasn’t happening. They didn’t develop properly, despite the fact that I tried everything I know to make them do so. I tried smothering them with attention, and I tried ignoring them, and everything in between, but nothing worked.

In increasing desperation I read everything and anything I could on creative blocks, spoke to every sympathetic author I could (thanks, people:-) ) and generally tried to figure out what was wrong. Everyone I spoke to, without fail, told me that the ideas would come back and that I’d know what to write again soon, but I’d managed to spook myself thoroughly by reading about various composers and writers who just stopped creating one day, and never took it up again. In the case of Sibelius, that was the last thirty years of his life. In the case of Rossini, most of the last forty. That scared the hell out of me, and anyway, the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t having ideas, but that they weren’t growing like they should.

Never the most frequent of bloggers, my entries fell away to nothing, simply because I felt like fraud talking about writing when I wasn’t doing it.

And then an iceberg sailed over the horizon. What I mean by this is that an idea that I’ve been thinking about, on and off, for seven years, finally decided to let me get a hold of it. I finally knew how to write it, having started once five years ago and having abandoned it. This time I knew it was going to be all right, and so now I’m very glad to say I’ve just finished the second draft of my next YA book, due out in October. Phew. It’s called She Is Not Invisible.

Why’s it an iceberg? Because the book has ended up being relatively short, at around 45,000 words. But there is more thinking and more planning and more research under the visible surface of this novel than anything I’ve ever done before. But of course, only the top 10% can be seen. I think Hemingway said something like that about all his writing, and you can be sure he said it better than me, with much more grandeur, and with a drink in his hand, too 😉

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lara says:

    Maybe the lapse was necessary to let this iceberg of an idea arise? Your novels always resonate with me beyond the words and story on the page, so, in a way, I'm not surprised if it could take you longer to find that connection to the story as its auhor. Thanks for sharing your difficulties in reaching it. I look forward to She is Not Invisible!


  2. Rebecca says:

    How exciting! And congratulations for keeping pushing where so many people might have just settled or stopped – the John Cleese lecture on creativity I've just seen says a little about that.

    Hope the iceberg is as beautiful as Gerhard Richter's 🙂


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