Lots of people start writing a novel. Lots of people don’t get very far writing a novel. Lots of people run out of enthusiasm for the idea, and get stuck into something else. The people that struggle to finish might ask me, how do you maintain the effort required to get to those two little words: The End?
A Suitable Lie will be my seventh published book, it was the second to be written – and I have written a further 3, so experience tells me that when I am stuck – and believe me it happens each and every time - I will manage to get all the way to those two little words.
I compare it to when I go swimming. As a part of my (off and on) fitness regime I swim a mile now and again. The first 20 lengths of the pool are the WORST. I’m all heavy-limbs and aching joints and an internal moan that goes – "whyareyoudoingthisthisissfeckingawfulstopnow". Then because experience tells me I can go the distance, I get through the energy slump, get into a rhythm and before you know it the last touchdown is looming.
When writing a novel, there is always a slump. I’m a pantser – I’ve set the characters in play, the story is unravelling – and then I hit a wall. It happens with each and every book and the line, “Where the hell am I going to go now?” plays on an endless loop in my head.
How do I get past that? I keep on writing. It often feels like wading through mental treacle but just like my sessions in the pool, experience tells me I am capable of finishing. That experience allows me to trust that my sub-conscious (or as Stephen King calls it – the boys on the boiler room) is working on a solution. I keep at it. I keep showing up at the coal-face and then, one day, it all falls into place like a grand DAH-DAH! (I swear the sun always comes out and the birds set up an orchestral movement right at this very moment.)
If you aren’t in that position yet (and you don’t swim), I will say that if you are serious about writing, try to develop a mindset of persistence. As a famous man once said, success is the constancy of purpose. Get your bum on the chair – your fingers on the keys – and get on a regular programme of writing activity, because that work of art/ piece of crap/ work of genius/ wouldn’t wipe my backside with this nonsense – and yes, that’s how my brain considers each of my novels during the writing process - isn’t going to write itself.
If like me you are a pantser, and you get to The Slump – or as one of my favourite authors, Lin Anderson calls it, The Muddle in the Middle - trust in your characters, the world you’re creating and your story, keep coming back to them – even if it’s only 250 words at a time - because that’s where you’ll find the answers.
Or just give yourself a break and get a few lengths in.
A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone is out now published by Orenda Books (£8.99)
Some secrets should never be kept…
Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.