I need to stop thinking so much.
That’s what I’ve learnt over the past couple of weeks. Of course, it’s essential when writing—including before you start—but it’s important to know when to switch off. Which is something easier said than done.
Too much thinking can lead to things like doubt and worry. While they’re natural to have, if not a little motivational and healthy, too much can be counter productive. It’s important to be in control. Otherwise, you can become tunnel-visioned, seeing only the bad, without noticing the good.
I find it hard not to watch a film, or read a book, and get distracted with thoughts about Everborne. I’m reluctant to try and switch-off totally, as that’s when I get a lot of my ideas, with my mind working away in the background. At the same time, I need to relax. That’s something I’ve not been doing enough of recently.
I’d also been hard on myself without realising it. I’m not saying I’ve done anything special, or that I require loads of praise, but I’d failed to acknowledge any of my achievements. I was too busy worrying about things like time—that I was spending too much of it on a certain chapter, or that the editing/re-writing was taking longer than I originally thought.
Instead, I should’ve been proud of myself. I should’ve recognised that I’d made the right decision in deleting any work that wasn’t up to standard. (This was essentially the whole of Narrative 1.) I didn’t just move on. I went back, and ever since I’ve been making sure each chapter is the best it can be. I’m not ignoring problems (which is something I had done before), I’m identifying them and seeing how I can remedy them, taking a step back here and there so I can take two or three more forward later on. After five months of writing full-time, I’m still putting in the hours, the effort, the enthusiasm. I’ve not given up.
Above all of that, I’m doing something I’ve rarely done before and find incredibly hard to maintain. I’m believing in myself.
One of the things I’ve been over-thinking in particular this week is writing from the female perspective. In particular, the character Amaryllis.
I’ve written female characters before, but for some reason—perhaps it’s because I believe Amaryllis will be one of the most relatable characters for readers—I’ve been going overboard with her.
I don’t want Amaryllis to be one of Fantasy’s stereotypical damsels, even though she encounters problems. I want her to have a distinctly female voice, without me over-doing it and becoming try-hard. I even began to worry that my representation of her might appear offensive. Thought built itself on top of thought, until I had a firm foundation of worry.
Eventually I realised I needed to chill. To not over-think. To just write. To be aware, of course, but to write like normal.
I had a very helpful conversation with Emily in the middle of the week, where I spoke to her about the character and she gave me some ideas about the female perspective—which I began re-working in the next day. Even then I had to tell myself to not go overboard, to not slap the reader in the face with Amaryllis’s femininity, but to maintain subtlety, as if I were writing a male.
Heck, I’ve written from the perspective of aliens. Why should that of a female be any harder?!
In a couple of month’s time I will (hopefully) be giving out the first quarter of Everborne for friends and family to read. I need to trust that my female readers will tell me if my female characters are unrealistic, with suggestions on how to improve them. The whole reason I’m having beta readers is so they can help me improve Everborne as a whole; this is just one area I may need help on.
Having spoken to Emily, I went back to Chapter 4 to add some colour to Amaryllis’s character, along with other changes that I wanted to make. The more I wrote Chapter 12, the more ideas I had for the Narrative. Again, it meant going back, so I could later move forward.
I’ve come near to the end of Chapter 12, but I haven’t yet written it—I knew I had to go back to Chapter 4 first. It didn’t seem right to finish 12 when the rest of it would likely need tweaking afterwards, with a possible change to the end, too.
While I’m eager to move on and begin editing further chapters (as it will feel like I’m progressing more), I know it’s important to tackle these changes now, without leaving them for Future Tom. I’m enjoying doing so, especially as I feel I’ve been producing some nice writing of late. Perhaps I will share some soon…
I feel I should also mention that this week I finally got round to reading The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, which my friend Chris gave to me for my birthday back in November—I’ve read a lot of good books recently but this was something different.
It truly inspired me.
Not that it means I wish to replicate it—though I’d love to replicate that feeling of inspiration for someone else. The reason I enjoyed this Fantasy so much was that it didn’t try to adhere to Tolkien’s blue prints of the genre. It had Fantasy tropes, sure, but the well-paced story was assured in its own, distinct world. (OK, that is something I would like to replicate.) It wasn’t a perfect book, but it was an excellent one, doing many things right, and few wrong. Brandon Sanderson is now firmly on my reading radar. Like Stephen King, I imagine every sixth-or-so book will now be one of his.
Mostly, I read a lot of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Thrillers, though I rarely read the same genre back-to-back. That’s not to say I don’t read other genres; I try to encompass as many as possible. I think it’s important for a writer to discover and to absorb as many different styles as possible (which is why so many Fantasies feel as if they’ve been plucked from Middle-earth). Hopefully, this is something that will reflect in my own writing.
[Once again, here I am with Cass. I was reading when she came to join me, making me feel very much like a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder.]