After several months of wallowing in a dry well of creativity, on the 23rd May I started a draft of my story (the one I’m commissioned to write for the Taiwanese movie director), which I would go on to finish on the 25th June (my birthday).
I finally bloody-well did it.
It’s funny how it works.
You try and you try and you try…
… and nothing comes.
And then… BOOM. Something finally sticks.
It’s like you’ve hit a vein of liquid gold, and the ideas start pouring in, and the characters start talking, saying, yes, yes, this is what we’ve been waiting for.
And then all you have to do is sit there and bleed it out.
The director only wanted a novella! It’s not like he was asking for the next War & Peace. He asked for a novella of no more than 30,000 words.
I got it to 29,000.
But I must have written over 100,000.
(This was, after all, the second version of the story he had asked for. But it’s completely different from the first version, a whole new story, with new characters, for the simple reason that it had to be, because the first version sucked.)
So I’ve written easily over 100,000 words for this one novella.
I’d start a draft, then bin it.
I’d get to 10,000 words, then bin it.
15,000, bin it.
April, and most of May, was a hellish time for me. I thought I’d never get it done. I had my pickaxe, and was attacking the ground, forever hoping I would strike lucky.
I honestly thought I’d have to go to the director, give him his money back, and tell him he’d asked the wrong guy, the wrong writer.
The clock was ticking too (and still is… the story is with my editor at the moment, and then it has to be translated into Mandarin), as there’s a whole team of people waiting.
Because the book is to be adapted into a screenplay and turned into an animation for the big screen.
Hence the pressure.
But I had to push all that aside.
I had to just write a story that I would be pleased to read as a reader.
Basically: I had to have fun.
And that’s what I started having on May 23rd.
It wasn’t easy. It never is. But it was fun.
Because I found a vein and I bled that bastard dry.
“What you say goes,” was my daily and very useful mantra.
I didn’t plan the story—I tend to write from the seat of my pants—and so every day I would end my writing session with the same question: What happens next?
And the next morning I would sit at my computer, knowing that my mind had been running over the story as I went about eating, sleeping, reading, watching movies, etc.
I would give myself most weekends off, too, which I find helps.
The day after I sent the story to my editor, I started to adapt my first book into a screenplay, as a kind of experiment. I wrote the book nearly a decade ago. It’s strange to revisit the characters. It feels as if they’ve been waiting for me.
(And between January and April I wrote and submitted a comedy stage play to the BBC. I wonder if I’ll hear anything back from them…)
Anyhow, whatever you’re working on, just get to the end. You can always go back and tighten the bolts and sand off the rust.
Just get to that blissful end.