My book is killing me

It continues to surprise me how much I can suck at this job after all these years. I’m blogging because this morning’s writing session was so frickin demoralising. Roughly speaking, everything I write of late goes like this:

Here is a setting. Look at this detail. There are people here. They say things to each other. Everybody thinks for a while. The sun sets.

Two Ducks. Swimming.

I am dyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyying. Shouldn’t this be easy by now? I’ve written 21 books. I don’t often let myself think about that fact. TWENTY-ONE of the suckers. Sure, some of them were short, but some were really long. Those 21 books represent just over 1.9 million words, all in the right order. So don’t be saying to me, “What would you tell your students in this situation?” because my students are usually working on their first or second books. Not their twenty-second. I have no advice for somebody writing their twenty-second book, except maybe, “Dude, if it’s not working by now, perhaps you should take up topiary.”

This book is too important to me. It’s not just that 22 is kind of a favourite number. My birthday is 22/12, my husband’s is 22/10 (and if you add the 12 and the 10 together, you get another 22). And the bingo call for 22 is two ducks swimming, and I really like ducks. And also, it’s just such a pretty, buttercup yellow number. But ducks and buttercups aside, this book is just special because it is and because I’ve fallen in love with the setting and the characters and now I’m in charge of them, I can do nothing with them except make them have tedious bouts of longing then occasionally shout at each other. I feel like a bad mother who realises she should relinquish her child to somebody more responsible. Somebody else come write this book for me! Robin Hobb could do a good job of it, or Guy Gavriel Kay, or Kate Elliott. Meanwhile, I’d best dig out my hedging shears and look for a hedge to turn into a giant panda.

13 responses to “My book is killing me

  1. 1) I love that you have a category called “gaaaaah!”.

    2) Topiaries scare me, thanks to The Shining.

    3) Let’s talk about your metaphor literally. I’m sure that parents of >4 children will tell you that it never gets easier because every child is different–the gender, personality, the number of siblings, the setting (my 50s-teen mum’s baby bro was an angry Vietnam War teen), maybe the neighbourhood, …

    4) I know nussink, but I do not believe that doing somethings X number of times makes it easier. You’re writing a novel, not doing times tables. I don’t know if you’ll get through this with something you’ll love (or even like), but I’m pretty sure that it’s not about whether you can write.

    5) You’re the mum of Astrid the Viking and The Boy Who Stares Down Spiders. Please.

  2. Poor Kim! It doesn’t get any easier. I’m up to 37 or something insane like that, so I can say that with some certainty. Every time I stop and think of that, I’m almost crippled by the feeling that by now I should be fricking awesome so every word must flow forth as fricking GOLD–and nothing but shite emerges as a reult. So don’t think about 22 until it’s all over and look back and (inevitably) realise just how wonderful it is.

    Does that help? (If it doesn’t, I applogise. I’m just making this stuff up as I go along. At this stage in our careers, there’s just no other way to do it.)

  3. ” tedious bouts of longing then occasionally shout at each other”: You aren’t writing one of them Literary novels, are ya?

  4. Kim, it’s funny to hear that you have writers’ doubt. You are a perfectionist. Sean — 37 books! Hell. You two are scary. I love all your books, Kim, especially your thrilling dark fantasy novels. You are a *tremendous* writer, and I know all your fans and readers will love your next book. I’m looking forward to reading ‘The Garden of the Mad King’. Glad you like the number 22, Kim. Funny. Tina is a 4 fanatic. I like 57. I read on Crystalinks.com that in numerology the number 22 ‘represents practical idealism – practical genius, creator of the future, power on all levels, master of the material, philanthropy, universality, international direction, and service to mankind’. 22 is a ‘Master Builder or Spiritual Master in Form’, so you can’t go wrong with this book. You are brilliant: remember that. You are a brilliant, talented multi award-winning Australian writer, academic, and teacher, and an inspiration to many writers and readers. I’ve been privileged to have you as a lecturer/teacher at UQ, and for the ‘Year of the Novel’ and ‘Year of the Edit’ workshops at the Queensland Writers Centre. How many other writers would have the discipline and stamina to start writing at 5.00am daily? Not many. You are one of a rare species of writer, I think — dedicated, hard working, and an author whose writing is loved the world over. All the best with finishing off your special 22. Joanna :))

  5. 22 is OBVIOUSLY lime green. Bottom line: writing is hard. For everyone, I bet. Don’t let a shaky start ruin your delightful bright orange Thursday🙂

  6. Hi Kim,
    Gee. I remember you telling me and a QWC Writers workshop group (my only one and that was many, many years ago when you only had Infernal and Grimoire published) “the most qualified person to write your book is you” (therefore, not Robin Hobb or Kate Elliott). And while you’re trying to be “in charge of your characters” maybe you should not ask what you can do for your characters, but ask your characters what they can do for you” (although I’ve put this in my words, it’s something else you, more or less, alluded to back then.
    All the best – I know you’ll get to that “place”.
    Kerrie

  7. Or maybe, “Dude, if you think it’s not working but you’ve got 21 publications already done, including the really very tricky number one and the slightly less vexatious number seventeen, you’re probably wrong and just having a bad time at the moment. Put down the shears and back away from the panda.”

    Plus, if you can write blog posts as entertaining as this, I think you’re essentially fine, and will get back into the zone in due course. Cowboys. Fuck them up. (Wait, is that in the right order?)

  8. Hey Kim
    Believe me you’re doing fine. I’ve read about 15 of your books and have got most of the others on the shelf waiting (you write faster than I can read)(oh, I can’t find the space boogers one, but I think I read it at the library once – does that count in your total?). It’s cool reading your blog as you write, knowing that you’re in the surf, sometimes at a crest, sometimes in a trough (and sometimes tumbling in the breakers), but the shore is just over there. Keep going.🙂
    Sean

  9. Honestly you wouldn’t be as good of a writer if you didn’t care so much. Be confident in your abilities. To be able to write 22 books is unfathomable to me but it’s kind of comforting to know that even the most talented authors have their off days.On the bright side it hasn’t yet evolved into writers rage (the kind that makes you throw your laptop across the room and drink too much vodka). I personally am hanging out for number 22 and I am sure, no matter what your doubts, that it will be fantastic.

  10. Kim, it’s funny to hear that you have writers’ doubt. You are a perfectionist. Sean — 37 books! Hell. You two are scary. I love all your books, Kim, especially your thrilling dark fantasy novels. You are a *tremendous* writer, and I know all your fans and readers will love your next book. I’m looking forward to reading ‘The Garden of the Mad King’. Glad you like the number 22, Kim. Funny. Tina is a 4 fanatic. I like 57. I read on Crystalinks.com that in numerology the number 22 ‘represents practical idealism – practical genius, creator of the future, power on all levels, master of the material, philanthropy, universality, international direction, and service to mankind’. 22 is a ‘Master Builder or Spiritual Master in Form’, so you can’t go wrong with this book. You are brilliant: remember that. You are a brilliant, talented multi award-winning Australian writer, academic, and teacher, and an inspiration to many writers and readers. I’ve been privileged to have you as a lecturer/teacher at UQ, and for the ‘Year of the Novel’ and ‘Year of the Edit’ workshops at the Queensland Writers Centre. How many other writers would have the discipline and stamina to start writing at 5.00am daily? Not many. You are one of a rare species of writer, I think — dedicated, hard working, and an author whose writing is loved the world over. All the best with finishing off your special 22. Joanna )
    +1

  11. You have unwittingly inspired me to get back to my writing. To know that writers of your calibre still have moments such as this makes me want to seize the little suckers running around my head and wrangle their stories out of them. You have done it before and no doubt will do it again. How did the bush turn out???

  12. “If you think that you’re in control, you’re not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti

    See Kim, you’re fine!

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