Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Displacement Activity

I am not working on Pavane for Miss Marcher today. Instead, I have swept the balcony, cleaned the kitchen drain, done the extra shopping with a comprehensive list from Dear Hubby who is teaching as usual, talked to several members of my family at great length.

Although Pavane is close to first draft completion, I have sought displacement activity at random for weeks. Today is no different, but I had similar difficulties last week. Also not different: work commitments, family commitments, special requests, time of year: in other words, any excuse.

With eleven books published, a twelfth should be straightforward but this one has always caused trouble, perhaps because the subject matter and historical period are more challenging than others I have undertaken. 

The characters are no problem, they have behaved admirably from Page One. If I wanted to write a character-driven story, I would be done and dusted. But, from the beginning, the other story elements make writing a bit harder. Some of those are the period research although this historical period is well-documented.

That can prove to be a barrier to creative narrative: you dare not question, dispute or fail the historical authorities. Even if the focus of the story is not the accepted written history, many readers will expect the appropriate tributes and markers. When I first mentioned I was writing a novel set in this period of American history, one colleague responded "You had better be on the right side of history then."

The "right side of history" is entirely dependent on which side the consumer of your fictional tale prefers: another good excuse to delay finishing the book.

The historical writer, Ursula Renee, has many good suggestions for researching historical material. The trouble is getting involved in research can be an end in itself. Many writers are notoriously easy to sidetrack with the shiny baubles of getting the traveling fashions,  men's hats, vehicles, soap products of the era right.

All of these distractions are what the screenwriter and author of The War of Art, Steven Pressfield, calls "resistance". You know you are resistant to finishing your book when finding room on your desk for that new pencil holder much more compelling than working on that tricky scene where your protagonists have to come to grips with the conflict between their knowledge and their desires.

I have recommended Pressfield's book to writers, actors, artists of all kinds. The gist of the book is simple: "Do your work." Accept that you have a job to do and do it. Manage your job as if you are the employee, hold yourself responsible.

I have set a deadline to finish. The only one I can blame if I don't meet that deadline is the same person who is, at this very moment, doing something/anything to put off doing the work.


  1. Hi Leigh--
    Your readers are waiting for this book! I agree with Pressfield, sit down and do the work. Remember it's just a draft which can be refined later. Good luck.

    1. Ooh, I know! It's just...so hard! But if it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. A very happy and prosperous New Year to you in 2017, Victoria!