When a chapter tries to beat you!

I’ve been trying to rewrite a chapter of my new novel for weeks. The original chapter in the first draft lacked emotion, avoided conflict and didn’t pack the punch it needed to as one of the novel’s significant chapters. I knew what I wanted to do with it and planned out the reworked chapter on 26th March – nearly two months ago.

Great! Now all I had to do was write it Easy?

Definitely not! Trying to write it left me feeling like this.

Every time I sat down  at the computer, Hoping the computer will reel me in.the words refused to come. People offered advice: leave it alone for now; write something else; go out and enjoy yourself.


The trouble was – I couldn’t. I NEEDED to finish the chapter. It was making me miserable, and I worried that if I put it to one side, I would NEVER go back to it. So, I sat doggedly at the computer, getting more and more desperate. I swung between Facebook and my various emails when really I wanted to be writing. I couldn’t rid my mind of words such as turgid, rubbish, pointless. The chapter needed emotion but the emotion I felt was

Stress Meter On Laptop Showing Panic AttackDuring this time I went to see a friend in Yorkshire for a couple of days and decided to go by train. I took my notebook to write by hand – something I don’t do very much any more. I wanted to fool my brain into thinking it wasn’t writing. It sort of worked. What I wrote wasn’t great, but I managed to keep at it for most of the journey. And when I got off the train in York, I had several sides of A4 – messy, scrawly, muddled – but words on the page.

I’d like to say that gave me a major breakthrough. But it didn’t. Finishing the chapter was still a slow, painful process, but last week, I did it! I can’t tell you the difference it’s made to how I feel. I knew it was making me depressed, but didn’t realise how much until I’d got through it.

It still needs more rewrites, but I’ve broken the back of it. I’ve actually been able to smile again. Whoopi-do-dah!


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  1. Well done for fighting through that difficult process, Lindsay, and I’m sure the book is even better for it. What fascinated me about this post was the difficulty you had in making it work, even though you knew what you had to do, and even though you are an experienced writer – and writing tutor! I suppose it just shows that writing can be hard work, for anyone. But I wonder why it was so hard? I mean, really why? (You just know I’m going to drill this answer out of you when we next meet up.) 😉 xxx

  2. Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Jo. It’s an interesting question as to why I found it so hard. I’ve got a couple of theories, but I don’t really know. I just hope I don’t have to go through the same process with all the remaining chapters!

  3. Lisa Carey says:

    Dear Lindsay, I admire your determination not to ignore the voice telling you that you needed to finish this chapter, even when it seemed insurmountably hard. I wonder if the difficulty was related to your awareness that the chapter needed more emotion, more conflict, more depth… I don’t know if it’s possible to write material like that – or any material, come to think of it – without being present with it, experiencing it, albeit indirectly. That can be hard. I know I find that scenes closest to my own bones can be the most difficult to write… the process of writing can be both healing and challenging. Sometimes the words come out in a cathartic rush… sometimes they have to be painfully manoeuvred into position. As always you illuminate some dark corner of the writing process. Thanks so much for posting this.

  4. Lindsay says:

    And thank you, Lisa, for your interesting comment. I think there’s some truth in what you say – I knew what I wanted the characters to feel, but couldn’t get beyond my feelings of irritation and frustration with myself. I was looming too large for the characters to get a look in.

  5. Polly says:

    *Phew* thank goodness the train journey helped…those moments of angst that seem to go on and on are horrid – pleased to see you’re making progress once more 🙂

  6. Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Polly. Really glad that chapter’s over. Fingers crossed the others prove easier!

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