There’s still a bit to go before the last episodes of season 2 of Flight from Hell are available online, but I’ve already sent them out. (which reminds me, a new episode was posted today)
For the past few days I felt lost. I’ve written 2 seasons of Flight from Hell – 12 episodes each, so 24 in total. About 3000 words/episode, give or take. About 70-75 thousand words, I think. Unless my maths deceive me. And I know where the story is going and who the characters are, but there’s a point in anything I write when I wonder if the story isn’t, in fact, dull, crap, stupid, cliche or unreadable… or all of them together. That point, for Flight from Hell, is now.
Once upon a time, that feeling was absolutely correct. I wrote crap. That’s what teenagers and beginners do. It’s how you learn, by smearing the paper with what you think is brilliance and seeing later that you sound like a childish drama queen with a speech impediment and a slight IQ problem. These days the feeling is usually wrong (not always, but usually). As such, it’s something that I need to deal with. I need to push myself through doubt, through indecision, through the desire to flee and abandon the novel.
This is why last year I thought writing a serial novel is a brilliant idea: I’ve already made a contract to go on. As well as being a series of physical, on-paper contracts, writing for the Big World Network is a metaphorical contract with myself, a promise that no matter what, I’ll go through with it. Flight from Hell might not be the best thing I’ll ever write (I should hope not; it’d be disappointing to write my best work at 25). It might not even be as mind-blowing as I wanted it to be. But I’m hoping it’s good and I’m trying to make it so. You aren’t a real writer if you only ever write in your head. So eventually I had to take the big step and step on insecure ground, exposing myself to failure and criticism – but mostly, to being disappointed in myself.
This morning, feeling like I was about to curl up in a corner and hyperventilate because I was so afraid of screwing things up, I re-read a pep talk I got on NaNoWriMo a few years back. It was by Neil Gaiman, because of course it was. And it started like this:
Dear NaNoWriMo Author,
By now you’re probably ready to give up. You’re past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You’re not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You’re in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone[…] You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that […] it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.
It turns out many writers have doubts. Including Neil Gaiman. Including 75% of the writers his editor knows. I assume that out of the rest of the 25%, you have at least 5% who think that they’re the best thing since Shakespeare and that perfection flows from their pens like lava out of the Vesuvius, cca. 79 AD.
So I got myself an Irish Coffee, which is basically coffee with whiskey in it. I rarely indulge in alcohol, but it’s fucking brilliant with anxiety. The amount of alcohol in an Irish Coffee is usually perfect: enough to lower my inhibitions, but not enough to make me think I’m funny or brilliant when I’m blatantly not.
I now have 1129 words of the 25th episode of Flight from Hell. And I’m in love with it again. Not because alcohol makes any novel idea looks pretty, but because I loosened up enough to remember why I love writing it.
The only thing I hate is that I write from a single character’s point of view and it’s frustrating not to know how to reveal others’ POVs as well. I know them, I know what they’re thinking, and Nakir is a bit clueless. But it’s not an insurmountable problem.
Last time I finished a season, I wrote an article called “12 episodes, 12 quotes” to entice people to check it out. But fuck it. I didn’t feel like advertising this time around. I’d rather celebrate, because it’s a fun novel and when I sent that first episode to the Big World Network last year, I had no idea that it would actually be a novel, and one people like reading, at that.