There’s a classic scene towards the end of The Matrix where Neo suddenly stops running and starts to fight back against the agents. Trinity asks what he is doing and Morpheus replies (with maximum cod-Shakespearian gravitas) “He’s beginning to believe.” This is very much the state I find myself in at the moment – not pursued by implacable foes, but a quarter of the way into a novel that promises to be very special. I’m starting to believe that this book – much like Neo – is THE ONE.
But how can I know this? And is it a good thing? There are so many disappointments in my past as a writer and so much uncertainty in my future – will this really be the book that makes it all happen?
There was a period last year when, deep in depression, I lost faith in just about everything, most of all myself. So a belief in this book is a welcome step forward, an acknowledgement that I do have value and that my writing has a future. But at the same time, I’m wary of getting too excited, for fear of having my heart broken a second time. Alas, I think I may be falling in love with this novel all the same.
Writing is an odd mix of self-confidence and self-doubt. You need enough self-confidence to pick up a pen every day, to put words on the page when so many others are doing the same thing. But you also need self-doubt to make you go through the manuscript one more time, to realise that you aren’t infallible and that the writing can always be improved. Many a book has bloated because the author had too much self-confidence, or been thrown away because the author had too much self-doubt.
So I have my doubts about this book – of course I do. But damn if it isn’t working. It’s getting the best crit group feedback I’ve ever had and my writing buddies are actively asking to read more. I wouldn’t say it’s easy to write (is anything?) but as the words pile up on the page, I have increasing faith in the story and the characters. I’m taking conscious notice of structure for the first time, crafting every scene to really progress the story. As my skills as a writer begin to mature I’m left with this realisation: short of a catastrophe, the only thing stopping this book from being remarkable is my own talent for self-sabotage. Here then, is my greatest foe, yet also the only one that is entirely under my control.
Can I hold it together long enough to write another 30,000 words? Can I keep my faith as the book goes through innumerable edits and is set free into the world of publishing?
Watch this space.