Let’s Talk Pain

Meg Rosoff is the author of the hilariously irreverent There Is No Dog (Psst! Start reading it for a limited time on Figment here) which imagines our world if God were (shudder) a teenage boy. And although I’m sure you can predict that such a situation will end in disaster, I haven’t yet told you that when God falls in love, poor Earth falls apart. So There Is No Dog is a novel that encompasses disaster of epic proportions. And fittingly, it was a pain to write. Meg recounts the experience below–and shares some tips.

Anyone who has ever delivered a book or a baby knows about pain.

There is pain, however, and pain. There’s the delivery where it hurts like hell but everyone ends up joyous. Then there’s the one where your partner’s in China, there’s a bomb scare at the hospital and your midwife turns out to be a fifteen-year old on work experience.

This latter scenario, dear readers, nicely describes the birth of my latest book, There Is No Dog.

I’d had the idea (and the title) months before I started writing and knew it was a good idea (God turns out to be a teenage boy) because it made so much sense of our dysfunctional planet. Who better to have invented mortality, disease, global warming, and war than an immature hormonal sex-mad dimwit who couldn’t be bothered to put more than six days into the whole business of creation?

Where it started to unravel was in the details (‘God is in the details’, so presumably that explains the mess). The plot wouldn’t come together. The characters refused to gel. I wrote hundreds of drafts and then wrote twice as many more. And still I couldn’t get the thing to work. All my usual readers were stymied. “It’s Not Quite There,” could have been the book’s working title.

Adding insult to injury was the fact that I’d already published four novels and imagined the process would become easier with experience. Alas. Most days it was about as much fun as digging a well in quicksand.

Revision followed revision until the eleventh hour–when it all came together with a crash. But by that time I was sick of the sight of the little blighter and when anyone admires my baby now, I smile sweetly and kick it in the shins.

So. What do we learn from this experience?

  1. Books are hard to write. Really they are. And some are harder to write than others. If they were easy to dash off, everyone would be a writer because lying on a couch with your laptop and a cup of coffee is much nicer than getting up at the crack of dawn to work for some crazed sadist of a boss. How do I know this? Trust me. I know.
  2. Books are hard to finish. Really they are. If I had five cents for every creative writing student who complained about being stuck halfway through a novel, I’d be a very rich woman. The trick is to KEEP GOING. Take a week off and then KEEP GOING. Get someone to read it and then KEEP GOING. Sit at your laptop and write an hour’s worth of crazy nonsense that you’ll have to erase tomorrow. But KEEP GOING.

So why are you hanging around reading blogs? Get back to work!


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