What lurks in the deep

Last night I wrote a pivotal chapter in my novel.

I’ve finally hit my relatively modest goal of 50 000 words since starting in November 2008 (!) The story has swelled and is continuing to grow despite me, though I’m eager to end it – even if it means writing a purely arbitrary finale – so that I can begin the very scary journey of EDITING! (eek!)

Anyway, last night I wrote a pivotal chapter. It was emotional, scary and at times I wanted to stop but I couldn't. I find that writing upsetting scenes come naturally to me. Most of the time I struggle to write even 300 words in one sitting. But when the content is distressing or moving and when I find myself asking the question "can I show this to other people", my writing becomes fluid, I can punch out 1000 words in under an hour and it is mostly coherent.

I have a few scenes in my novel like this. Scenes that I seriously question whether I have the stomach to edit, expand and prepare for a second/third/fourth pair of eyes to read. The scenes are not morbidly grotesque or terribly depressing, but they are dark and confronting. Sometimes they are themes that stem from dark times in my own life - though they are always fictionalised extensions of what I have experienced.

Despite the fact that it is fiction, sometimes the emotion of traumatic scenes, that my characters face, get to me. I've gotten emotional while writing about four or five key scenes while writing this piece. One of which I don't know if I'll ultimately include at all in my second draft. I feel like I can communicate the scene well enough and it defines the behaviour of one of the main characters... but I don't know if I want the content, I don't know if it has a place in the bigger story, I don't know if I can go back to it to improve and manipulate the first raw scribbling.

Have you experienced this? What do you do when your content gets too close to home? What do you do when it gets too far from home and you find yourself a little lost

Ps. If you want to read an extract of my WIP click here (1) and then here (2) let me know what you think!


  1. Hi ZZ,
    I find the same thing when writing emotional or dark scenes, that your writing hand seems to take on a life of its own. I think it's because when writing that stuff you're drawing from raw emotion and probably from your subsconcious. So when the damn breaks it all just rushes out and you have to just try and keep pace with your hands. In comparison, the lighter stuff sometimes feels like a stretch for me, almost like the negative emotions are easier to conjure up than the positive ones. Well done for cracking 50,000 words, and for sticking with it for so long. I only wish I had your endurance!

  2. My writing usually takes me to scary places that have absolutely NOTHING to do with my life. I have no idea where they come from. My life has been relatively normal and what I write is...not. I'm an extremely violent writer. That doesn't sound right...I mean, I write a lot of violent things...murder, mayhem, and monsters.

    I too have a hard time writing a ton in one sitting and when I do, I completely forget where I am and what time it is. It's glorious! but rare.

  3. Hi Mark, I think you may be right about drawing on raw emotion - that may be why writing scenes like these can be quite an adrenaline rush...

    Hannah, those times REALLY are glorious! Perhaps we're all just hanging out for those moments where we lose ourselves in our own story, so we dutifully sit and bang out our pitiful 200 words a day/week/month until we miraculously hit the sweet spot once again!

  4. I find in blogging that when you expose some vulnerability that's when readers really respond. However, it can be scary letting go completely.