Stuck in a Writing Cul-de-sac: 2013 365 Challenge #287

I've lost my way..

I’ve lost my way..

Argghh! I’ve written myself into a cul-de-sac with Two-Hundred Steps Home and I can’t think of a way out. It seemed such a great idea to have Kim travel with Claire around Cornwall. It’s easier to write dialogue and keep scenes moving when Claire isn’t by herself. But, having experienced depression myself, I know for certain it doesn’t make for happy times for those around me.

I’m not sure how many more posts I can write with Claire and Kim both feeling rotten. But, if I were to suddenly have them carefree friends again, that wouldn’t be authentic.

I can’t send Kim home to Jeff because the new Claire wouldn’t do that. I’m also a little tired of researching a new town every day and having Claire visit it. I need a better story line than that; one that allows Claire to continue to develop as a person. She’s come a long way from the shallow, materialistic person she was back in volume one. But she still needs to find her dream and make a sacrifice to pursue it. I just don’t know what that is yet.

This is the first time I’ve really, truly been stuck with the daily novel. I don’t tend to write myself into cul-de-sacs in my first drafts, as I spend time (usually while walking the dog!) thinking things through to make sure they make sense. While I do move chapters around and develop themes further in second drafts, I don’t change the overall story that much.

The scene outside my house!

The scene outside my house!

Unfortunately, having now reached 218,000 words, Two-Hundred Steps Home has gone long beyond my usual story line format. And, wham, I find myself at my first dead end. If it was possible, as part of the challenge I’ve set myself, I’d go back a few episodes and either leave Kim behind or maybe not have her attempt suicide. But it’s happened now, and Kim, Claire and I all have to get on with it. As Claire said yesterday, one foot forward.

Update: I’ve had a great chat with hubbie about the rest of Two-Hundred Steps Home and I have a plan! Sometimes it’s great to bounce ideas off other people and get a fresh perspective. It was strange, as hubbie kept trying to come up with endings for Claire that weren’t true to her character or her journey and it made me realise I know her better as a character than I thought I did. But it does demonstrate that, no matter how isolated you can become as a writer, two heads are always better than one. I hope you like my three-point-turn out of the cul-de-sac!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“Hi, Jeff, it’s Claire.” She looked over at the sleeping form on the bed behind her, and lowered her voice. “Is it okay to talk?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“I’m worried about Kim. I don’t think she was ready for this trip.” Claire hesitated, then rushed on. “Or me, for that matter. I’m not exactly a bundle of joy these days, and I think we’re bringing each other down. I don’t know what to do”

She heard Jeff suck air in through his teeth. “What do you want me to do? I’m back at work this week. I don’t think the boss will appreciate me taking any more time off.”

The curtness of Jeff’s tone surprised Claire. She’d always envied Kim for finding a man both handsome and understanding.

“What about her parents; could she stay back home for a while?”

Jeff’ let out a bark of derision. “She’d relapse for sure if she stayed with her mum for more than five minutes in her current state. Even at the hospital her constant fussing got on Kim’s nerves. You know what she’s like.”

Claire frowned, trying to match Jeff’s words with what she knew of Kim’s mother. When they were growing up, she’d always wanted a mother like Kim’s. Her own mother had shown little concern for anything Claire did, provided it had no impact on her, while Kim’s mum had watched over Kim’s every move. Was it fussing, or was it just being a caring mother?

“I don’t know, Jeff. I think Kim probably needs someone to fuss over her. Make sure she’s taking her tablets and eating, that kind of thing. Someone who won’t fall out with her if she fights back or mopes.” She thought guiltily about her outburst earlier in the day. She couldn’t imagine Kim’s mother saying anything so harsh.

Jeff’s sigh echoed down the phone. “Why are you ringing me then? Take her to her mother’s, if she’ll go.”

Claire wanted to ask Jeff what his problem was. He was a different man from the one she’d spoken to at the hospital.

Maybe he’s just had a bad day at work. This has all got to be pretty tough on him, too. A few months ago they were a normal carefree couple. Now they’re married and his wife is suffering from depression.

Forcing a lightness into her voice that she didn’t feel, Claire said, “Sorry, Jeff. I should have thought of calling her mother first. I’ll send you a text to let you know what we decide.”

As she hung up the phone, Claire hoped Jeff wasn’t having second thoughts about his new wife.

*

“I don’t want to go to my mother’s. She’ll fuss around me every five minutes. You should have seen her at the hospital.” Kim pouted.

“Yes, that’s what Jeff said, but– ”

“You called Jeff?” Kim’s face grew darker.

“I wanted to pick his brains, that’s all.”

“I don’t want you all talking about me behind my back, like I’m a child.”

Claire took a deep breath. “We’re just worried about you, darling, that’s all. I don’t think a road trip is the right thing for you at the moment. It’s tough, moving on every day. Lord knows I’m sick of it, and it’s my job.”

“Doesn’t seem like a hard job to me.” Kim folded her arms and glared at Claire.

Forcing herself to remain calm, Claire went to sit on the bed next to Kim. “You’ve only done one day, and we’re in a B&B. Some of the hostels aren’t particularly soothing places to be, especially if you’re sharing a room with some noisy blokes or chattering girls. You’re mum’s place is lovely and peaceful and I’m sure if you ask her to give you some space, she will.”

Kim stared at the floral pattern on the carpet and Claire forced herself to be silent. After a long pause, Kim sighed. “I guess you’re right. At least Mum won’t try to get rid of me.”

“I’m not trying to get rid of you, silly! I just want you to get better so we can go have some fun.” She held her breath, worried Kim would resent the idea that she needed to get better.

Eventually Kim unfolded her arms and put one around Claire’s waist. “Me, too.” She laid her head against Claire’s shoulder. “Promise me we’ll go on a girly holiday, somewhere hot, just you and me? When I’m better.”

Claire smiled for the first time that day, and returned her friend’s embrace.

“You’re on.”

***

3 thoughts on “Stuck in a Writing Cul-de-sac: 2013 365 Challenge #287

  1. I’ve not been keeping up with the ‘Claire chronicles’ very well. but this just popped into my inbox.
    What strikes me immediately is that she does seem more mature, more concerned about others. Maybe less introspective. She has grown as a person. Nice work on the turn around if you were stuck.
    So often just talking to or even at someone allows you to see the way ahead. Understanding dawns. I’ve done this when trying to understand anything and in the process of vocalising the ‘problem’ the solution presents itself.
    You’re fairly getting on with it. On the home stretch now. You’ve really kept at it. Congrats.x

    • Thank you! It definitely feels like the home stretch! 🙂 Yes, I remember when I was studying A Level Maths: I used to talk through problems with my mum and, bless her, she’d try to stop her eyes from glazing over, waiting for me to say, “I’ve got it. Thanks Mum!”

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