if there ain’t sparks, there ain’t sparks

When I was 22 I split up with my boyfriend of one-and-a-half years then spent eight months in indecision about it.

If indecision doesn’t sound so bad to you, you’ve probably never really been there. Move over purgatory.

Anyway, at about the seven month mark I met a girl and we fell in friendship-love on sight. She hadn’t bought into my dilemma, and one night when we were driving to eat pancakes she looked at me and said:

“Hey, if there ain’t sparks, there ain’t sparks.”

It was hands down the best piece of advice I got. It reminded me that love was meant to feel amazing and a little bit dangerous and like the world had caught on fire.

Today I decided to give up trying to write the novel I’ve been slogging away at for the last three months. I still love my protagonists, but I don’t get them somehow. There’s no joy, only the horrible gaping feeling every time I open a word document.

The novel follows on from my finished manuscript and would eventually form a series, so the reason I persisted so doggedly with it was that I thought: When I’m a published author I will have to be able to deliver on stories that I set up so strongly in previous novels.

I thought I should practice and build a set of skills to get past such monumental roadblocks as I’ve been facing.

Then I realised: As much as being publishable and a bankable writer is important, what the hell is the point if there’s no joy in what I’m writing? There’s no way that’ll sustain you through 100,000 words (and that’s a third draft).

If there ain’t sparks, there ain’t sparks.

When I broke up with that boyfriend I looked at him and thought – there’s nothing I don’t know about you. You are incapable of doing or saying anything that would surprise me.

My tutor Sonia Orchard talks about writing a novel to answer an unanswered question. You cannot know the answer before you begin, or the novel will lack, well, spark.

As I foolishly thought I knew that boyfriend inside out, I feel like I know exactly what this novel is. I’m just writing as though I’m recounting, not as though I’m exploring and asking and adventuring my way through the story.

So today I started on a new story that’s been building inside my head for months now, and you wouldn’t believe how curious I am to find out what happens next!

It reminds me of how it felt to meet my husband on my 23rd birthday, at the eight month mark, and think: Shit. I really didn’t just make up how it feels to fall in love.

And it makes me glad that even after four-and-a-half years I never, ever assume I know the man with the really odd sense of humour sitting across the table from me.

About anna cowan

I look around, and here I am - housewife and aspiring romance novelist. This seems unexpected.
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3 Responses to if there ain’t sparks, there ain’t sparks

  1. Nicholas says:

    Talking about giving up on your novel brought to mind this post I read today at “Beyond Romance” about reusing stories and ideas that don’t pan out.


    …and your right about the ‘sparks’, and that if there’s nothing there to move on till you hopefully find them. 🙂

    • super useful link – thank you! I’m definitely not giving up on the story entirely, because those characters are way too persistent. It’s like I’ve got their story wrong or something :-). The funny thing is that they appearing in the very first scene of my first manuscript and practically took the story over, they had so much chemistry. Unfortunately, I locked so much of their story in in that first ms that I don’t have as much room to re-invent now.

  2. Mini-Mike says:

    Yeah, I find the magic with a story can go, and then come back later! Like, I’ve abandoned both my novel ideas at various times, but then I’ve come back to them, maybe with the words turned, metaphorically, upside down, and suddenly its fresh and exciting again!

    Currently I’m in a low patch with both but I know I’ll get it back. The last time I lost it I genuinely thought, with sadness, that I was giving up completely but I didn’t and this time I’m not so afraid of letting go of it for a while. I’m just focussing on the joy of Summer and reading/writing prose for performance right now.

    I do know that feeling, though. Its really hard to give up on ideas that you like, or are at least attached to because you spent time developing them, even though you know they don’t work as they are or with what you are writing.

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