Rabbit Holes

I've been mulling over exactly why it's so difficult to keep going with a piece of non-fiction writing, when it seems so much easier to achieve a first draft of a novel, or a play. This is not to say that either process is really easy, just that when you are working on fiction in any form, the desire to pursue the story, to find out where it's going (even if you think you already know the ending) just carries you along, and before you know it you have this large, unwieldy thing that will eventually (you hope) turn into a novel or a play. But at least you have something to work on, and with. You don't have the blank screen and the pile of books and notes to alarm you every morning when you turn on your PC. I'd be interested to know how other writers feel about this. Do those who usually write non-fiction, I wonder, feel equally thrown by the need to keep inventing, when they first attempt a piece of fiction?
This, of course, is all about Gigha. I am writing a book about Gigha, with a deadline of the end of May and although now I really do feel that the end might just be in sight, and that I might actually manage to finish drafting out the last few chapters within the next couple of weeks, thus leaving me a whole month to (a) do final rewrites (b) find some elusive old photographs of the island (c) draft out an index and a bibliography and (d) manage a trip to the island to check final facts. But it has been a long haul, and I wouldn't willingly do it again. I'm not sure why. Mostly it's to do with the fact that my natural inclination is to write fiction. But the other problem seems to be what a friend of mine, hard at work on her thesis, calls "Rabbit Holes." It seems a wonderful description, calling to mind images of Alice, and her adventures in Wonderland. Because research of any kind is full of potential Wonderlands. Every single time you set out to research a specific topic, you find something else so fascinating that you can barely resist the urge to go tumbling down the rabbit hole after it. When I sent a first chapter to the publisher, it came back with several dismayed comments. Can you just focus on Gigha? That was what he was saying in essence. So - reluctantly - I did.
But the problem is that in fiction, drama, poetry, it is these same rabbit holes, the million interesting diversions and connections that are the very life blood of what you write. In researching Gigha, I have come across literally dozens of interesting facts, stories, observations, any one of which might provide material for a piece of fiction. Just not for this particular book. Come the end of May, I know where I'll be though. Off down a rabbit hole, that's where.

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