Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Getting started: what's stopping you?

You know you want to write a book. You have a notebook full of scribblings and 4am insomnia ideas that could just work. You even possess that fabled hour every weekday to write, and the knowledge that if you actually used your daily hour, you'd have written an entire book by the end of this year. And a book might get you a pulisher, and a movie deal, and, and, and.

So what's stopping you?

Truth number 1: Writing is scary.
Yes, uh-huh. You actually have to put words down, and some of them might be crap. A lot of them. Maybe even all of them. The author's ego is delicate. Thoughts of being a writer who writes crappy words causes intense pain. My advice is that it's better to write something than nothing. 'Something' you can at least work with - say, edit it, polish it, give it a nip and tuck or even a whole makeover; 'nothing', however, will remain nothing.  

Truth number 2: Writing is hard work.
I've just finished reading a novel by one of my favourite authors – On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks – and a wry passage on the process of writing fiction rang true.

' … From what he could gather from novelists' own diaries and letters, the urge that was common to them all was a need to improve on the thin texture of life as they saw it; by ordering themes and events into an artistically pleasing whole, they hoped to give to existence a pattern, a richness and a value that in actuality it lacked. If after reading such a novel you looked again at life – its unplotted emergencies, narrative non sequiturs and pitiful lack of significance – in the light of literature, it might seem to glow with a little of that borrowed lustre; it might seem after all to be charged with some transcendent value.
These poor writers depicted themselves engaged in this heavy task: from people they knew or met, they gathered characteristics for their imaginary humans; from conversations, they pulled out thoughts that could be developed into themes; houses they had visited were relocated and refurnished; other writers were absorbed, assimilated for what they could unwittingly donate; from some less recognizable source the power of pure invention was mobilized, while over it all the artistic intelligence shaped an entity that would thrillingly exceed the sum even of these rich parts.
To Charlie it looked like very hard work. …’
Writing is the best sort of work, if you ask me. A week ago I started writing my new interactive novel, The Last Book in the World (um, hopefully not), and every time I sit down to write – in that precious hour before I fetch my daughter from daycare – I feel anew the rush of creating a whole world, of having the freedom to write what what I like. But it’s still work. I always have to force myself a little to sit and write (after all, it’s not compulsory, not like freelance journalism deadline) but I find it’s always worth the effort because of the way it makes me feel: mischievous, empowered, mysterious, interesting, interested, alive.

The trick to getting started? Start anywhere – at the end, at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, or with a key scene that keeps squatting in your mental space. Go, go, go! Sorry to have to remind you, but one day you’ll be dead and you won’t be able to write. Nope, not at all. So sit at your PC every day. Make it a habit. And start writing anywhere.

Write the novel of your dreams with The Peacock Book Project:

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