This week I am BEYOND excited that Amanda Jennings has written a guest post. I found (stalked) Amanda on Twitter in 2012 before her first book Sworn Secret was released in August that year. She is what I see as a proper grown up author, who I would like to be one day when I grow up. Not only are her books AMAZING (if you haven’t read them, GO AND DO IT NOW), but she’s funny, honest, and just down right lovely. Today her post is just absolute genius.
Write the draft. Write The End.
Writing is a tricky business. It requires determination, a thick skin, and the ability to block your ears to the nagging sound of the Beast of Self-Doubt who loiters, ever-present, on your shoulder. You write words you think are ok, and then when you read them through the next day, you realise every single one is horrific. How did you write them? What were you thinking? Who in their right minds is going to want to read them? Let alone pay for them? And then, in a cold sweat, your hand hovers over the delete button. Or you spend three hours polishing a single sentence, moving commas, adding a word, deleting the word, reinstating the word…
So many writers don’t ever complete a first draft. But if you want to be a published writer you need to write The End. It’s the one piece of advice I’d give any writer starting out. Get the first draft written. Before you start tinkering and panicking, deleting and tearing your hair out, get to The End. You could spend hours, days, weeks or months or even years, rewriting the first few chapters of your book. Searching for perfection. It’s the kiss of death. A first draft will never be perfect. A few writers might be able to produce a perfect first draft, but not many. And anyway, a first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect because nobody but you needs to see it. Your novel will take shape during the rewrites. Writing a book is like sculpture. Before you can create anything beautiful you need to start with a lump of clay. The first draft is your clay. Yours to shape and refine. As you edit, your story will change. Some characters will grow in importance. Others will lose significance. New characters, plot twists, and ideas will emerge. This is part of the process. It’s the good bit.
But it’s not that easy, is it? There are so many windows that need to be stared out of. So many unimportant chores that suddenly become vital. So often my days can be swamped by procrastination, by making endless cups of tea, Googling the weather forecast, sorting out my odd socks, checking Twitter, checking Facebook, looking at pictures of otters holding paws while sleeping (this is one of my biggest time-sucks. They actually hold paws!) listening to Space Oddity and sobbing a bit… To keep myself on track on days like this, I reread the quote I have pinned to the wall above my computer. It reads: When asked the secret to finishing his 500 page masterpiece, The Power of One, author Bryce Courtney growled, ‘Bum Glue’.
I love it.
I love the ‘growl’. Writing can be a battle, drawing out sentences, bending them into shape, searching for the ideal turn of phrase, avoiding clichés, killing unnecessary words. And though I’m not proud of this, most of the time, when someone tries to speak to me while I’m writing, I growl in reply.
“Mummy, where’s my history book?” In your room, I growl.
“Would you like me to lay the table for supper?” Yes, I growl. Of course I would.
The phone rings. “For crying out loud, what do you want?” I growl.
You get the picture.
I also love the ‘bum glue’. I love the imagery, the idea of not being able to get to the kitchen to put the kettle on for the fifth time in an hour because I’m literally stuck to my chair with bum glue. We all need bum glue. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just begun writing your first ever book or if you’re the seasoned author of ten, if you want to finish a novel, you need to sit down, stay seated, and apply fingers to keyboard or pen to paper.
So write the draft. Write The End. Don’t worry about dreadful prose, about the boring bits, about the descriptions that don’t quite work. All of it can be fixed. You need your lump of clay. Write, forge onwards, get those words down. And when you’re finding it hard?
Well, just apply the bum glue…
Amanda’s latest book In Her Wake is available for pre-order HERE.