Sunday, 22 November 2015

Five things I've learnt about writing, by not writing

The last few weeks I've stepped up work on my next novel for Mills & Boon, after more than half a year away on maternity leave. Apart from a few hastily scribbled diary entries, all very emotional and largely nonsensical, there hasn't been much writing in my life for the past few months. So with the perspective that only a sabbatical can give you, here's what I've learnt about being a writer...

The cliches are true YOU HAVE TO GET BACK ON THE HORSE, because let's face it, this here book ISN'T GOING TO WRITE ITSELF. There are bills to pay, a contract in place, not to mention the fact that you have been desperate to get started again for months. That's not to say that it's easy to do. I'll admit there was a moment -- okay, more than one -- when I first started writing again and I honestly thought, I can't do this any more.  I got off to a creaky start, barely able to finish a word, never mind a sentence. The characters wouldn't behave, I kept finding huge gaps in my research. But luckily, it seems writing is LIKE RIDING A BIKE. If you push through it, just keep putting down word after word, then eventually you HIT YOUR STRIDE and before you know it Chapter Three is finished, your characters are getting steamy and it's all FALLING INTO PLACE.

But you can't use them Because clich├ęs are lazy, bad writing, and not only do you need to write this book, you want it to be good. Which means coming up with completely new and never-before-seen combinations of words to show the beauty and the heartache of two strangers meeting, falling in love, and trying to work out how to build a life together. One original word has to follow another, until you have fifty thousand of them. 

Writing's lonely No one can do it for you. Because those fifty thousand words we talked about? You're the only one who can write them. No one else knows your characters like you do, and no one can love them like you do, which means no one else can tell their story like you can. 

But you can't do it alone In times past, an expectant mother would gather her women around her as the birth grew near -- her mother, sisters, maybe a local wise woman. You need to do the same, whether it's a local writing group, your publishing colleagues, your family and friends, at some point you're going to want someone who will tell you, 'You can do this!' (And for everyone who has told me this over the past few weeks -- you know who you are -- thank you, and I love you for it.)

It's the best job in the world God I've missed it! The thrill when the words start spilling from your fingers and you have no idea who's making it happen. The joy when you weave together disparate strands to fix a plot hole. The sheer, unabashed bliss when you start off writing an awkward kiss and then all of a sudden everything's getting hot and steamy and the characters are telling you they want more. These are the moments that make us slog through the first stilted pages. Why I'll overcome my mortal fear of rereading the first chapter and go back and make it beautiful. Why I do a job that frequently leaves me crying into my laptop, over people who exist only to me, whilst wearing yesterday's pyjamas. Sometimes it feels like the hardest job in the world, but I wouldn't swap it for anything. 

Have you ever taken a break from doing the thing that you love? I'd love to her how you found it. As well as getting the new book moving, I'm also back on Facebook and Twitter, and would love to hear from you. 


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