Tag Archives: quotes

Mission: First Draft. Complete.

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“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.”

Nicholas Sparks

Joy, relief, apprehension, excitement, yadda yadda yadda.

It may have taken a little longer than anticipated but Draft One is complete. You can’t see me but I’m lying on my sofa having just done a little celebratory dance (picture this: flailing arms, lanky legs pumping, shoulders jiggling. I always stay classy).

Written by hand, in pen, on paper – and transferred to my computer every 30 or 40 pages. Written in a form of free verse that I believe in 100% but still doubt my ability to pull off. But most importantly, written.

I once wrote a post in which my main words of wisdom were: ‘If you want to be a writer then write.’ That’s advice worth following – but recently I’ve struggled. As I got close to the end of my first draft, I started looking for a new job, then I got a job, and it’s a busy job, and my focus shifted, and I wanted to write but I didn’t write, and I didn’t blog, and then I said to myself ‘If I want to be a writer then I need to write’, so I wrote, and now I’ve finished my first draft, and it feels good.

But there are no laurels to rest on. I’m already looking forward to the second draft – to the re-writing. And trust me, it’s going to need some serious re-writing!

For now I’ve put the manuscript away. It’ll stay locked up for 3 or 4 weeks…. ready to be looked at with fresh eyes. I can’t even remember the last time I saw the first page so at the moment I’m mostly just hoping it isn’t completely shit.

And in the meantime I have two other projects that I want to devote some time to – so they’ll be getting some love and attention.

Just time to reminisce with a pointer back to my first ever blog post, which was an early excerpt from the novel.

Now, for one more arm flailing dance…

Stuff that inspires me: # 5 Gil Scott-Heron

The revolution will be no re-run brothers,
The revolution will be live.”

Words, heart, politics, anger, clarity. Teacher. Leader of a revolution. And most importantly, soul.

He began as a poet. Then he put beats to his beats.

He sung about things that mattered… politics, race, addiction, war… but he spoke to inspire not to incite hatred. He often spoke with sadness, but also with optimism. He inspired a generation, or two, and he also inspired me.

With a voice so rich and smooth, so wise and full of wit, I’ve always found it easy to be in awe of Gil Scott-Heron. And his final note was a perfect one. ‘I’m New Here’ (2010) was recorded just a year before his death. It floats and it rolls, it looks back and draws strength from hardship, and is as relevant and beautiful as ever. At only 28 minutes, it doesn’t need to be a minute longer.

“Home is where I live / inside my white powder dreams,
Home was once an empty vacuum / that’s filled now with my silent screams,
Home is where the needle marks / try to heal my broken heart,
And it might not be such a bad idea if I never / if I never went home again.”

– From ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’, Gil Scott-Heron

Authors who look like their writing: #5 Will Self

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This edition of the series was nominated by Mame from http://writemybrainsout.wordpress.com/I’m always up for taking suggestions so please shout if you want to nominate an author to be featured.

“What excites me is to disturb the reader’s fundamental assumptions.”

– Will Self

When I lived in Stockwell (South London) I would often pass Will Self, cycling with his kids, as I made my way to the Tube station on the way to work. Self is one of those ‘famous’ people who I could feel proud about living round the corner from. If he lived there, then it was clearly an area fit for creative types who bucked against the establishment and forged their own unique path. In addition, his writing gave the impression that he might just be a little unhinged. Excellent. Yes, this is someone I was happy to share a neighbourhood with.

He’d be so happy to know that.

But it’s the writing that makes the man – and I do believe he exudes the way in which he writes. He takes the everyday and twists it. He perverts it. He exaggerates the absurd and often ties it up in fantastical and surreal worlds. He’ll satirise pretty much anything and he’s happy to make you squirm. And that’s an author I want to read.

Authors who look like their writing: #4 Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe

“My entire career, in fiction or nonfiction, I have reported and written about people who are not like me.”

–       Tom Wolfe 

Considering that the above quote is from the man himself, it may seem strange that I’ve chosen Wolfe for a post in which he’s supposed to look like his writing. But that’s who he is: an outsider looking in. An observer. He’s always one step, very clearly removed from the action he reports – and keeping his distance is one of the things that makes his writing so insightful and true. It’s also what can make it so cutting or full of awe. He’s never been a writer to deliver the most subtle of messages but he’s massively entertaining… brash, fun, exuberant… his writing is zapped with fiendish humour.

Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff are two of my favourite books. I like to think of him standing in front of a fireplace with a glass of champagne (or probably a fine scotch) in his hand, regaling a room full of people with tales from those books. Hmm, maybe I need to stop imagining all of these fantastical meetings with authors and get a move on with my own book…

Authors who look like their writing: #2 Kurt Vonnegut

random houe:reuters

Look at him, with his dishevelled, curly hair and tidy moustache, with his rumpled face and wry smile. He could be a mad scientist or a kindly history professor… maybe a bit of a wise guy. Or a genius novelist who was in turns prophetic and vulgar, a poet and a cartoonist, a non-conformist and an acrid wit. He’s so loved that I feel hesitant to give him any of these labels. To me, he seemed eternally disappointed in humanity yet filled with an absolute optimism in the possibility for human kindness.

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
perhaps
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
“It is done.”
People did not like it here.

– ‘Requiem’, Kurt Vonnegut

(Photo: Random House/Reuters)

I’ve been asked a few times if I’m taking suggestions for other authors to include in this series.
Of course, bring it on.

This is how I (try to) write… or… This is what I do/what do you do?

 “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit”

– Ernest Hemmingway

Ernest there, telling it like it is. Everyone needs to find their own method for making it happen but one thing’s for sure: the more you write, the more chance you have of writing something of merit.

I always begin by reviewing my previous day’s efforts. I’m currently writing in free verse, which (apart from being a huge risk) takes me a little longer than writing prose – and so I probably don’t have as much to review as a lot of other writers would. However, I don’t do massive re-writes at this stage: I change the odd word and mainly just help myself to get back in to the flow of the story.

“Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day”

– Norman Mailer

Like everyone, I have good days and I have bad days. But I’ve learnt that, no matter which of those I’m living through, if I want to be a writer then I need to, you know, write. Not just talk and think about it. I’m not going to pretend… I don’t actually manage to write every single day but, if necessary, I force it even if I’m feeling uninspired and that there’s no point in my putting pen to paper.

And that’s another thing. For me, the first draft of anything is hand written. I find it a much more organic process that way… things just flow much more easily.

“Nothing magical. You just sit there and keep typing.”

– Stirling Silliphant

You keep writing and sometimes stuff happens. I started off writing screenplays (and I want to do more of that): I wrote a couple of short film scripts and was half way through a feature length script when something unexpected happened… I found a three-page synopsis I’d written a few years ago as the basis for another screenplay. It grabbed me all over again – this is what I wanted to write about – so I decided to write up a fuller version of the synopsis. And the words just started coming out in verse… all by themselves. Honestly, that’s the way it felt. And it’s turned in to the novel I’m writing at the moment. Whether it ends up working or not, whether it turns out to be a foolish experiment, it’s something that I completely believe in.

Anyways, that’s rambling ol’ me.

I’m always interested to hear about what other people go through to get the words out. Let me know if you feel like sharing…

Stressed about your writing? Here’s some soothing words from a Pulitzer Prize winner

“I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around: writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.”

Jennifer Egan

For the love of god, please just finish the first draft

or

It’s all about me (in which I don’t apologise for a ridiculous over-use of brackets and italics)

So here it is. I’ve started the blog. That’s Part 1 done.

Part 1: Begin a blog to share your work thereby ensuring that you absolutely must, no matter what, avoid procrastination and keep on writing

It’s a start. But here’s the thing… I’m still in the process of writing the first draft of my novel. That’s Part 2.

Part 2: For the love of god, please just finish the first draft

As Hemingway is famously alleged to have said: “The first draft of anything is shit”. Now clearly that needs to be interpreted correctly but what he’s getting at is that you just need to get the first draft down on paper (slash computer screen). You have the concept for the story, your characters, your theme, your outline etc – now just get the damn thing written up.

Here’s another quote for you (don’t worry, I have loads; I won’t run out): “The first draft is nothing more than a starting point, so be as wrong as fast as you can” – Andrew Stanton

I know, I know, these are all soundbites and open to absolute misinterpretation and critique. The important take-out is that you do need to just write the thing. Anyway, this is all about me so let’s get back to me…

I’m sharing bits of my work on this blog to motivate myself to write more and to get some sort of response on what I’m writing (which, if it’s positive, will motivate me to write more)…

However, I’m sharing excerpts from my first draft: my unpolished, ‘just get it down’ phase. This is a scary thing. And may not be a true representation of how the work will end up looking. I’m really not sure that it’s good idea.

Also, I’m attempting to write a novel in verse (please don’t call it an epic poem – that just weirds me out). This is unusual and open to (here’s that word again) misinterpretation – and is also something that I could screw-up very badly… can I maintain a narrative thrust while being ‘poetic’? How do I blend in the dialogue without it feeling forced?

Ok, ok, I’ve already started to lose myself in a self-absorbed ramble. I guess what I’m trying to say is that blogging extracts of a first draft of a novel in verse is silly. I am silly. Be nice to me.

(And remind me to actually plan my next post in order that it will actually have… a point)