- Jacqui Burns
Just Keep On Writing!
I have been writing for as long as I can remember and used to write little books that I would take into primary school to read to my friends. I began writing in earnest when I started a creative writing master’s degree at Trinity St David in Carmarthen, and I responded well to the discipline of having to write regularly for college. However, life has always got in the way of me completing work and I remember reading once that a writer is someone who writes. Obvious but true! Now that I have a novel about to be published, perhaps I can start thinking that I am a writer…
Novel writing is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a leap of faith, because you have to believe that what you’re writing is worth reading and that someone out there will want to publish it. So, I thought I’d share some tips on how to keep writing when you’re tempted to throw in the towel.
Writing with a partner helps. They say getting an exercise or diet buddy helps you keep going and this was true when writing our novel. When someone else is invested in it too, you have an obligation to keep going. It was great to have someone to bounce ideas off, so it might be worth having a writing buddy, a friend who is writing a novel too so you have someone who truly understands the tribulations of seeing a book through to the end.
To plan or not to plan? When Anna and I started writing ‘Love at Café Lompar,’ we had a vague idea of the plot and setting. We started writing it with no idea how it was all going to come together. As time went on, though, we started to plan more, and this really helped. So, by the time we got to part 2, we had planned out the events for each chapter. Even then it was just a line or two. We used to chat in the night about what could happen and having this road map was a good security net.
Buy a good writing book. There are lots of good and not so good books on writing out there. Believe me, I have shelves full of them. I have to give a shout out to Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ It’s so full of no-nonsense advice and is the ‘bible’ for writers. His advice on adjectives and verbs is great. It’s the opposite to advice you give out as an English teacher, but invaluable for creative writing. I always remind myself that ‘said’ is the best verb for speech attribution because it becomes invisible to the reader.
Read inspirational quotes. When we were finding it tough, I put together a page of inspirational writing quotes and emailed it to Anna. Some really resonated with us: Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way – E. L. Doctorow. Quotes like these remind you that there are others out there who are going through exactly the same angst as you.
Don’t keep editing. I think this was the one most important thing that helped us finish the novel – we wrote without looking back. In the past, I’d always gone back over what I’d written, editing and honing, which really slowed me down to the point where I never finished anything. You just have to keep looking ahead. (One thing we’ve seen through the editing process with our publisher is how wordy our style is, so this is something we’re hoping to take on board for the next one!)