24 February 2009

I'm just writing this thing...

In my on-going quest to draft a how-to-write manual and teach myself craft, on Sunday evening I surveyed a bunch of author interviews from my back catalogue of Mslexia magazines, where they run an interesting feature "100 Ways to Write... The [insert name of featured author] Method".

Much in line with the Anne Lamott bit I quoted last week, most authors did not write "linearly", starting from the beginning of The Book and writing straight on through to the end as it appears in published form. I italicize that for a reason: because I think there's an expectation that you do write from "start" to "finish". Indeed, you may well do with non-fiction but when you're making something up it is totally different. Often or even more likely than not, you don't know where the starting line is until you know where you finish.

I took he
art especially from Maggie O'Farrell's recent interview:

She had been writing steadily, but ‘I didn’t really know what I was doing,’ she says.


‘I just started writing this thing,’ O’Farrell continues, ‘and I didn’t really admit to myself or to anyone what I was doing. I was having a drink with [a friend] and he said, “I haven’t seen you for ages, what are you doing?” and I said, “Nothing much.” So he said, “What are you doing?” and I said, “Well, I’m writing this thing, I’m writing this story.” And he said, “How long is it?” and I said, “About 30,000 words.” “You’re writing a novel!” he said’ – she mimics his accusatory finger-pointing – ‘and I said, “No, no I’m not! I’m not!” and he said, “Yes, yes you are!” and I said’ – and you can sense her flustered reaction from more than a decade ago – ‘“No! No, I’m not! It just this thing, and it’s just got bigger and bigger!”’
(from Maggie O'Farrell interview Mslexia magazine Issue 40.)

I just love that. I
t is so much easier to think of it as "this thing".

Moving along....

The writers workshop members shamed me last night for not finishing things! I denied I did this, but they had evidence to back up their claim. Duly chagrined, I am determined to prove them wrong with the current project. I will post this Beryl Bainbridge quote above my PC:

Everything’s ready. You’re at the edge of the lake. The water’s murky and freezing. Once you’re in you must stay in until the book’s finished. That’s the rule: no matter how badly it’s going, you must finish what you’ve started.

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