There's writing, and then there's writing - Linda Newbery
Until recently I thought I was the laziest writer alive. I know I'm not really, because there's a bookshelf lined with books to prove otherwise, but when I'm idling at my desk - or doing something else altogether to avoid facing the screen - I feel incredibly lazy. There are writers who turn out three thousand words a day, or write tirelessly for hours on end. I just can't do that. Sometimes, especially at the start of a project, I have to cajole, bully and threaten myself in order to get anything done at all.
Fortunately it's not always like that, or why would I do it? A book usually takes off for me when I'm about a third of the way in. And I love revising. When I was revising THE DAMAGE DONE for its Kindle edition, I found myself working at all hours, reluctant to stop. Revising is so much easier than first-stage writing.
It's come as a surprise, this last month, to find that writing non-fiction feels so very different. I'm co-writing a commissioned book about writing children's fiction, and there's not only the knowledge that the other author is busily working away at her sections, but we have a Plan. I know what to do, even if not quite how to do it.
But the biggest difference is that I'm not worrying about it in the way that I do when writing fiction. No, perhaps worrying isn't quite right. Writing a story brings with it a tension that feels like concentrating very hard on walking a tightrope. If I fall off, everything will be ruined. This how-to book doesn't feel like that at all. I can leave off at any point, even for a day or two if necessary. I can spend all morning happily searching for a quotation from C S Lewis in order to add a footnote. I can find satisfaction in getting one little thing sorted out.
Above all, I've found that I can sit at my desk and work. But it can't last. The fiction-writing part of my brain is impatient to get to work on a new novel.
- Linda Newbery is the author of many books for children and young adults, including the Costa Children's prize winner, SET IN STONE, a Victorian Gothic mystery. Her latest children's novel, THE TREASURE HOUSE, is published this month by Orion Children's Books. She is currently finishing an adult novel
I envy you!
It's almost always like that for me - cajole, bully, threaten - and still I do it. Who knows why?
But several people whom I respect - one a published writer, one a professional book reviewer and editor, one a psychologist - tell me to stop trying to fight the way my mind works. So right now I'm in the midst of a SFonal chapter which doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with the rest of my novel in progress, and I'm just slogging along. Maybe it will make sense at some point, maybe it will become another novel, or maybe it will be deleted, like the last five chapters I spent 7 or 8 months writing ... sigh.
Indeed, why do we do this?
Ah! so that's what happened next, I say, with a feeling of delight.
However it is now time to write a blog - hmmm, not so easy ....
I look forward to your book Linda
It's a scary and insecure way to write, isn't it? But I couldn't do it any other way.
For me, the difficulty lies in the fact that non-fiction has fewer noticeable repurcussions. Writing non-fiction is a bit like giving professional orders. You're dealing with facts, organization, and reality. Fiction, on the other hand, is purely imaginative. You're not talking TO someone; you're talking THROUGH characters. Your inner thoughts are exposed as is your writing style. If someone dislikes your non-fiction work, you can blame the facts. But if someone dislikes your fiction, it feels like a personal hit to the soul.