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Weekly Quote #24

“Often the first hurdle is the writer’s own self-consciousness about the act of writing itself. And that hurdle might well take a few pages to clear, like an old car with a dirty petrol tank; the first few miles will be a juddering, stop-start journey. Be prepared for this. You are engaging with something unfamiliar to you, don’t expect to produce a masterpiece in your first attempt. Start off with what you had for tea, the last phone call you made, the colour of your lover’s eyes, your favourite CD. Give yourself a subject and write about it, without stopping or correcting yourself, for five minutes. Just generate some pages, a body of work.”Β (fromΒ ‘The Creative Writing Coursebook’ by Julia Bell and Andrew Motion)

When I go through the first draft of Rise of the Sparrows I can hardly believe that the first few pages and the last few pages are really the same book. Somewhere around the second half my writing evolved and stepped it up a notch, but you can tell that I was more than a little unpractised on the first few pages. The sentences are too long, chapters are embarrassingly short (think 2/3-of-a-page-short), and the writing itself is terrible, too. Β Calling it a juddering stop-start is giving it too much credit – but I got past those pages and the second half is something I’m proud of already even now, before I’m done with the first edit. While the beginning was painful it got easier, and eventually the words flowed more easily.

I know it’s always difficult to start something new and I know it’s not a good feeling when you feel like you’ve let yourself down, but keep going and it’ll get there. Always keep going.

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6 Comments

  1. This is so true. One of the most interesting comments from a beta reader I received was: “It feels like the first three chapters are a bit stuttery and then from chapter 4 you get in your stride and everything settles down nicely.”
    Unfortunately she couldn’t be more specific as to what gave her this feeling, but it certainly made me go back and have *another* long look at the style of chapters 1-3!

    • Even if it wasn’t more specific I think I’d still be happy with it πŸ˜› As long as I get more than ‘like it’ or ‘hate it’ I’ll be happy! And at least you were pointed in the right direction and you could go back to fix it πŸ™‚ How many revisions did you do of the first few chapters?

      • Chapters 1-3 probably at least seven (I’m not counting minor tweaks to spelling and grammar). Chapter 1 on it’s own, I’ve lost count. Probably 15 at least and still counting because I’m thinking of coming up with another version of the very beginning and running just those first 2-3 pages past beta readers again. *sigh*

      • That’s what I’m doing with the prologue and the first chapter. There are so many different options for the prologue, and I know it’ll be a while before I’m happy with the first chapter.

  2. I totally understand what you’re saying. When I began revising my first manuscript, I found that I had to do the most work in the beginning. The late chapters weren’t as bad, so editing those chapters went pretty fast. Also, writing the second novel has been so much easier and much more enjoyable now that I’m able to apply what I’ve learned from the first one.

    So yeah, stick with it. I’m sure your second book will be a much better experience than this first one.

    By the way, why can’t 2/3 of a page be an entire chapter? If you want, you can make a single paragraph the entire chapter. Heck, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a new chapter mid-sentence.

    Seriously, though, I’m not against short chapters. I think a chapter (or story, for that matter) is as long as it needs to be.

    • I agree, it went exactly the same way for me. The beginning was terrible, but I got through the second half much faster. I am still making changes but the pages don’t look as red as the first ones do. The second book won’t be as much of a pain to edit because of that hopefully. I’ve learned a lot from the process over the past few weeks alone!

      Thank you, that’s reassuring πŸ™‚ It just seems too short because it’s the first chapter and it doesn’t introduce my main character properly. I’m sure you can see my issue with that ^^ Still, I’m glad to hear that a chapter can be short and that you’ve done the same thing. It’s always reassuring to hear that I’m not the only one doing something, even though that wouldn’t be possible given this planet’s population πŸ˜›

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