There is so much writing advice out there that it’s hard to know which bit is most annoying. Is it Write, Write, Write? Or Read, Read, Read? I mean honestly who has time for such nonsense in the age of Crazy Birds and Candy Crush Saga and the new series of Stranger Things?
Then there’s show don’t tell, which is actually sound advice, until you’re required to tell something and it turns into a complete charade. If someone is too near the cliff edge you don’t show them, you bloody well tell them before they fall off.
Obviously the most annoying is Elmore Leonard saying – if it sounds like writing, then rewrite it, but that’s because it’s good advice, yet like a a moth in the dark is impossible to grasp. It’s certainly the writing advice best ignored if you’re hungover, or driving.
However, having spent the last 2 weeks following another popular piece of advice – lock the first draft in a drawer and don’t look at it for two months – this is presently the most annoying. Having told a few people of my intention, so many added ‘to let it bake’, that I thought I’d fallen into an alt-universe of the Great British Bake Off.
Let it bake? How hot are these drawers? And surely if a drawer is locked you can still tip the entire desk out of a third story window and pick through the pieces… Yes, I’m that desperate.
Apparently the break provides a more objective view when you re-read your manuscript. Presumably, ‘objective’ being euphemism for running to the nearest pub in tears. But once you’ve unloaded the dishwasher, how do you spend your time while your manuscript is baking? Start another novel is the advice of a lunatic, so I put that new paragraph aside.
Where writers once had moleskin notebooks or dictaphones, they now look like anyone else incapable of lasting longer than 3minutes before looking at their phone. I’m always making important notes in my phone I never see again, so I decided to investigate. Perhaps these nuggets of wisdom too important to be trusted to memory might be sewn in to enliven the 2nd draft. However, at first glance the only way they belong in a novel would be as a malfunctioning Kindle ™.
My favourite so far is : Maniquoncwoyh jo say on what they wear, which sounds like the evolution of a novice learning to write compressed into 10 seconds and somehow dying before reaching the full stop. I’m glad I took the time to capture it, or at least some drunken, previous version of me is. This one is toying with the idea of putting it into the google Welsh translator.
There’s also time to weigh up new novel ideas, and the advisbility of adapting a Danger Mouse plot to novel length, which is worrying; it’s not exactly Zadie Smith re-engineering E. M. Forster’s Howards End (for the storyline of On Beauty) and the red letterbox HQ would be a give away, although my protagonists (I can’t call them heroes) do also have an office they can ill-affoed in Soho.
It’s fascinating what you get up to without a book to be writing, and is the sort of personal revelation that occurs two hours into watching Jason Orange’s best bits from Take That *
Talking of Take That, patience is a virtue in writing as it is elsewhere, and the further you are from your work, the clearer you can see. Which reads like poorly translated advice found in a fortune cookie, but it’s the only opportunity you get to be the reader of your own work. I guess this is a good thing. Now, to plan which pub…
*Yes, all you wags out there, there is more than 5 mins of his best bits, although 2 hours might admittedly be pushing it.
My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance . It features a great deal of music.
and on ebook here –