“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.” (from ‘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.  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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