Sharon Bolton has written a new book (Little Black Lies: I’ll be posting a review tomorrow by the by) It is very, very good. In fact, it so good I am very much intimidated as I sit here pondering my own work.
It is needless to say that, in order to write well, you should read well. Reading gives you the necessary tools to write, paraphrasing Stephen King. But sometimes, just sometimes, reading also cripples you into a state of “Oh Jesus, I will never be that good.” There are two psychological thriller authors who tend to install this feeling in me: one is Rosamund Lupton and the other is Sharon Bolton. I have read each of their new books this month and am thoroughly in awe.
Two options follow. I either give up, knowing that I will never come close to their skill (yeah right, for those of you who know me and my bulldog determination you know that’s not going to happen) The other option is to pull my socks up and learn all I can from their work. I choose option two.
So, instead of giving up and wallowing in a sad little puddle of self abasement I will carry on. I’m re-reading all the sections of their work that I love in order to see just how they do it, so that I can bloody well do it to. I have examined the ins and outs of their plot, characters, narrative styles and everything in between.
Most importantly, I have reminded myself that they are also human. They were once unpublished, hopeful, determined writers just like me. If they can do it, I can do it to.
And so can you.
Those who follow me on twitter (@rebeccatinnelly, in case you’re interested) may be familiar with my recent pen struggle. I have a favourite pen. It is a black ball point pen with retractable nib picked up from a hotel lobby in Greece by my parents years and years ago. It is really comfortable to write with and as a result it is the pen I have used to plan my novel. I have grown rather attached to it. It has become my lucky pen.
Queue disaster: the damn thing ran out of ink and I couldn’t find a refill for love nor money. I tried writing with other pens, only to be convinced that my ideas were not transferring onto the page quite so well. I searched through every pen in the house to see if any of their cartridges would fit, but to no avail. The pen is irreplaceable: even the hotel logo on the pen has worn off so I couldn’t contact the hotel to find out who made it. And I would have done, believe you me.
THANK GOD FOR THE INTERNET. After much searching I have found a refill that fits and my pen is working again. Hooray! Now I just have the fear that it will happen again and the company will stop making the refills or someone else will buy them all or….
I could go on and on. Is anyone else this superstitious about their writing things? This damn pen has taken over a lot of my thinking for the past week. But I will not give it up.
After last week’s sad mourning over the loss of my first sentence I can now update you all to let you know that I have actually killed off the whole of the first chapter. It has been rewritten and is a lot better. Phew.
Where has this flurry of deleting and rewriting come from, you ask? Why, from those clever, clever speakers at the Winchester Writers Festival, of course!
Writing, after all, is in the rewriting.
Please don’t be put off by my blasé attitude here. I have spent the past two weeks leaping between euphoria at the positive feedback I received and a pit of dread and self loathing at the prospect of rewriting and making it better. It is a daunting task.
What was more daunting was the fact that a rather clever agent advised me to not write anything for a few weeks. A FEW WEEKS? Instead, I was to reassess my characters and refine my plot to help with pacing issues. I discovered something about myself in these few weeks (well, two weeks actually. I couldn’t hold back any longer.) I learned that I hate not writing. Whereas the background work I have been doing has been very helpful (I’m already reaping the benefits of Simon Hall’s excellent characterisation advice) I have been dreading getting behind the keyboard again, worried that I just won’t be able to do it, that I’m not good enough after all.
The good news is that I am really pleased with the new first chapter I have written. I am also aware, however, that one of the reasons I am really happy is that no one else had read it yet!
Hands up, who wants to go first?