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Louise Couper

Job for January – New Year’s resolution: Getting it written


The good news is that there is no magic formula.  Unfortunately, that’s the bad news too.


I have about fifty books on writing, bought when I taught the subject and when I was trying to teach myself.  One of the first I acquired was ‘If you can Talk you can Write’ by Terry Prone.  It is an encouraging book, as the title suggests and at the time there were very few ‘how to’ books on writing, so it was a godsend when I struggled to know how to do this thing called ‘writing a novel’.


The other forty plus books on my shelf range from the ‘how to’ type - crime, romance, children’s, poetry and plays - to those of the ‘learn to’ variety - plot, structure and edit.  The latter category ‘edit’ even has a sub-category of its own.


Some of these books are well written; others are quite obscure.  I have not yet found a book which actually explains what you need to do in order to get to the spot where you are able to put words on the page.  I discovered that through reading the ‘inner’ books by Timothy Gallwey, written for the sportsperson.  Simply put, these purport to teach you how to focus on what is happening.  If I were to write an ‘inner’ book of writing, this would probably involve paper, pen and words on the page.  Forget everything else.


For instance, when learning how to sculpt, you have a shape in the form of an armature, clay and a few tools.  The rest involves putting on clay and taking it off again, so that you finish with a pleasing shape.  Same with writing.  You focus on the images in your head; put these on the page as words until you have, say, a thousand words.  Next day, put more words on the page until you have another thousand.  By the end of the week, you will have seven thousand.  In about a dozen weeks you will have a novel.  Only read it through when you have put it away for a few weeks.  What I said in a previous blog about editing, applies at this stage.  Often, this can take as long, if not longer, than writing the original.


So, you can see, there is no magic.  Anyone can do it, especially You because you are interested enough to read this.