From Hook to Book

Just Write It

Who said you could write a book? Who’d want to read what you write? That’s a bunch of crap, and you know it.

I used to listen to that obnoxious Self-doubt Elf scoffing on my shoulder to the point I’d start to wonder why I even wanted to write. Probably my idea was rubbish. And who was I to think I could be a writer?

I’d tidy my desk; clean out my file tray; check my email; and make another cup of tea. Anything rather than face the blank screen. (I can’t even add the verb beckoning+screen. At least a creamy fresh page in a notebook is a smidge friendly. There’s nothing buddy-buddy at all about a block of white on a computer screen.)

Anyhow, back to topic. Today, when I was thinking (okay, agonising) about what I would write in my first blog post, I fretted over a fresh approach, a new idea, and the big freeze began. It took answering four emails and three cups of tea before I remembered, I don’t need to freeze anymore. I have the perfect tool to send that pesky elf packing, and magic me a blog post.

Three little words began to chant in my head. Just write it. Just write it. Or roughly translated, stop stuffing around and do it.
This mantra has become one of the most powerful tools in my writing arsenal. Sort of like the bulldozing tank in wartime, mowing down all resistance in its path.

Two years ago, renowned Australian author, Andrea Goldsmith, shared this gem with me during a Year of the Novel course. And I have to tell you, it’s enabled me to write through grief, despair, self-doubt and procrastination. All in spite of my heels grinding into the carpet in my initial effort to deny its validity.

But I have to work out the readership. My story could be adult or young adult.
No need to decide that now. Just write it.

But I want to get the voice working at the outset. I want this novel to be published.
Don’t worry about getting published. Just write it.

But I’ve only got an idea, not a storyline.
Just Write it.

Danger, danger, Will Robinson!  Wasn’t I supposed to decide my readership first? And if I was a serious writer, write to be published?

In the end, I have to admit, I just wrote out of desperation born of necessity rather than desire.

And it worked – brilliantly. At the time I was facing a devastating personal catastrophe, watching someone I loved very much succumb to cancer. After the diagnosis I feared I wouldn’t be able to write at all. Let’s face it, a writer’s confidence is fragile even on a good day. Any upset to the big picture is pretty fracturing in all regards.

Somehow, Andrea’s words came back to me. I made a conscious decision about my WIP, (and I’m not saying it would work for everyone in the same circumstance) to try and just write it. Write in scenes, not daunting chapters. Write what my character felt about leaving her home, her country, her friends. Write how the daughter and mother related to each other. Write in snatches, or the middle of sleepless nights, just write how it came out with no intention on where or if it would fit into the finished novel. I was freed to waste no time fretting or fearful over whether the writing was good enough, publishable, working etc. Much of this writing evolved into whole scenes. Active scenes that drove the narrative. And to my amazement, I added forty thousand words to my novel during that time. It was to my deeper surprise that they turned out to be “good” words.

I’m not saying, I never get the wobblies. I do. Take today for example. BUT… if I stop panicking long enough to find the barest starting point, an interesting thought, a kernel of an idea, and start writing – the idea builds on itself and thoughts come quicker than I can type. And then I remember why I write.

Initial words on the page can be the hardest step. Sometimes continuing is more difficult. Life can be breathed into flat characters, hues can be repainted into settings, and all the rich layers of story delved into deeper in subsequent drafts. But if I never make a start… Or fail to keep going…

Just write it.


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32 thoughts on “Just Write It

  1. Welcome to the blogpshere, Chris,

    I love your new blog and I really enjoyed this post. You are so right about the panicking and self-doubt that writers feel – and that really, the only thing to do is “Just write it”.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights and humour.


  2. Love the title of your blog, Chris, and the bridge. Stories are bridges aren’t they?
    That little elf gets around doesn’t he? I think most writers have encountered him at times. Probably because he keeps getting the boot from other places.

    • Thanks, Dale for your lovely comments. I agree stories are bridges. This one is so relevant to my story too. It’s a little roman bridge over the river in Scotland where my novel begins. Now I’ve booted that elf out, I can get stuck into it again. Cheers, Chris

  3. wiresparrow on said:

    love the header image. 🙂

  4. Great reminder for all of us! We can find a squillion reasons not to write (that elf is pretty crafty) and yet when it comes down to it, we are compelled to write so therefore we really should just write.

    Looking forward to reading your blog 🙂

  5. Kim Rackham on said:

    One day, I’ll be saying… A wonderful author called Chris Bell told me to Just Write It…

    Loved your first blogpost Chris. Glad you just wrote it!

  6. Sally Murphy on said:

    Great post Chris. It’s the advice I give in very writing workshop, whatever the age group. You want to be a writer: write. Glad it works for you, too.

    • Thank you, Sally. Sometimes, I wonder if time availability has as much to do with stalling we writers. When I worked an outside job, several days a week, I didn’t have time to doubt or procrastinate if I needed to produce or meet a deadline. But maybe that’s another blog post. All the best, Chris

  7. Keep it coming Chris, relly enjoy reading it …. we all do !! 🙂

  8. Trudie Trewin on said:

    Great advice that’s hard to go past, Chris. It really is the first step, and one that I need to put back into practice at the moment! Less thinking, more writing. Thanks for the reminder. Love the look of the blog!

    • We all need reminding sometimes, Trudie. If we write, the words will come. I started a short story yesterday and got 1150 words in. Today, I started by reading first para and editing. Before I knew it the edits turned into new writing. I refused to acknowledge I was going off in another direction and when I shut shop tonight, I transferred 900 words from yesterday into another file. BUT… I had my story. I just needed to write my way past the idea and into the story. All the best, Chris

  9. Okay, Chris, no more excuses fro me. I promise to remember: Just Write It!

  10. Lorraine on said:

    Chris, the simplest advice- but hardest to put into practice- loved your first blog- so glad you launched into cyber space.

  11. Jackie Hosking on said:

    Love it Chris – wise words, great advice that really struck a cord. Thank you 🙂

  12. Hi Chris, better late than never – I have finally visited your blog!

    And I love your post. Just what I needed to hear to throw me back into the seat of my novel. Thanks so much!

  13. Hi Chris,

    Perfect advice for anyone in creative arts. As a visual artist I found your insights just as relevant. The first stroke is often the hardest and procrastination is my greatest enemy at times. I will reflect in future on your advice as I go to the fridge instead of working!


  14. Hi Chris, oh I hate that elf of self doubt too. Great post.

    cheers, cat

  15. James roy on said:

    Nice post, Vhris. I like the bit about tidying the desk: Susan Shaughnessy, in her wonderful little book “Walking on Alligators”, says that “nothing makes cleaning out the fireplace seem more attractive than having a book to finish.”

    • Thanks, James. It’s funny how sometimes we’d find almost any reason to avoid doing something we love. Doesn’t make sense, but it’s the old fear factor doing it’s number. Great analogy from Shaughnessy but. Cheers, Chris.

  16. James roy on said:

    Obviously I meant Chris, not Vhris.

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