When I wrote my first novel, 23 years ago, I had a freedom that comes a novelist’s way but once – the freedom of being a hitherto unpublished author, the freedom of being a writer untainted by success. And it is a joy. The novice can plunge in and apply any rules, tricks, tweaks and lessons learned without fear or favour.
The virgin author can imagine everything and know nothing for certain – including whether or not the book will ever get published. It is the time to fly with your words. You’ll come down with a bump later when you have to go back over what you have written and edit the wretched thing, but for the first weeks, months or years of the writing, it is glorious freedom.
When I wrote my first novel Pause Between Acts in 1986 I remember sitting at my typewriter (yes, yes a manual in those days) and loving every minute of writing the book – often nearly falling off my chair with laughter and thinking: No, no, you cannot put that in - and then thinking – Oh yes you can, who’s going to read it anyway? It was, and remains, my funniest book. Maybe not my best book, certainly not my most complex book, but it is by far the funniest. And that is entirely to do with my having a go: not holding back.
It is one of the lessons that creative writing courses teach and it is one of the best. The art of plunging in, charging on. Stop staring bleakly out of the window and thinking that those birds out there seem to be having a better day of it, that you don’t have the time, that you may be no good, that you’re not sure what you want your book to say, that you wonder if the paragraphs/sentences/chapters are too long/too short/should be there at all. It is a time to throw everything you’ve got into the pot without fear of retribution from an agent, editor, publisher or fans. Just for once, the plunge you take is purely for yourself. The pain comes later.
Mavis Cheek, the author of thirteen novels novels including Mrs Fytton's Country Life, Janice Gentle Gets Sexy and, most recently, Amenable Women which was described in The Times as 'a brilliantly funny, warm, intelligent read'. She now lives and writes in the heart of the English countryside.
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