It's day six of Women With Something To Say and we're very excited to have Faber author Louise Doughty taking over our blog with her piece, "Write it down, write it out, capture it." Have you ever dreamt of becoming an author? Join Louise as she gives us an unmissable insight into the process of turning her thoughts, ideas and dreams into novels. Trust us, you'll be inspired to start drafting your very own story by the last paragraph!
I was delighted to be asked to say something for a Tatty Devine necklace but then found, when I sat down to it, my mind at first went blank. I’m a long-form narrative writer. My novels weigh in at well over a hundred thousand words and saying something in just a few doesn't come naturally to me. Like most novelists, I am naturally verbose.
Thinking about this set me off on a train of thought about the writing process itself. When I teach writing, I often say to students that one of the great things about being a novelist is that nothing is ever wasted. No experience, however painful or shameful or boring, cannot be transformed in some way, used as grist to your mill. Anything you feel passionate about: whatever makes you angry or sad or ecstatic, provides material. Even the small things you see around you - an unusual cloud formation or a person behaving oddly in the street - can be used as illustrative detail.
The phrase I came up with, Write it down; write it out; capture it, represents how I feel about the different stages of novel-writing. The first phase is the simple yet often slow and grinding act of physically writing - getting the words out of your brain and onto the page or the screen. That’s all you can do in the early stages of a novel, when you don't know what it is about. Write it down.
The second stage, for me, is the write it out stage. That comes well into the first draft of a book, when it is finally dawning on me what this book is really about, what was bugging me all along. This is often quite painful because it taps deep into the stuff that has upset me enough to want to write a book about it. It’s quite a raw and angry feeling - and a vulnerable one too. Just how much am I giving away?The final phrase, capture it, represents my final draft. This is my favourite bit. There is nothing more wonderful than being in the final stages of a book, with the characters conjured and the story all plotted and sorted, and being able to go through it with a fine tooth comb, loving it, licking it, cutting the odd word here or there, pinning down an itinerant comma or two. Your job is now to make it as fine as possible. Then when you've written it down, got it out of your system, captured it and rendered it as something readable... then you can let it go, like a little paper boat drifting off downstream, tipping to and fro in the water. There’s a chance to sit on the riverbank and breathe, before turning to the next blank piece of paper.
Thanks, Louise! Now it's up to you, Tatty fans! Do you have a blog? Share it with us in the comments below and tweet us a link to your favourite writers using the hashtag #WWSTS!