Authoright’s newest recruit, James Wharton, recently published his own memoir about his experiences serving in the British army. He’s now putting his own experiences of publishing and promoting his book to good use by advising and supporting other writers.
So... you’ve been successful in gaining an agent; you’ve even landed your first book deal and the time has finally arrived to sit in front of the vast blank screen of the unwritten page and begin your masterpiece. But what now? How do you set sail and convey the marvel of your creation into the written word in paragraph one, page one. How does one comprehend the enormity of the task in front? The pressure’s on, you know!
This was me. A year ago I achieved the dream and signed a lucrative book deal which would see my debut book, a memoir of a decade in the army, published for the world to scour over and give comment; but before all of that, I needed to fulfill my commitment to my publisher and actually write the damn thing. Daunting.
After starting off at what on reflection, was rather lightning pace (compared to the middle stage of battling writer’s block), it became apparent soon into the adventure that my biggest struggle was resisting the urge to continuously go back to various way points and tweak the odd paragraph here and there. After a typical writing session, normally a four hour stint in the afternoon, I found myself returning to the start of whatever chapter I was tackling, and reviewing my work word for word. It dawned upon me that I was spending almost the same amount of time re-working my fresh writing as I was writing the stuff in the first place. I was sensible enough to realise that time wasn’t on my side for such behaviour, and I needed to reassess my writing habits.
Enter Jonathan, my good friend and himself an experienced author. I chatted with Jonathan over the phone late one night, after perhaps one or two glasses of red wine and explained to him my woes and how I had become almost obsessed with returning to the start and changing passed words. I told him it was potentially causing me to fall behind schedule - a dangerous place to be whilst under contractual deadlines. His advice was simple, yet very direct and clear: Plough on home! Get the book onto paper and worry about everything at the end.
So, that’s what I did. I wrote a bold message and sellotaped it to the top of my monitor: “NO GOING BACK!” and I got the words out of my head and onto the screen without the worry and paranoia of typos and inconstancies. It’s advice that I now swear by, and constantly pass on to other writers when asked. Admittedly, writer’s block did affect me towards the middle-latter part of my book project, but this was mostly due to it falling in December, and the obvious distractions that come with the festive period, but by early January, with my March deadline date getting closer and closer, I was able to return to the crucial place I needed to be and eventually delivered my manuscript with about 10 days to spare.
Ironically however, what I needed to do before jumping into the writing of my final chapter,
a heartfelt summary of the book and my story, was go against the rule I’d followed since gaining that initial advice from my friend. I halted the production and went back to the start. I became a reader and absorbed the months of work I’d centered my life around, and refreshed myself of the content and tone of my story. I wasn’t looking for typos, I wasn’t even looking for inconsistencies; I was looking for the heart and soul of the story, and I found it and got comfortable with it. It paid off brilliantly. I wrote the final chapter of my book in one forty-five minute sitting and never altered it. Of course, upon submission of my manuscript, weeks of ‘post-production’ work between my editor and me followed, but key to me getting to that point, that one crucial piece of advice will always stay with me: plough on and get the book written.
Out in the Army by James Wharton is published by BiteBack, priced £16.99.
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