Tag Archives: Bird by Bird

Bird by bird

This week, I finally got round to writing some fiction. I’ve been in something of an involuntary hiatus recently, talking myself into a bit of a corner where I was not writing, not very happy about it, and seemingly incapable of wrestling back control.

And then something caught my eye, a book I’d bought back in September which from its title alone had given me the nudge I’d needed to get on with the edit of While I’m Alone. I’d been generally trying to resist reading, thinking that might be one of the things stopping me from getting any words of my own down on paper, but seeing as it didn’t seem to be working I thought I might as well dip in and see what else it had to offer.


I reminded me of a couple of things that I think I’d forgotten. How not every piece of fiction I write needs to (nor should be) part of some bigger purpose – be it working on a novel, or producing something for the blog, or moving closer to publication. How it’s ok (even important) just to let the words flow at first, without worrying that they seem a bit rubbish. How planning (which I have tended to rely on so far) is not the be all and end all, and actually starting to write something without any detailed ideas about where it’s headed has the potential to be even more powerful.

On one level this got me thinking again about the novel that’s been waiting patiently for months for me to get on and write it. One of the things that’s been holding me back is feeling the need to have a concrete idea of plot and structure before I begin to write, rather than just the key scenes and characters that have set up home in my mind so far. But actually I think just getting started might be a better option.

Having said that, with my world still full to bursting at the moment I’m not quite feeling in the right headspace to immerse myself in a whole new novel. So instead I turned to another idea I had scribbled down in the middle of a night some months ago…

I initially thought that too might have had pretensions to be a novel. But actually I realised, for now at least, it would make a much better short story. And so I wrote it as that.

I’m not going to share it here – it’s too long, and quite possibly a bit too dark… But I’ve written it, felt once again the pleasure of words rushing through my fingertips to create characters and emotions and tension, and that’s what’s important.


Writing Bubble

This time I mean it.


This time last week, I claimed that I would be logging into Scrivener the very next day to begin applying the editing notes I’ve scribbled all over my printed manuscript. There is a problem with setting targets for tomorrow though, and that is of course that tomorrow never comes.

I’m not entirely sure what went wrong really.

I found another great book, How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein, which really made me think about the extent to which I’ve been writing for my reader rather than just myself. In fact every couple of pages I came across another nugget of wisdom that I felt would enhance my next draft – so much so that I didn’t want to go back to my manuscript until I’d finished it.

I’ve done lots of blogging though. Possibly a bit too much. It’s amazing how the inspiration for blog posts just seems to flow when there’s something else you should be doing.

And then there’s hanging out with Arthur, keeping the house looking vaguely presentable, suddenly getting incredibly paranoid about the mummy tummy that I’m still carrying around with me nearly two years down the line…

You get the picture.

So today, before writing this post, I made sure I actually logged on to Scrivener, opened the first draft of my novel in both its electronic and printed form, and began the process of adding and subtracting and changing words around. And do you know what, it wasn’t so bad.

I think I’ve built it up in my mind so much over the last few weeks that it felt like an almost insurmountable task. I had thought of so many things that needed tweaking that I couldn’t see how I was even going to hold them in my head let alone put them into practice. But then that’s what the post-it notes are for isn’t it?

There’s another book I’ve picked up – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – which I’m going to try to resist reading for the time being. It gets its title though from something the author’s father said to her then ten year old brother who was agonising over a project on birds that he had to complete. The sage advice which I plan to hold on to over the next few weeks was “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

I still have some more specific research to do, but I’m not going to let that stop me working through my manuscript. I actually enjoyed it this morning, way more than I thought I would – now that I have a pretty clear idea of what I’m trying to do it’s pretty satisfying playing around with the words until it starts to fall into place.

I’m going to set myself a loose goal of a chapter a day. I know some days will be better than others, and different chapters need different amounts of work. But I need some sort of target to keep me working, and it’s most definitely time to get this edit properly underway.

And this time, I mean it.


Writing Bubble


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