On Writing - A Guest Post by Suzanna Linton

on Dec 17, 2013

Today we're happy to host author Suzanna Linton as part of a blog tour for her fantasy novel "Clara." Without further ado...

One day, my husband rearranged our study, where I do my writing, to make room for some new bookcases.  He wedged my desk between two bookcases, despite my suggestion that it be moved so that it faced the window.  I had imagined looking out at the trees lining the drive whenever I got stuck on a scene, as if the sway of river birches could dislodge an idea.  It seemed ideal.  However, now I faced a beige wall.

I made a face.  I complained.  But my darling spouse insisted that this was the better choice.

“You won’t get distracted, like you would at a window,” he said.

As I thought about it, I realized I could only agree.  If I sat in front of a window, I’d spend more time watching birds and butterflies than actually writing.  And I decided to put the space into good use, taping little sayings on the wall for me to read whenever I felt lost or needed a kick in the rear to get going.  I thought I’d share a few with you, along with my thoughts on them.

Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway

I don’t think Mr. Hemingway meant this literally.  Though, this is Hemingway, so maybe he did.  But since I don’t want to take it literally, I’d like to think that he’s saying, “Write with lowered inhibitions.  Disgorge your subconscious onto the paper.  A drunk comes up with an idea and does it without first checking for any warning labels.  Writers should do the same.  In fact, writers don’t write for anyone other than themselves and they certainly don’t write to please everyone.  Politicians do.”  It’s when everything is out and the first draft is completed that we should then go over it with a critical eye.

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  – Jack London

Every time I hear someone say, “I can’t write today because I don’t have the muse”, I want to throw something, preferably something heavy and preferably at the speaker.  However, that’s a bit hypocritical because I’ve said the same thing.  At the same time, though, I know I’m saying it because I just don’t want to write.  As Chuck Wendig once said, the only way to survive as a novelist is “by spot-welding one’s ass to the office chair every day and putting the words to screen and paper no matter what.”   It doesn’t matter if you want to or whether you feel “inspired”.  Inspiration is not to be waited upon but gone after or just done without entirely.  Writing is hard.  It’s a job.  The sooner you accept this, the happier you’ll be.  Well, as happy as any writer can expect to be.

You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer. – Margaret Atwood

Writing is not for the weak of heart.  It’s more than telling a story.  It’s sharing an important part of your mind and heart.  These characters aren’t just abstract ideas to a writer but real people.  It’s natural to feel some protectiveness.  Also, there’s the fact that you’re opening yourself up to criticism.  So, yes, it does take a good bit of nerve and gumption.  This isn’t a quality that can be had right away, though.  It takes time to develop that nerve.  It takes time to build up those callouses that keep us safe from the barbs of critics.  But once that courage, that nerve, has been attained, then it’s easier to plow ahead.  It's easier to write drunk and edit sober.

The first draft of everything is shit. – Ernest Hemingway

This has to be my favorite quote from Hemingway.  We writers are known for our OCD ways.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak to my own desire to get everything right on the first go.  As Hemingway so succinctly puts it, that’s not going to happen.  The point of the first draft is to get everything out onto paper.  Once you’ve done that, then you can worry about smoothing over the rough spots, cutting away the dead wood, or whatever metaphor you prefer.  The point is, don’t despair if it isn’t Nobel Prize-worthy material right away, and don’t have the arrogance to think that it already is.  The former will tempt you to give up and the latter will bar you from any improvement.

And improvement is the lifeblood of the author.  You never stop getting better.  You should never stop trying to get better.  Finally, it's important to realize that there will always be someone better than you.

I hope these little quotes give you the push you may need to get to writing or perhaps the wisdom to pull out of a rut, if you’ve fallen into one.  However, I think I’ll close with one more.  One that isn’t on my wall but which I think I will add:

Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

About the Book

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To save a nation, Clara will have to see through both the fog of war, and the fog of her own heart...

Sold into slavery as a child, and rendered mute by the horrors she suffered, Clara's life extends no further than the castle kitchens and their garden. Those who know about her just think of her as the dull mute girl who may be a little soft in the head, not knowing that she carries within herself a precious gift: the ability to see the future. This is a gift she keeps secret, though, for fear of persecution.

However, a vision prompts her to prevent a murder, shoving her not only into the intrigues and gilded life of the nobility, but also into a civil war brewing in her country. As events unfold, and she is drawn deeper into the conflict, she meets an old friend, makes a new one, and begins to unearth secrets better left buried.

Driven to learn the truth about the war, and about her friends, Clara embarks on a journey that takes her from her beloved mountains to the very Capital itself, Bertrand, where she is confronted by an evil both ancient and twisted. The only problem is, her own anger and prejudices are the catalysts her enemy needs to complete its plans. If she is not careful, not only will the entire nation be lost, but her own soul as well.

About the Author

Suzanna Linton was born in South Carolina and grew up in Orangeburg County. In 2002, she attended the summer program in fiction and poetry for the SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. After graduating high school, she went on to Francis Marion University, where she majored in English. In 2013, she received Honorable Mention in the Sidney Lanier Poetry Award Competition.

When she's not writing or working at the local library, Suzanna can be found either reading or gardening. She also loves to watch movies and television series. Right now, she's nose deep in The Walking Dead, White Collar, and Star Trek.

She lives with her husband and their two dogs, Benedict and Scholastica, in Florence, SC.

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Unknown said...

Glad to read this post and I agree with Margaret Atwood's statement "You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer." As a writer and providing guidance on personal statement length, I know Writing is not for the weak of heart, It’s more than telling a story.

Unknown said...

You are right, writers never stop getting better. You should never stop trying to get better. Being as a dissertation proposal help and academy writing help provider, I admit that I just tried my level best to provide quality work because I even also can’t stop getting better and I agree and realize that there will always be someone better than you. BTW best of Luck Suzanna Linton for your novel writing career.

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