By Linda White
I embarked on a quest for the secret to writing success. I bought books, magazines, and sought out workshops. I became a workshop Junkie, attending whenever I could. I earned the title of Queen of the First Chapter for my multiple false starts. I knew there must be a secret that would lead me to author a best-selling novel. I kept looking and with a persistence I hadn’t applied to writing, I discovered it.
I admire Elizabeth George and her Inspector Lynley mysteries. When I saw she had penned a book, On Writing, I was sure I’d find the key. Writing in her style or even setting a book in Great Britain wasn’t my goal; I wanted to know how she did it. It turned out to be disturbingly easy. You just needed bum glue. Derrière in desk chair, once there, open your computer and write. What if nothing comes to mind? It doesn’t matter; you stay glued to your chair and you work. You brain storm and make notes. You stay until you accomplish some writing and you keep at it.
Stretching your legs, getting another coffee, and checking your email don’t count. Bum is in place and you write.
My writing group burst into gales of laughter when I explained this revelation and for a few meetings, all one had to do was mention bum glue to lighten the mood. Despite the hilarity, we all struggled with getting words on the page, even when we had time and we recognized the truth of the cute phrase.
Elizabeth George’s bum in chair made sense. Unfortunately, my brand of bum glue is more like the stuff Dr. Spencer Silver invented for 3M in 1968. He came up with a low tack adhesive that stuck weakly to surfaces but could be re-positioned many times. Post-it Notes are the result; they can be removed and repositioned many times. Weak bum glue has no such advantage.
When you struggle through and manage to produce a novel’s first draft, you better stock up on bum glue. That first spewing of text onto the screen is filled with inconsistencies, grammatical errors, typos, and mis-spellings. Characters change their interests or their eye colour. The timeline doesn’t make sense. If you don’t stay in the chair and work even harder, all you’ll ever have is a pukey, unpublishable mishmash of words.
Stifle the desire to defend the golden prose and the passages that don’t further the story. You don’t have to change everything, but you might need help. If a member of your writers’ group or a beta reader finds problems, listen with objectivity.
And then? Bum glue, more bum glue. If you inherited a weak adhesive, be hopeful. The glue is there and needs a bit of help. Perhaps a person doesn’t want a crazy glue that sticks you to your chair so well, you refuse refreshment, and forget to shower. Apply the bum glue. Let it do its work, stay in the chair until some writing has been accomplished. Then and only they, can you allow the adhesive to release.
Now that I know the secret is to get in the chair and work, I have finished a re-write on a novel. I have a trusted writer who has reviewed it while I give it a little distance. When I get back to it, I know there’ll still be work to do. It isn’t perfect, perhaps it will never be published but it will be properly finished. And yes, I’ve ordered another couple of liters of bum glue.
Linda White lives in east central Alberta. Her interests include writing, reading, camping and gardening. Her grandchildren are her greatest joy although she appreciates her two spoiled dogs for keeping her fit. She has just finished a re-write of her current novel.
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