Article published on March 2, 2017.
…the first draft, at least. God, I hate the first draft. A piece of advice I always offer at events is not to compare your first draft to a published book, because it’s like comparing a single brick to a completed house – there is no real comparison. It’s a piece of advice I wish I’d follow.
Writing a first draft feels like my mind slowing leaking onto a page via my fingers, word by painful word. It doesn’t matter how well I’ve planned each scene and chapter, or how many hours I’ve spent imagining it, and blocking it, or how many questionnaires I’ve filled out online from my character’s point of view. In fact, I’d rather stand up and act out the entire book as a one-woman show and have someone else write it down if it would save me from the agony of the first draft.
Getting those first words out always feels like my brain is being squeezed through a mangle. In a vacuum. On Uranus. While recovering from the flu. And the words… Oh they’re bad words. Sentences are too long, some words are repeated so often I forget what they mean. Characters look and blink and turn with the kind of regularity that would lead to whiplash in real life. Similes are clunky and ugly, descriptions are hackneyed and uninspiring. There’s nothing quite like a first draft to make you realise you have no business writing.
To keep myself from tearing my hair out I have to edit as I go. Everyone tells you not to, that you should keep going until you finish, but I can’t. I have to go back to the last bit I wrote and polish it before I can allow any new words out. I tell myself I’m doing it to keep the plot fresh in my mind, and to organically work my way into the story again, but really it’s because I’m scared that I might die partway through a draft and if anyone ever read it I’d spend eternity spinning in my grave from shame. I want to be the kind of writer who can frantically get it all down, and keep my eyes on the finish line, but I’ve tried, and not only is it painful, it’s joyless too.
For me, the real magic and pleasure comes with editing. There’s an alchemy in taking something malformed and simple and turning it into something that makes the heart race and the palms sweat. Polishing a scene over and over, weaving in new layers, stripping out old ones – that’s when I feel like a writer – when I have the time to choose each word carefully, when I can craft something with care and precision. For me the real storytelling comes with the editing. The writing is the wet lump of clay I have to smash around until it’s malleable enough to use. Editing is what makes the pot. Or the plot, as it were.
– Melinda Salisbury, 2017
About the author
When not working on her next novel Melinda Salisbury is busy reading and travelling, both of which are now more addictions than hobbies. She lives by the sea, somewhere in the south of England.
The Scarecrow Queen is the highly anticipated and captivating finale in the internationally bestselling trilogy that began with The Sin Eater’s Daughter. Published by Scholastic on 2 March, 2017 and available where all books are sold.
The final battle is coming…
As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated and running out of time. The final battle is coming and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever…