By Janice Cantore
What do you do when you’re stuck at a spot in your manuscript? As you sit in front of the computer you seem to be hitting delete more than anything else, or worse, you’re staring at a blank page. Does that make you get up and find something else to do?
When I get the urge to bolt from the keyboard, I try to stay in the office. I usually pick up a writing book, something written by a successful author. I have two favorites, Story Trumps Structure by Steven James, and Write Away by Elizabeth George. James is helpful if the problem is technical, plot or structure related. But if the issue is something I can’t quite put my finger on, Write Away is the book I open.
If you’ve ever read any of George’s mysteries, it’s obvious she is a disciplined and thorough writer. Her recurring character is Scotland Yard DCI Lynley, and the crime series is set in Great Britain. The books are always long, involved and engrossing stories. The books may not appeal to everyone, one friend thinks they are too gritty, but the insight into the craft of writing that comes through in Write Away should be helpful to any working writer. One great nugget I took away from the book is the idea of “bum glue”.
What is bum glue? In short, it’s commitment to the craft, a commitment to keep working through the tough spots; it’s keeping your bum firmly attached to the chair in front of the computer. George reminds me why I write: I write because I can’t not write, I write because it’s my calling, I write because it’s who I am.
Discipline oozes from George’s fiction, and in Write Away I can see why. It’s a birds-eye view of why she is so good. The dedication to stay and write, to work through the manuscript again and again, even when it’s tough, is obvious.
So when I put down Write Away and get back to my own work, my own story, I’m inspired. Learning to be disciplined is important because the work is important, the story is important.
Distractions will come, the dogs, the garden, a shopping trip, whatever the neighbor is up to, just about anything can get me up out of the chair and into something else when the writing it tough. But working through distractions is a must and doable. I might need to switch from the manuscript to research, or I might need a short break, but getting back to work is always the main objective.
Often after reading a best selling novel you can come away with the idea that an author like George effortlessly crafts a novel in an afternoon because talent just oozes from every pore in her body. But after reading Write Away I’ve learned that she struggles too. Sometimes even with self-doubt. The difference? She keeps at it, keeps typing, and keeps turning out awesome books. That’s some powerful bum glue.
Janice Cantore is a police officer turned writer. She retired from the Long Beach Police Department, Long Beach California after 22 years, 16 in uniform, 6 as a non-career employee. She is currently writing romantic suspense for Tyndale House, and her most recent release is Drawing Fire.