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February 15, 2012

Abby McDonald on Getting it Done

Posted by Katherine


Abby McDonald was born in Sussex, England. She studied at Oxford, then dabbled in music-writing, receptionist work, and low-paid data monkey jobs until she sold her first novel in 2007. She has been a full-time author ever since, publishing six novels --- four YA, and two for adults --- by the time she was twenty-six. She lives in Los Angeles. Here she talks about how she motivates herself. Click here to win a copy of her book!


There’s an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in season seven called ‘Get It Done’, where Buffy --- facing the end of the world yet again (but for real real this time) --- goes hard on her motley crew of Potential slayers.

“You want to surprise the enemy? Surprise yourselves. Force yourself to do what can’t be done, or else we’re not an army. We’re just a bunch of girls waiting to be picked off and buried.”

Well, switch the ‘army’ part for ‘writer’, and ‘picked off and buried’ for ‘miss your deadline’, and you pretty much have my philosophy on writing.

Get. It. Done.

Creatively stumped? Get it done. Not feeling it today? Get it done. No clue how you can possibly finish this sprawling mess of a novel? You guessed it: get it done.

I know it sounds harsh, and not at all the romantic vision of a writer (reclining on a chaise in a silky robe, say, nibbling grapes until the muse strikes, or daydreaming at some corner café), but it’s the one maxim that has gotten me through meltdowns and panic; impossible deadlines and hugely un-co-operative manuscripts. When all else fails, I just tell myself to get it done. Because at the end of the day, it’s really very simple: if I don’t write the book, it doesn’t get written. And if it doesn’t get written, I don’t get my advance check, and I can’t pay rent --- let alone buy any silky robes, grapes to nibble, or frothy coffee---based drinks at that picturesque café.

Yes, there is so much more to writing than simple discipline (and the need to make my health insurance payment this month). Knowing my characters, honing my structure, building worlds that are vivid and emotionally resonant; telling a story that I hope will connect with my reader on that shared plane of emotional experience… The craft of writing is a broad and wonderful thing, but all of that is meaningless unless I sit, I write, and I get it done.

Think about it: this book is your book. A story that only you can tell. So if you don’t tell it… It won’t ever be told. Do or don’t --- at the end of the day, it’s all down to you.

Season seven Buffy was a task-master, for sure, but she knew the truth: that when you alone are chosen ---one girl in all the world to fight the vampires, demons, and forces of darkness (or, you know, write a novel) --- sometimes you have to be hard on yourself. Sometimes you just have to get it done.