To celebrate Kill Your Darlings’ new website, we’ve asked some of our favourite contributors from past years to reflect on their early writing experiences.
Today, we hear from Eliza Henry-Jones. Eliza’s work can be found on Killings, including the pieces ‘On horses, Gillian Mears and Australian fiction‘; ‘A Murky Business: On being a writer‘; and ‘On Being An Expert: Eliza Henry-Jones on writing fiction‘.
Sensing a theme? Eliza was one of the first people we thought of when it came to unpicking the complexities of what it means to be a writer, and sharing the advice she would give to emerging writers – including her younger self.
If I could tell younger-Eliza one thing, it would be to write the squeamish stuff. The bad jokes and the sad sex. To just charge through each scene like rain in a car park. To put down the Tim Tams, turn off the bad television shows and let her writing paint something uncomfortable. Something needling.
She spent so long treading on the edge of these things, you see. So afraid of getting it wrong.
I would tell her to let her characters tearfully masturbate in showers and have sex too young and poke the carcasses of dead animals. To fire the gun and snot on themselves and vomit after one too many litres of vodka. To let these uncomfortable moments shape the characters into something real, the story into something that carries in it a resonance that it would otherwise, perhaps, be lacking.
I would tell her to not worry about writing things that feel too grown up.
Because it’s okay to get it all very, very wrong. That not every story, every experiment, has to be better than the last. Because that’s not how writing works. Stories build upon themselves more slowly than that. And that’s how they begin to breathe.