I started writing my third Wolf’s Bane novel at the end of November. Not the best time to start a book. People came and people went. I love to have company for dinner. Writing time became scarce. I’m usually pretty disciplined–butt in chair and get it done, but not for holidays. Still, I sputtered along. The dig-into-the-trenches and get words on paper came in mid-January. But no matter how much I pushed, this book took its time. I had every chapter plotted out. All I had to do was bring the ideas to life. I wasn’t searching for directions, but I couldn’t rush the process. I’m finally down to two, short chapters. I’ll finish the book this week. Celebrations should ensue–at least, for me. But that leads me to this post: Things I’ve learned about myself as a writer.
1. I always thought that I’d wake some morning and every part of writing would drop into place. True, to a point. I keep getting better. I add more emotions–(romance taught me that). I plot a set-up, three twists, and an ending to help with pacing. And mostly these days, I show, don’t tell. The thing is, writing is sort of like cooking. My grandson called me a few weeks ago, happy with himself, because he’d finally learned how to get every part of a meal finished at the same time. Before, he could make great individual items, but getting them on the table, hot, at the same time had eluded him. When it all came together, he was pretty proud of himself. Writing is like that. Plot, pacing, characterization, tension, conflict, voice, setting…a myriad of things…all have to come together to make a book work. After all of these years of writing, I’m better at each individual item. I mostly can make them all work together to create a whole that finishes at the same time. But just like cooking, if I get a little heavy-handed with paprika or don’t add enough liquids, well, things can go wrong. That’s what trusted critique partners are for–to save you from yourself.
2. Just because it works for (supply the name) doesn’t mean it will work for me. Every writer is different. We each come at the process our own way. I faithfully read Lindsay Buroker’s blog on writing and marketing: http://www.lindsayburoker.com/ I learn a lot from it. She gives me lots of ideas and advice. Does it all work for me? No. She can pound out 10,000 words a day when she’s in writer-warrior mode. I can pound out 10,000 words a week when I’m going full-steam. Does it matter? No. There are rare days when I reach writer frenzy and work from 10:00 to 7:00, and then I can’t think of simple words to have a conversation. My husband laughs at me. He understands. My brain’s used-up. Fried. I have to pray there’s something decent on TV, because I don’t even have the capacity to read. It’s pitiful. So I don’t do it often. Marketing’s the same way. Just because someone went viral when he posted a dragon trilogy on Kindle doesn’t mean you’ll sell books if you follow every step he did. What can I say? Life’s fickle. The planets might have been aligned for him and frown on you. All you can do is write the best book you know how to write, cross your fingers, do everything possible to market it, and hope for the best.
3. Every damned book is different. I thought after I wrote one book after another that I’d find a rhythm, a process, and the books would flow from my fingers. Not so. In some ways, writing never gets easier. It might even get harder, because you start expecting more from yourself. You don’t want to disappoint your readers. You want each book to be better than the last one. If you try something new, you worry that you swerved from what readers liked. Maybe you went in the wrong direction. Maybe you tried for something different and failed. I’ve had all of these thoughts buzz in my head. All I can say is some books are easy to write and some aren’t. Some books fight me page after page. Some books dig in their heels and say “This is how you’re writing me. Get over yourself. You’re the author, but I’m the story.” And you know what? There IS no fighting the process. At least, for me.
4. So what have I learned? Just write. Do it as well as you can. Love your characters–the protagonists and the villains. Love your story. Cuss, pull out your hair, beat your head against a wall–but enjoy the process (even the struggles). If writing were easy, it wouldn’t be as much fun. Sit butt in chair and pound out a story.
P.S. My novella bundle, Gorgons & Gargoyles, will be free on Kindle, Feb. 18-22.
My author’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy