All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Postcard From the Front Line (of writing)

It finally happened. After a lot of struggles, my second book, Small-Town Monster, is officially published. It's about 100,000 words long, and filled with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It's also filled with a lot of rewrites, edits, deleted characters, and removed secondary plots that you will never see. (Maybe in some future reprint, but not now) So, to commemorate this personal triumph, I thought I would share some of the roadblocks and setbacks that showed up along the way, and demonstrate how none of these should hold us back from writing.

The first challenge - 100,000 words. Given my font choice, leading, page size, etc., it's 370 pages, which seems like an eternity away from looking at the laptop screen and seeing six words: "Small-Town Monster by James Pressler." Filling up the screen with words is tough enough, but 370 pages? Never gonna happen! However, I say this time and time again, nobody has ever written a book in one sitting - not even Anne Rice despite all the internet rumors. Your job as a writer is to write, so start writing. The word count will take care of itself; that's none of your business. You tell the story, word by word, for as long as it takes.

Fear of the rewrite. If you think putting 100,000 of your favorite words together is a daunting task, imagine completing it then being told, "Okay - now do it again, but better." It's like thinking you had just run a marathon, then the person at the ribbon says, "Get ready for the next lap." I make sure that when I finish my first draft, the first thing I do is give myself all the credit in the world for having finished such an accomplishment. Writing anything to completion is no easy task, so give yourself credit. And then put it down for a bit. Bask in your glory, and give your story some time to ferment, both on the shelf and in your head. A few weeks should be fine - just enough time for you to enjoy everything and then start thinking, "Wait, what if..." At that point, you'll want to do your first rewrite. You will dive into it, merrily plowing into your pile of words, knowing you can improve on something that a few weeks ago seemed perfect.

When is it done? Yeah, rewrites are fun once you get into them, but do you ever reach a point where you say, "Perfect! I cannot improve upon this," and prepare for publishing? Nope. There's always a reason to give it just one more go-through, find just one more beta reader. I have found that there has to be a point where I say, "I feel good about this, and it feels clean. Maybe not perfect, but what is?" Then, after one last spell-check, I save the file as "final copy" and prepare for publishing. BTW - I also prepare for someone who will inevitably say, "Hey, did you mean to use 'affect' versus 'effect' on page 106?" And so it goes.

Could I have done better? There will be a lingering remorse post-publication, worrying about whether it was okay to kill off Steve in Chapter 10 instead of Chapter 8, or whether a certain joke worked as well as it could've, and so on. This is where I go to my advice in fear of the rewrite. Give yourself credit for your accomplishment. Don't worry about whether the joke landed or flopped - it's better than the joke you didn't write. Whether Steve dies in Chapter 8 or Chapter 10 isn't important - he's a character that you created, brought forward, then killed off. Steve is thankful to just be a part of your story. Save your second-guessing for several novels later, when you can refer to your earlier works and personal choices that you learned from. For now, just enjoy the moment and don't worry about Steve - he's fine. (dead, but fine.)

There's a lot more to think about and fears to confront, but you will never discover them if you don't start on the journey. Stare down the blank page, start writing your story, and go through each painful step because it leads you to a wonderful place. It leads you to publication.

On that note, I would recommend buying Small-Town Monster on Amazon mostly because I get a better royalty, but it's also available at Barnes & Noble and Foyles for you UK readers. And for those of you who prefer digital copies, those will be coming out soon. I just haven't figure out how to autograph them.        

1 comment:

  1. Ha, I'm just kidding! I enjoyed this post for the humor you added to it.