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Friday, September 30, 2016

Writing is Hard

After seventeen years, fifteen published books, three unpublished manuscripts (languishing on my hard drive), you'd think I'd know that writing is hard. The thing that no one tells you is it never actually gets any easier.

Writing is HARD.

Today, I hope to finish my POS first draft for the seventh book in my Cold Justice Series. I'm pretty sure Nora Roberts coined the POS phrase (Piece of $h#t) along with her famous line about not being able to edit a blank page. It's a useful reminder of what a first draft should be like--but not what I usually produce. By the time I get to the end of my first draft the story is generally in pretty good shape because I constantly edit as I go along (which also slows me down).

I've had rough time this year, writing wise. I've been forced so far out of my comfort zone I'm sitting naked and cold on a railway platform at rush hour. That' OK. It's good to have yourself shaken up once in a while. I'm hoping that it will translate in being more productive when I get back into my comfort zone.

Right now I'm grateful that I'm my own boss and don't have a deadline looming over me that I have to meet or forfeit my contract. My readers generally know I'm a pretty slow writer, and I would rather give them something worthy of their attention and money, than rush out the next book. ("Rush" being a relative term :))

The current WIP has major plot holes, characters that need to be added, loose ends that are veering toward a frayed hem, and an uncertain ending. I'm not just writing this blog post to whine (although I'm good at it). I want to tell other writers, maybe those with less experience, but also those with more, that WRITING IS HARD and sometimes the words or story won't come. Life gets in the way and sometimes you need to divert your attention in a way that destroys your ability to concentrate on your story. Don't judge yourself against others who seem able to produce through any circumstance. We can't live other people's lives. They can't live yours.

Just don't let the fact writing is hard be a reason to quit.

I grew up in a working class family, and there was a certain amount of guilt attached (did I mention "Catholic" working class? :)) to the fact I earn a living by sitting at a desk and making up stories. But knowing the mental and physical effort I put into every story, I don't feel that guilt anymore. Authors work hard because WRITING IS HARD. Not everyone sees that--they see the potential for success and riches, not the hard grind and hours honing a paragraph only to delete the whole thing and start again.

Writing is also my greatest joy. My mental escape. The brain puzzle that keeps me ticking over. So, I'm going to finish this POS draft today, and then go back and fix the plot holes, add the characters, snip the loose ends, and figure out an ending that works.

Wish me luck :)

PS: One book I've found helpful recently is, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. 
I haven't done all the exercises, but I have found it easier to block out some of the daily distractions without any associated guilt. 


Indigo Dragonfly said...

Toni - you have no idea how much I needed to hear this today. I am at the point of packing up the POS WIP I'm working on, chucking it all in the waste bin.

BTW - I love your stories! Keep them coming!
Beverly Mardis / Indigo Dragonfly

Laurie Wood said...

Thank you for putting yourself out there and being vulnerable Toni! I also needed this reminder today. And for the record - I think you're a fast writer! 15 books in 17 years when they're all 90K and up is a huge backlist. I love COLD JUSTICE stories too and they're *always* worth the wait!

Anne Marie Becker said...

I'm right there with you, Toni. On all of it. I have the Catholic guilt, the wondering if writing is worth my time (most days), and the need to take a step back. I've been taking a step back since May, and trying to get back into it over the past couple months. It's been a slow process, and I haven't totally recaptured the joy of crafting a story, but I'm dabbling until I do, so I haven't completely given up. Thanks for the reminder that it's hard for everyone, and that it's worth it. Hope you finish that POS! LOL

Elise Warner said...

Toni: You sound like a fast writer to me. Guess Catholic guilt is similar to Jewish guilt. You're doing what you love and obviously your readers (count me in) love what you do.

Toni Anderson said...

Beverly--thank you. I totally understand! LOL. But don't do it. Maybe work on something else, or just push through. And good luck! Be kind to yourself!

Toni Anderson said...

Laurie--thank you! I know you've struggled with your own distractions, but you haven't given up. Good for you! Bets of luck X

Toni Anderson said...

Anne Marie, we are so similar in everything except height :) You need that joy because it is so hard. I think you're doing the right thing by giving yourself some space to think and create. I know you've tried the massively productive phase too. For me slow and steady and boring routine is what gets me in the right head space. It's not the same for everyone :) I did finish the POS yesterday. I can now catch up on a few of the other things I need to to as a professional writer LOL. Monday I'm starting on big picture edits ((()))

Toni Anderson said...

Elise, it's always an honor to have writers I admire like my books. Thank you so much! LOL, I know it's all relative. I guess guilt is guilt. *sigh*

jean harrington said...

Yes, Toni, life gets in the way. You hooked me with that line. Excellent post; one every writer needs to read.

Rita said...

Yeaph! Sure is. But I still have fun doing it. Great post Toni!

dlferriola said...

Just have to say I have loved every Cold series book you have written so far and am looking forward to your next release. The effort that you put into each book is amazing, you are a very gifted writer. This article gives me insight into a writers hard work and was very interesting. Thank you for sticking it out and writing such fabulous books!

dlferriola said...

Just have to say I have loved every Cold series book you have written so far and am looking forward to your next release. The effort that you put into each book is amazing, you are a very gifted writer. This article gives me insight into a writers hard work and was very interesting. Thank you for sticking it out and writing such fabulous books!

Toni Anderson said...

Thanks, Jean and Rita!

Toni Anderson said...

Thank you, dlferriola! :)

Susan said...

True. So very painfully true.

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