Writing Wrongs

February 21, 2006

So Marianne was talking about motivation and discouragement, and all the rest, and what to do. If you get discouraged, do you switch projects? My personal answer is no. Which isnít to say I donít play around with ideas for the next book while writing the current one. Or write a short story. Thatís slightly different. I donít write so much on the new project that it derails the old one. Not if Iím committed to the old one, and these days, I generally am.

Sometimes you do need a break, and I get antsy if I havenít thought of something to write by the time I finish with the current project. Thereís always a point where I think the current book is the last book Iíll ever write and I start humming a variation of the Dionne Warwick classic: I know, Iíll never write a book again . . .

But I remember hearing something back when I started to write. I was at a local Sisters in Crime meeting and it was a panel discussion with three local authors. It was there I heard the only rule on publishing (and you know how I am about rules) that holds true:

If you want to publish, you have to finish something.

Yeah, pretty much a no-brainer. But it did something for me, that evening in Barnes and Noble, surrounded by published books and published authors, and me feeling like I was simply playing in the sandbox.

And so, I finished something.

I have another rule (and you know how I am about rules), but this one is personal. Still, I think itís what keeps me going. It has nothing to do with marketing hooks, trends, or anything that comes from the outside. Quite simply, I always ask (although not always explicitly):

Whatís in it for me?

Thatís it. I play around with lots of ideas and characters, but by the time Iím doing character workups, Iím committed because I know whatís in it for me. It doesnít make sense to write something if Iím not getting something from it--and that something canít come from the outside.

You canít count on a book contract, agency representation, or even a contest win, because what you write at any one time may not garner one or any. It happens, more often than not. To quote William Zinsser from On Writing Well:

Leaders who bob and weave like aging boxers don't inspire confidence--or deserve it. The same thing is true of writers. Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal. Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Proceed with confidence, generating it, if necessary, by pure willpower. Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it. Use its energy to keep yourself going.

Writing. The ultimate act of ego. So . . . whatís in it for you?

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 12:32 p.m.