Writing Wrongs

August 16, 2006

Inspired by Marianneís post today, Iím trying to put some thoughts together about the joy vs. the business side of writing. Marianne writes:

I've lost much of the love of writing because I've tried to make a business of it. Sitting down with my stories is more of a chore that a joy. I worry so much about motivation and no info-dumps and can't head hop and... and... and...

A while ago, I went through a very rough time with my writing. Rough as in ďburn all the manuscripts, delete and reformat the hard drive, and call it doneĒ rough. Because really, how many more unmarketable manuscripts could I write? Or at least write and keep my sanity.

But I wasnít sure I could stop writing and keep my sanity. Talk about a catch-22.

And I wish I could articulate how I got from abject misery to being pretty damn happy about being an unpublished novelist (as one of my noodler sisters says, itís a dirty job, but someoneís got to do it).

First thing I did was try to tune out all the static. And thereís a lot of static. Some days this is a fulltime job. But I figured that after ten years, I knew enough about craft to write sentences and there was nothing on any of these writing sites I needed to know right now. If it was important, Iíd hear the buzz eventually.

Second, I stopped listening to most of my peers offering advice. This sounds harsh, but Iím not talking about thoughtful feedback or editorial direction. Iím talking about people who donít know the difference between a gerund and a past participle, but gosh, they sure do know that all -ing words are bad.

Same goes for those same peers who claim to know the industry, who apply writing ďrulesĒ that might (and I stress ďmightĒ) be relevant to one or two category lines at Harlequin to all genres.

And please, stop telling me what agents and editors want when 1) you arenít published, and 2) you donít have an agent. You donít know, any more than I do, what someone in NYC wants on any particular day at any particular hour. Unless youíre clairvoyant, in which case, why arenít you published?

Okay, the rant section of this entry is over. Iím convinced the only way to survive as an unpublished novelist is to concentrate on those things you can control. Hereís some of mine:

The Craft. I will never understand the mindset that believes if you donít follow the herd, youíre somehow not interested in developing your craft (or acting like a business professional, but Iíve done that rant).

I got burnt out on courses, and short of going for an MFA (have you seen the price tags on those? Ouch.), I wasnít sure what to do. So I developed my own course of study. What did I need to work on? What did I want to learn? Iíve had a ton of fun this year because I charted my own course.

The Writing. Scary, but true. You own it. Itís yours, baby. But one thing is clear. You canít judge it by your mood while writing. You canít judge it while itís still hot. Let it cool off before you switch to editing mode.

The Waiting. Wait. Breathe in, and out again. Donít be in a rush to please and publish. It seems like itís a race, she with the first contract wins. I can say now, with all honesty, that Iím glad I havenít sold yet. I think Iíd be severely stressed, if not miserable.

I donít want to be miserable. Iíd rather take my time and be proud of what eventually does get publish. Some people might say Iím simply not driven enough to be published. Frankly, Iíd say Iím not driven enough to compromise.

Oh, and as a bonus? Doing your own thing really pisses people off. I donít know why this is, but itís true. Because weíre not following the ďrules?Ē Honey, there are no rules. Thereís no one class, one craft book, one piece of advice that will magically open the portal to publishing. Writing is a journey, not a destination. And if you donít like the view along the road, you probably wonít be happy once you arrive.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 12:01 p.m.