Writing is hard; it is not an easy thing to do.
Deciding what words to use, what sentences to commit, what meaning to impart and themes to explore. Hard. That’s what she said.
Writing is a trial.
You can spend three hours going nowhere, going in circles, or on the Internet. You can write for days only to realise it’s all garbage (or process writing as it’s sometimes called – i.e. It’s important, but none of it belongs in the final product). I’ve done a lot of this.
It’s frustrating but apparently necessary, at least for me.
Writing is also test of patience. It takes months before you see any visible progress, a couple of years before you finish a draft (especially if you have a day job). Stephen King takes roughly three months per book, but that is his day job, and until recently I had one too.
So writing was never centre stage and never got my full attention, it got blurred eyes and a drained mind at the end of a long day. It got the worst of me. So I’m somewhat proud simply to have said I wrote something.
But still, it took me nearly two years to get my first rough draft done. Two years! All the time thinking is this worth it? Because it’s hard to find the time to write unless you make a few sacrifices elsewhere.
However, since I quit and started doing this nearly full-time I realised one thing.
I realised that unless I had taken this mad break, I never would have finished this at all.
It would soon be a case of life imitating art. I would end up being Brian from family guy. Three years later, with nothing to show for it but idle talk and empty hopes.
It would have driven me mad.
So years or months of writing aside, then once you’re ‘done’ writing the initial draft, well then you start editing.
And that I’m discovering is a whole different type of process, it’s hard reading your own words, two years later, being subjective, and accepting that a lot of it is crap and needs to go. You become less of a writer and more of geologist, the job now is to find the diamonds amongst the coal, and then somehow extract them and make them shine. And if you find some hard nuggets of crap instead, then no polish is going to make them look any better. You cut, flush, delete, and move on.
Now, some people go through eight or nine drafts. Hence the editing component itself can take months, I’ve only been going for three weeks.
Publication (if the manuscript is picked up) can take a year, maybe longer before you actually see it on shelves.
And as of today I’ve only just finished my first review, and by that I mean reading it from cover to cover and identify (colour coding) all the major issues / problems, crap and dead wood I need to cut. And there are a lot. So by my estimate, I have maybe 6/8 months before I can even begin to expect sending query letters.
I need to do it in half that time.
So it’s time consuming, and it’s hard. The payoff is uncertain, and a long way off, if ever…
In effect the whole process is challenging, and somewhat demoralising.
Yet it all pales in comparison to writing the story itself.
Writing a story is a nightmare, a story of self-doubt – beset by questions like – which perspective should I use… first, or third and why? Whose perspective should I use? What plot line should I follow? How many plots is one plot too many? How do I tie it all together? Is there an underlying theme?
It goes on an on, and there’s no one to bounce ideas off. It just doesn’t work that way.
So it’s a thousand possibilities at once and for some unknown reason, you have to pick just one.
Every writer has this problem (I’m not calling myself one yet), but the problems I’m facing are new / the same. New in that these are problems of my own making, this is a project born entirely of my own imagination.
The same in that they are problems faced in most people’s day jobs, especially those in which they do any sort of writing, sales, marketing, etc. You’re tying to tell a story, whether it’s fact or fiction, and it needs to be clear and concise. So you need to choose your words carefully. And if you screw up, or come to realise you’ve made a wrong turn somewhere. Then you have to go back, and decide whether it’s worth trying to salvage, if it can be salvaged at all. Or if you have to simply cut your losses, and start again.
So whether it ‘s business, a book, a blog, or life, it’s a challenge and the same kind of problem.
If you realise you did in fact made the wrong choice somewhere along the line. Then how long do you wait before you do something about it? Years?
Now I’m not one to reference quotes much, if ever (especially not meaningful ones).
But I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research of the last couple of years. Especially prior to this whole crazy ‘change’ and one quote (by C.S Lewis – Witch and the Wardrobe author) caught my attention, mostly because I found it particularly relevant to the choices I was delaying in regards to my career.
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
I had followed the wrong career path. That was the wrong road I found myself on. But I wasn’t doing anything about it. Too scared about losing everything I had worked for over nearly five years and simply because I was measuring progress in terms of the $$$.
Not that I was going to strip clubs and making it rain, but I was comfortable.
But instead now.
When I finish this book, submit it to publishers and then move onto the next one. Then I will consider that progress.