Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writing is a lot of things, but mostly it is hard

Holy Mackerel! I haven't updated my blog since January 3. See what happens when you're knee-deep in the rough draft of a book? I also need a haircut. And my family may well be forgetting what I look like.

Today I was reading Neil Gaiman's Pep Talk for Novel Writers, written for the people participate in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing or Writers or Something that Makes this Acronym or Whatever It Is Work. NaNoWriMo, which I've never tried, asks you to kick out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You know what would come after that? Month two, revisions, NaNoWriMoBetta. My hat's off to those guys. I can't re-create Neil Gaiman's wise words here because Kenny G doesn't try to follow Charlie Parker. But what Gaiman says is, writing is hard. It's one of my favorite things in the world, and I need it with a burning, addictive need, but it's never easy.

Right now I'm writing the rough draft of Alex Van Helsing Book 3. No title yet, though in my mind so far it's called The Triumph of Death.

I've told you I work off an outline, right? Here's the one I'm using currently:

I actually do this. I have an outline in Excel, and as I complete certain chapters, I turn the yellow boxes green. Yeah, I know.
What happens when I make a major change, though, and it throws the whole outline off?
Yeah, what about that? It does happen. It happened this week. I'm about 40,000 words into this book and suddenly realized a key moment in the outline just wasn't working. What then? In my case, I take out my notepad and start scrawling. Maybe the characters don't go this extra place. Maybe we eliminate this subplot entirely. Ohmygod what if this whole subplot is a symptom of a larger problem and wait we needed to get that conversation in and wait there's too much talking and suddenly you're a guy building a tower of china cups on a tray you're actually holding, while you attempt to type a novel. Stephen King writes about these moments well in his On Writing: "OhmygodI'mlosingmybook!"
One word after the other. One sentence after the other. Outline, revise, write, write, more words, a thousand today, that's my goal, though my day is night, since I work by day.
It's work, hard work, and in the end it's lonely work because you can't really download your whole draft into someone else's head. You desperately worry that you're screwing it up, but you're on one brick in the wall, and the wall has sixty thousand bricks.
With any luck I'll be done with a rough draft in a couple of weeks, and then it's revise revise, revise. Fix the notes I've put in for myself. Eliminate characters, sometimes eliminate whole plots. Ditch the stuff you know is half bothering you and you don't want to admit it, but it will bother the reader.
And that's before it even goes to a publisher.
I really do love this process. This is the party I came for.


  1. I like your post. I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head. Writing is hard, lonely and full of self-doubt but it's also amazing and something I can't give up. I read a lot of YA (and write it as well, though I'm not published). I plan on looking up your book.

  2. Thanks Trish! I wish I could spend more time writing about writing, because I get the best comments from other writers. Hope you enjoy Alex Van Helsing, if that's what you pick up!