I’m not shocking anyone when I say writing is hard. Everyone who writes says that a lot – because it’s true. Writing is hard. The actual writing words that are good = hard. Turning one vague idea into many fleshed-out ideas that make up a story = hard. Sticking to writing even when you doubt the hell out of yourself = HARD! I’m talking about the words being good enough that you feel others can safely read it. The quality of your words, not your content.
There are always going to be times when you feel like the shittiest writer who ever attempted to put pen to paper. There’s no way to avoid feeling bad about your writing-capabilities every now and then, to think that the only thing your WIP is good for is leveling out someone’s piano. That is why I thought I’d give some advice on how to make it through one of these funks, and keep writing even when you’re in the middle of one. With NaNoWriMo coming up – where the intention is to spew out words with no editing whatsoever – this seemed like a good time to come with this reminder.
Because you want to be a writer, even when you think you suck. You don’t want to give up, but try telling that to yourself when you think you’re a walking, typing pile of worthlessness. I know there are many times I feel that way, but the thing is that I have a job to do, a dream to achieve, so I don’t get to not write just because I think I suck. This is a little list about what I focus on when I feel talent-less to make me keep writing, even if everything that comes out looks like a steaming pile of horrible. Because you need to keep writing!
Yes, I know they’re not real. But you want them to be. We spend a lot of time as writers, trying to develop realistic, fleshed-out characters that people will relate to and love or hate. So while using them as an excuse to not write by saying “I can’t write today because my characters are being mean and won’t do what I tell them to do” is absolutely unacceptable, I would highly encourage using them as excuse to keep going.
When I feel worthless and don’t want to write because every terrible word feels like it should be a crime, I picture my main character leaning against my desk, looking at me like a weak-ass god who’s considering abandoning the world I created half-way through. When this is Ronnie from Spiralling, she’s all sass and attitude as she reminds me that I created this awesome, vibrant seventeen-year-old who gets all kinds of life-altering shit thrown at her, and while it’s hard and she doesn’t always think she can do it, she still keeps going, because it’s a fight she believes in. Maybe someone out there might want to meet Ronnie sometime? Maybe I owe it to this great girl I created to tell her story?
When it’s Parker from the Perrinne Legacy leaning against my desk, she’s usually playing with her silver dagger and looking at me like a weakling and a traitor as she reminds me about all the fucked-up, hellish things I’ve put her through to turn her into this badass survivor who always finds a reason to go on, even when everything inside her tells her not to.
My characters are awesome. I love them, and their stories need to be told. They need to exist on the page, even if I think those pages suck right now, so they can get made un-sucky later. My characters would never give up on what they believed in – why should I?
Your characters are so important, and there probably wouldn’t even be a story to tell if it wasn’t for them, but that doesn’t mean your characters are the only thing you love about your WIP. You have your theme, your overall story-arch, the growth or decent of your characters, the world it all takes place in, and a lot more.
You want these things to exist, right? You want to see them on paper and not just in your head because there is so much awesome and you want to read it, not just write it! I have Hurst, the fantasy world where Magicals of all kinds live, and this is where everything write takes place in one way or another. I love this world. I have spent years building Hurst, building its cities, filling its lakes, learning about all the mythological creatures who live there, how their laws and governing systems work. I love Hurst; it is an amazing world that I am dying to introduce other people to.
But you know, if I don’t actually write these stories, no-one but me will ever get to experience the joy of going to Hurst.
Your Future Readers
I know, even imagining that one day in the future you will have readers is terrifying. When you feel like your quality isn’t up to it, it’s hard enough imagining finishing the damn book, let alone someone else reading the finished product. But guess what? If you do your job right, someone will read your novel. And you don’t want to waste their time, do you? You want them to fall in love.
There are going to be things about your novel worth falling in love with. I know there are parts of my own stories that if I read them elsewhere I would be over the moon and do a little happy dance before I kept reading. Like, oh, I don’t know – diversity. Damn right I want to read about a pansexual MC with a trans best friend who make up such a colorful and hilarious duo that I would have loved to read as a teenager. Damn right I want a lesbian love-story where the fact that it’s two women is never addressed or made into a big deal because it doesn’t have to be because it’s just who the love-story sub-plot happens to be about!
There are many little things like that about my stories – things I would love to read. “Write the book you want to read”, as so many quotable authors say. That’s what I believe in. And you know what? Good news; this is a big world with a lot of people. The things you want to read and the things you write? You’re not going to be the only one who would love that story! You owe it to yourself and those people to sit down and write, even when you feel like every sentence has the artistic quality of a dead pigeon.
Your Future Self
Because you know I’m all about the self-care. I’m a selfish person and not ashamed to say it. And I deserve to finish these novels. Because it’s my dream. Because I love the characters. Because I love the world. Because I am going to feel so good when I hold the finished product in my hands. I owe it to myself to keep typing those words even when it’s physically painful to read over them. Because the story beneath those shitty words – that is a good story. And there is going to be a lot of polishing between here and The End.
I know it’s hard to remember that when you’re in the I-suck-funk. But if you trust me on nothing else, trust me on this; if you just keep working through it, some day your beautiful story will be worthy of your own praise.
Those are the things I remind myself of when I feel like the worst writer in existence. Writing is my passion, and I need to get that shit done even when my faith is lacking. So as NaNoWriMo approaches and you have to fight yourself every time you glance up to look at what you wrote yesterday and you are dying to fix that crap, or you look at it and think it’s so bad there is no point in even continuing, remember all the reasons you need your story to exist and keep moving forward.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to write.