Since the beginning of my now, relatively successful, writing blog, I’ve been asked one question above all others – how do you write? This might seem vague at first, but I’ve found it’s actually much more specific than it appears. Over time, when I delved deeper into it for the sake of clarity, I realized the question has always been about the process. More specifically, how I can sit down every day at my computer with the confidence that I’m writing something worth all the effort that I put into it. Up until this moment, I haven’t had an answer, but something changed recently: I am now starting my second novel, Cavalcade. I’m toward the end of a fair amount of planning, and I can’t wait to begin writing. I’m seriously ridiculously excited about it. As rigorously as I preach the writing process, I almost want to skip the rest of the planning and just start it already! … And that’s the way it should be. With the excitement taking the place of my life’s crazy amount of stress, I realize now how I write, and I’m going to share it with you. Keep in mind, this entry might be a little unstructured when compared to some of my other posts. That’s because writing doesn’t always have a formula. Separating emotion from writing, as I often do in my blogs, can be extremely helpful, but it only paints half a picture. Good writing isn’t something that can be done without emotion.
So here I am – starting the whole crazy process all over again. Since I finished my first novel Tiny Instruments in February, six whole months ago, I haven’t written anything but a television pilot, two or three short stories, and ten or fifteen poems. So why, after all this time, am I writing again? The short answer is, I can’t not write anymore. My life was so stressful that I was putting off writing for a later date. I actually got the idea for my second novel in December, fleshed it out in March, and sat on it, waiting for things to get less hectic. Toward the end, it was causing me stress NOT to write it! This brings me to my first big piece of insight: When you get an idea that’s worth writing about, you shouldn’t have to convince yourself that it needs to be written. If you have to battle with your mind, constantly reminding yourself that your story will be good if you just sit down and write it, then I recommend you don’t bother. If you aren’t absolutely in love with the idea, chances are you’ll be miserable as you write it. What’s more, that feeling can leak into your writing. It can, in turn, make you skip steps in the perfection of your book, or at worst, incite you to abandon the novel before you finish it.
The above is why I recommend you pick a unique idea. It’s hard to be in love with an idea when, half way through, you watch a movie that is about EXACTLY what you’re trying to write! I personally, have always hated that old adage, “Everything has been done before, but it hasn’t been done by you.” I disagree. Prior to Inception, had you ever seen a movie about planting a thought in someone’s head by going deeper through levels inside their dreaming mind? I hadn’t. People use this adage to justify writing unoriginal material. It’s bad for the literary world, and it’s bad for the writer.
If you’ve read my blog before, it should be obvious that I prefer stories motivated by the characters or the basic story premise, rather than stories motivated by factors like what’s trending or a novel’s possibility to be made into a movie (one of my biggest pet peeves is when authors tell me they have purposefully simplified their prose so the transition to a movie is easier). Even so, it might be too much to tell an author never to write for money as most authors see very little of it. I can however, confidently give one piece of advice: Never EVER write on spec for the money. If you have a book deal lined up, by all means write it, but if you’re a new writer hoping for the breakout novel, trying to appeal to the groups that will buy your books is like trading your soul for the mere possibility of getting a little money… It’s not a fair trade.
Another thing that will make your novel a lot easier to write is the way that you design it. When planning out your book (or screenplay et cetera…), be careful to leave no room for any “in-between” sections. Anytime something doesn’t have a direct connection with the through-line of your book, it has no business being there. Fluffing up a novel with side stories that break the flow of the plot will not only be annoying to you as a writer and to your readers, but it could be detrimental in your pursuit of possible representation. Most people take an occasional day off from writing. When you do, if you look at where you left off, you will likely find that more often than not, your writing has broken off a bit from where it is supposed to be. The more this happens, the harder it will be to sit down every day and write it.
When I wrote Tiny Instruments I wrote almost every single day. There were exceptions – Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house; romantic outings with my sort-of, almost girlfriend – but throughout the seven months I spent writing my novel, there were very few. I often barely left the house, taking odd editing jobs here and there, rolling into my writer’s meetings unshaven and disheveled… but I was happy. If you’re going to write, don’t kid yourself into thinking you won’t be giving anything up – but if it’s meant to be, make sure you’re happy. If you’re not, change your idea, read more exciting novels and be honest with yourself as to whether or not it needs to be written. If that doesn’t work, wait until it does before you write! Remember, sometimes writing will be a struggle, but most of the time, writing it should be a relief.
Write about why your project needs to be written and get excited about it all over again!