Two things I can tell you about writing fiction:
- It’s hard work
- It only gets harder
When I say it’s hard work, I mean it takes far more than just jotting down what your imagination dictates. The greater part of writing is rewriting. There are stories that practically write themselves, and once you get to the end and read it again, the plot is pretty much good as is. But then there are stories you agonize over every step of the way. You rewrite them a million times and when you finally get to the end you realize you need to rewrite it a hundred times more. That’s just the nature of the beast.
The thing about it is you get pickier as you grow. Your first books flow smoothly because you have no expectation of yourself, other than to get the story on paper. But after several rounds of feedback on different stories, you start to see patterns. You see where your weaknesses lie, where you need to improve. You start to doubt yourself more and more, and consider every word more carefully before you commit it to the page. You become your own worst critic and, believe it or not, that right there is what ultimately makes you a better writer. Now you know what you want out of the story. You know what feeling you want to convey, and what message you want your readers to get. You develop strong likes and dislikes in your own writing, and the struggle becomes more intense.
A third thing I can tell you about writing: The struggle is worth it.
It’s worth it if you care about the end result. The stories that end up making you the proudest are the ones you never gave up on. They say to write from the heart. YES! Absolutely. Do that all day long. But writing from the heart isn’t a walk in the park. It literally takes your all. It means you don’t just throw your hands in the air and say, “Oh, well, I guess that’s good enough!” when the going gets tough. You buckle down and work that much harder to smooth out the rough spots, fix plot holes, give your characters depth and a purpose.
As a writer and a reader, it frustrates me when I can tell the author (myself included) takes the easy way out. The curse of being able to see behind the curtain is that now I am much more critical of what I read and write. And the pressure is even more intense when it’s an entire series on the line.
Any writer will tell you the beginnings are easy. You get a fresh new idea, your muse ramps up, and you just go-go-go until your fingers cramp and you fall asleep at your desk. Around the middle part, things get a little dicey. That’s when you need to have your characters well established, and your plot on its way to the main conflict. Once you get over that hurdle, the final one is the actual ending, and that can be the most difficult of all.
Expand that to a series, and your last book now carries the weight of all the previous ones on its back. It has to tie up every loose end and neatly wrap up the story while also standing on its own as a full story with a beginning, middle, and end. No pressure!!
At this moment, I am in the process of writing the last part of the last book in my Dawn of Ragnarok series, and a picnic it is not. I’m now so emotionally invested in these characters that I want to do right by them in every regard. It’s a tricky book in so many different ways and every time I think one part is finished, I wake up in the middle of the night because I realize I’d created (or found) another issue that needs to be fixed. The next day, I open my file and go back yet again to find the problem area and fix it.
Like the title character himself, this story has layers upon layers and they keep shifting and changing with every iteration until the manuscript I have is not remotely what it was five iterations ago–and I don’t even have a complete first draft yet!
But the truth is, I would rather spend three years writing one book and make it the best it can possibly be than phone in three books in one year just to keep myself up in the New Releases on Amazon. But that’s me.
In the end, it comes down to what’s more important to you: Are you in it for the story, or the royalties? Are you writing to write, or to have written? Is this your passion, or your paycheck? None of these are mutually exclusive, by the way. But I still believe the old adage is true. You get out what you put in.
And this leads me to my official writing tip of the day:
You get back what you put in–so don’t ever give up. The struggle is worth it in the end. 🙂
Until next time!