The Writing Process


Writing.  Sounds so simple, doesn't it?  Stuff comes to your mind, you write it down, a story forms, you build on that story. Protagonist, Antagonist. Characters, dialogue, plots, sub-plots. 

It sounds so simple. You think of a story, decide to share it with everyone, and in a matter of weeks/days/months/years, after being sucked into a world of your own and neglecting almost everything else around you,  you're done.  As you move on to the next step of querying, a satisfying feeling of completion washes over you.  But...are you really finished?  Most editors and publishers will think not.

Writing can be compared to many things, but for the moment I'm going to compare it to shoes.  You buy the shoe, insert the laces.  Now do you expect to walk around?  No.  The laces still have to be pulled up together, looped around, and tied.  It's pretty much the same when it comes to writing.  The writing part is getting your shoes, and lacing them nice and neat and even.  

But learning how to tie them tight enough to stay in those loops as you walk around all day long is the hard part.  That's the publisher/editor process.  They take what you have (if you've followed the insanely long guidelines/rules) and help you get the laces into nice, perfect, symmetrical loops.  Guidelines like:

Were the characters believable?  Were they the type that people could relate to?  Did you do your story in third person point of view? If so, did you go too far with the he's, she's and they's? How about first person point of view? Too many I's? Did the first person point of view come across too telly? (My new word.)  You made sure to show enough, and not tell the whole time, right? And how about talking? Did the main character talk too much and not tell -- oops -- I mean, show the story to the readers?

And speaking of readers - did you pull them in enough at the beginning? That first sentence, the first paragraph  -- was it good enough?  How far into the story did the readers have to get before they come across the hook?  Was your hook good enough?  Was the it the real reason for the story? Did it even tie into the story at all?

Did you go overboard with adverbs? Adjectives? Throw in too many just's or that's? Are there too many words? Not enough words?

The story line wasn't too dark, or too light, or too heavy, or too preachy, or too full of dialogue -- right?

Let's not forget originality.  Is your story original? Will it stand alone in a book store and say "Read me -- I'm different. I'm entertaining. I don't sound like every other chick lit or nonfiction or mystery or romance out there."?  Or is it just like ten/twenty other stories that have just been published or are being submitted to agents as I type this?

Many times we aim our frustration at the person teaching us to tie our shoes (a.k.a.the one who edit/critiques our work), because writing, like tying shoes at first, isn't really as simple as we all make it sound.  It takes so much time and effort to get the loops right and tight enough, and sure, other people learned to tie their shoes the same way eventually, but that doesn't really make it any easier, does it?  

The term the writing process is used for a reason.  Aside from coming up with a story line, characters and a beginning, middle and end, there's so much writers have to worry about before a book can even be considered as finished. Not to mention, so much that needs to be done before it's even considered to be good.

And that process can get you down. It can get you frustrated, give you writer's block, make you want to bash your head against the keyboard, tear up your journals or notebooks, go shopping and blow tons of money, eat endless amounts of chocolate, devote more than a normal amount of time to watching movies or reading books or even scrubbing the grout in your shower, clean your house, do yard work, smoke thousands of cigarettes, boycott your computer.  Simply having fun while writing a book tends to be the last thing on a writer's mind when they are re-writing for the tenth time, because something doesn't make sense, or flow, or well, all of the things I mentioned above.

That being said, I don't think any of us would choose NOT to write.  But I know a lot of us are forming ulcers in the process.  Ulcers we, in a twisted, masochistic sort of way, want to have, but ulcers nonetheless.


Sierra Godfrey said...

Writing a novel is HARD. It just is. It makes you take a moment and think about what even the crappy writers who still got books published went through. They were lucky, perhaps, but probably suffered just the same as the good writers.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My brain hurt just reading all of this!

And I love the little sign at the top - how true.

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

HAHA! This post is awesome! And so true! Let's hear it for the ulcers.... or not!

Have a great weekend!

Anita said...

I'm speechless...and I'm not usually speechless. I always have an opinion. I think you got me this time. I think because I want to tell you that it's not as frustrating as you spelled it out...ha! But, those of us that like to put something to paper (the computer) will always do so, and some of us will see it in book form...that COULD BE YOU! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jessica, I found your blog through She Writes. (I searched for writers who live close to my town.) I just read some of your posts and it looks like you and I are at the same point in our novels. I had to laugh at you giving up your goal of 70,000 words because I had the same goal and fell a couple thousand words short.

Anyway, just wanted to say hi and good luck on your query letter writing. I *think* I might have finished mine today ... THINK. We'll see what my critique group says.

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

Okay let me just say that I still love this process - just letting everyone into my head...not necessarily trying to be a downer about it all or anything.;)

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

and Linda - I'm so glad you mentioned Shewrites - I forgot to post my last two blogs on there!;)

Linda Cassidy Lewis said...

I have my SheWrites page set up to automatically show my latest blog posts.