Ever since I got involved with online writing communities, I interacted with a staggering number of writers from all over the world. And every one of them feels, thinks, or suspects they’re doing something wrong; like they skipped an important class on being a writer that everyone else seems to have attended. To make things worse, the more people write, the longer their list of misgivings grows.
Why? It makes no bloody sense.
The Pleasures of Writing
What’s your favorite stage of writing a story?
For me, that has to be when new ideas form. To come up with something new that hadn’t existed before? To fish a brilliant idea out of the ocean of utter chaos? If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
Then comes the part where I have to sit down to do the actual writing. Some people who saw me do it would have sworn I must enjoy staring at the blinking cursor at the end of an unfinished sentence, only because they saw me do so much of it.
But, once the story has finally oozed out onto the page, I’m in my element again. I can finally edit!
Nothing gives more satisfaction than beating some sense into my prose. Sentences melt and flow. Points are not only made, but they get across. Can you imagine that?
Yes. Brainstorming and editing are my favorite.
How can you explain, then, the people who dread editing? Editing is simple and fun. There are rules and guidelines. You’ve already shaken the puzzle pieces out of the box— now they’re all on the table, you can look for the corners and edges, and start figuring out how everything else fits. What’s not to enjoy?
For some people? Everything. Half of the writers I met live under the constant threat of having to edit their writing.
Having Fun Writing
I once attended a lecture by Peter V. Brett. His Demon Cycle has to be one of the best-crafted fantasy series released in the last twenty years. I was eager to hear what he has to say about writing. I remember someone asking:
“What’s the most fun part of writing to you?”
Peter frowned. “Fun? Writing isn’t supposed to be fun.”
The audience laughed.
“No,” he went on, quite serious. “Listen, it’s a job like all others. If you’re having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”
I remember thinking: Wait a moment. That’s me. I’m not having fun writing, too!
Every Writer has Their Kryptonite
With every story we write, sooner or later, we all get to the parts of the process we dread. Even the most dedicated pantser has to spend some time figuring out the flow of the plot, and the sternest of plotters will have to step away from the storyboard and do the actual writing.
And the silliest, most foolish, and truly astronomically stupid part is that writing can get more difficult with experience. As you grow, you learn about grammar and sentence structure, proper punctuation and story arcs, character desires and narrative pacing, and (take a deep breath) before you know it you start questioning every single thing you ever knew about writing.
Don’t worry. That’s how you’re supposed to feel. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The more you know about a subject, the more you appreciate its complexity. Struggling and beginning to understand how complex a craft writing is, is a sure sign you’re on the right path.
Keep struggling. Enjoy the parts you like, and work on the ones that give you a headache. Write in whatever messed up way only you can write, and you’ll be fine.
*As you grow, you learn about grammar and sentence structure, proper punctuation and story arcs, character desires and narrative pacing, and (take a deep breath) before you know it you start questioning every single thing you ever knew about writing.* I’m confused. What does anyone “know about writing” if they don’t know these things? I guess I don’t understand how anyone decides to write seriously without learning the craft beyond passing notes in class? That’s like deciding to drive a car without learning which pedal does what. Is this why so many adult characters in indie books sound like 8-year-olds… Read more »
I think it’s slightly more complex than that. If I went along with your driving skill analogy, there’s a whole range of things to learn after you pass your driving license test. There will be gaps in skill even between the world’s top Formula 1 drivers.
Generally missing a squiggle, splitting an infinitive, or ending a sentence with a preposition, don’t endanger your life in the same way that a failure to use breaks would.
But at the same time, all writers have to start somewhere and learn about their craft as they go along.
[…] (Though I wouldn’t go as far as describing it as pleasant.) […]