In many writing manuals or blogs, you hear about writers who begin their days with silent meditation in their quiet study and then write all morning. You hear about the writers who have set aside evenings for their studious and solitary creation because they work best at night. Ah, the peaceful bliss of a writing life. Except, for a lot of us, these scenarios are just as unrealistic as the single young writer living in their own Manhattan studio apartment in every romantic comedy ever.
Most writers I know work at least two jobs, sunup to sundown, and many are full-time students as well. Most writers I know don’t have studies, or even a quiet desk or armchair, or live with so many people that it’s never quiet or meditative. Most writers I know can’t devote the time they work best to writing, because they need to cook their dinner or do research for a paper or commute for an hour on a crowded bus or take care of their children or maybe just sleep because they’re just too damn tired.
I’m not making excuses for us normal, everyday writers. I’m not saying we have the right to not create or to be less industrious. Quite the opposite, I’m saying we need to be more industrious, more creative, and not get discouraged when it isn’t glamorous or convenient or even very fun. We aren’t very romantic or very spiritual or very quiet. But as long as we remember to keep writing, we’ll be okay.
Ever wonder why are there so many genres of music but not of books? Basic business. The Book Industry Study Group has compiled a list of numbers called BISAC codes, which all published books must be filed under. This makes it easier to market, sell, and stock books based on these categories. And while BISAC codes are always expanding, it is still sad that literary art has to be so confined by the practicality of an old business model. Personally, I’d love to see what a book genre entitled “shimmer pop” or “chilltronica” read like.
You can check out the current BISAC list for Fiction here.
Sitting before a beautifully blank page under perfect writing conditions and yet still being unable to put words to paper must be the single most exquisite form of torture known to humankind.
Today I was tabling for a writers conference I am helping to organize. A young man came up and asked about it. He seemed enthusiastic, declaring himself an avid writer interested in publication.
“We are featuring a workshop where you pitch your manuscript idea to real life editors and agents,” I said. “It’s a great way to get feedback.”
His face went blank. “No,” he said flatly. “My book is a book. I know it’s a book and no one can tell me it isn’t.” With that, he walked away.
As he left, I couldn’t help but think: There is someone who will never actually publish.
This book absolutely refuses to be any longer than 30 pages. I have been stuck on this chapter for almost a year. There are few things more frustrating…
Yesterday I sat back and realized ‘Damn, this book is boring.’
So I’m going to skip right to the good part. Screw the build-up.
Never look back at what you’re writing. The chances of you actually liking what you’ve written is very low. Every so often you’ll get to say ‘Wow, look at what I just wrote. That’s genius!’, but 90% of the time, you’ll realize it’s pretentious, worthless crap. So write, write, write and don’t look back. For the sake of the chapters ahead.
There is something so pretentious and uncomfortable about beginning a book, like breaking a long pause in conversation to tell an elaborate anecdote about yourself. You hope it’s interesting and relevant and that the listener can relate, but you both know it’s mostly because you like the sound of your own voice.
The Doughnut Principle:
If you can substitute a character in a book or film with a doughnut and still have the plot make sense, it is probably a poorly constructed character.
Sometimes stories are like naughty children. No matter how many times you put them to bed and shut the light, they pop back up and run out of their little room again, crying ‘Pay attention to me! Write about me next!’
I suppose the only way to get rid of these annoying brainchildren is to simply write their stories. It will give you something to do in the meanwhile, and who knows, maybe something great will come of it?