I saw this from a Pep Talk email by Alexander Chee. I thought, this is the hardest thing for me to do. I’m always giving my writing time to others, and later, I feel guilty for it.
One more habit: if someone asks you to do something during your writing time, say no. Protect your writing time at all costs. If this is something you’ve wanted to do for years, chances are there’s a part of you that feels like a friend who gets ditched every time. That part of you is waiting to do this. They are also afraid you’ll ditch. Don’t do it. Not this month. Show up and write.
Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at VQR.
Each month, I will post a lesson or tip regarding writing: techniques, inspiration, revising/editing, etc. and answer any questions you may have regarding writing.
Post any questions in the comments below, and I will answer them in subsequent “Writing Insight” posts.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Revising is sometimes ‘like a nightmare’, especially when you’ve crafted what you think is this easy-to-follow, wonderfully evolving story. Line edits are much easier: for the most part grammar is black and white.
This is part of a comment from a post I read about revising and editing from Joynell Schultz’ Blog on revising and editing being two different things. She also talked about her revising and editing process, what she’s gone through, and even gave a few book titles that could help.
What I most relate to (and most writers I think relate to) is the truth of the statement “most writing is rewriting.” For me, I can’t seem to turn this process off. I am always trying to tweak something, even though I’ve declared my manuscript “finished.” I’m currently shopping my book around to agents because I’ve decided to go the traditional publishing route first. I knew the process may involve a lot of rejection, but I didn’t realize the amount of waiting that would take place. And in that waiting time, I’ve filled it with trying to make revisions, edits, format changes–just about anything to help (in my mind) better the book. Last week, I started dividing some chapters into shorter ones and renaming all of them.
This is so counterproductive at this point. Now’s the time for the experts to evaluate it. In these times, it helps to have another project or projects to take your mind off the waiting. So this week, I’ve started really getting into book two of what I feel is going to be a trilogy (see When Trilogies Attack) to relieve that itchy, want-to-edit feeling.
When I think about an audience for a piece, I think about not what I want to say, but what does someone who’s going to pick up this piece of writing want to hear? In business writing, it’s all about audience: it’s about connecting to them, respecting them, and most of the time, soliciting their input. In creative writing, most of this is not an issue.
But even as a creative writer, I think about all of these elements of audience. Because I’m not just writing stories, I am reading them as well. And as a reader, I want that story to hold my interest from the first page to the end.
- Connecting to the audience. This is all about knowing what you’re talking about. If you’re writing a sci-fi piece about an imaginary world, you’ve got to be able to see it to describe it. If you’re writing a courtroom drama or a detective story, you’ve got to research. And if you’re writing a romance, but you’ve never been in love, well. . .
- Respecting the audience. We don’t want to figure out the ending at the beginning. Have you ever read that novel that makes you feel like someone is holding your hand and leading you all the way through? Ugh. Annoying. Don’t insult your reader. If I want to read a kids book I will go to the kids section of the bookstore.
- Solicit your audience’s input. I hate fan fiction, but I love fans. And if you have fans in this very digital world, you know how they feel about you, your characters, and your story lines.
But more importantly is the valuable beta readers that are out there. They are like the test group for your material. Volunteer to be a beta reader, and find beta readers for your own work. They can give helpful actionable advice to make your piece of writing the best it can be.
For a creative writer, our audiences are our lifelines. Not just because they buy our books, but without them, we’d be talking to ourselves. . .well, even more than we usually do. 😉
For the past several years, my career and my life has been one of transition: going from writer-in-my-head (and to a few friends) with a day job to struggling novelist with a day job to unpublished novelist and adjunct English instructor to struggling novelist with a day job and adjunct English Instructor.
I never thought the journey to finding a fulfilling career would be one the would branch into distinct paths (one path=fulfillment, one path=career, one path=fulfilling career) or include teaching. It’s been a learning-by-doing-experience with a roller-coaster like quality. I’ve had a lot of wonderful moments and very difficult moments, but I’ve rarely had a dull moment on this journey.
I’m still on this transition, and I think my actualization will be an internal one: whenever I feel that “I have arrived,” then I can can say the transition period is over. But along the way, I will continue to update you with my insights on career change, my insights on being an author, and my feelings about the world that is the writer’s subject. Hopefully, you’ve learned and will continue to learn something that can better your own situation–whether you are a writer or in the middle of a career change or life change–from my experiences. I’m a woman writer in transition, and I have a unique perspective on life change, writing, and career transition. I’m continuing to learn to embrace change, and I hope you are too.
If you’re a writer, you’ve felt it before: the creepy crawly feeling up the back of your arms, the burning racing feeling inside your chest, the tingly feeling in your fingers and toes. No, it’s not a crazy heartburn: it’s the anxiety of waiting. Most people have spent some of their time waiting, but for writers (and maybe contestants on The Voice) waiting takes on a new meaning. It’s not just an impatience, it’s also a dreadful scary feeling wrapped in a blanket of curious insecurity. Writers are constantly asking ourselves worrisome questions like:
- What if I’m rejected?
- What if I’ve ruined my own chances?
- What if I have to start over?
- What if I never hear anything?
- What if I’m accepted? (Believe it or not, it’s just as nerve-wracking to think about being accepted as it is to think about being rejected. Because when you’re accepted, there’s a lot more anxiety waiting on the horizon: will it sell? will I have to change everything for it to sell? Will I be able to get along with my editor? Will I be able to handle success? Will I continue to be successful?)
I guess I’m feeling all of these things now: I’ve sent my first novel proposal out there for its first considerations. After working on this for 11 years (yes, I had a day job) and now feeling like a 2nd and a 3rd book with these characters also needs to be written, the anxiety of waiting seems more like a rush of manic feelings. Here’s how I process them.
Recently, I went back through my blog and found this post about quitting a day job to start a writing career. It got me conversing and thinking deeply about my current job search and writing career. I’ve had a very emotionally draining last few years, but they have taught me a lot about what I should be doing for 50+ hours of my week.
I’m a writer. No job that I take can or should keep me from writing. It’s my calling, my gift from God, my thing “I would do for free.” –Steve Wozniak. And that’s why my job search is focused on positions that are writing or editing focused.
I know the corporate world. “This is not my first rodeo” in job search or career reflection. And each time I have to do this, I learn something about corporate America and myself.
I’m not a fool; I know my situation. Chasing a dream doesn’t mean I disregard survival. Bills must be paid, shelter must be maintained, and food must be gathered. If that means I have to take a job on my Plan B or C list, I will. Because nothing can stop me from writing.
I never underestimate myself. No matter what area: flexibility, perseverance, or attaining my goals, I can’t afford to underestimate my power. I can do anything.
Maybe some of these truths can help you make some career decisions (or confirm the decisions you’ve already made). Ultimately, where you choose to go in life is for you to decide. Don’t shortchange yourself.