There’s a lot of books about writing techniques–and this stuff is important. If craft stuff gets in your way, it ends up bending the story in ways that are not good. Tangled sentences and awkward paragraphs can kick a reader right out of the fiction. However, it’s not just about the craft. You have to have something that matters–to you.
This is where I think so many writers go wrong. A writer heads into vampire territory since vampires sell, or writes a historical without really having a deep passion for that era and a longing to dip a toe into living in that time, or gets caught up in what should be a cool idea. But the passion is missing. This is where you get the good book–the writing may work, but there’s just something off. It’s like eating a pizza where all the ingredients are there, but someone didn’t add the fire needed to take okay into amazing.
You can fake almost anything, but you cannot fake passion.
You also need this because at the end of a couple hundred pages even the hottest need to write has cooled so if you start out anything less than desperate to write a story odds are not good for getting the thing finished.
For me, this passion, the feeling that works to keep working comes from loving the work (and hating it sometimes, too), from needing to write the story, from not being able to stay out of that fictional world. It’s got to be there or you end up with words on a page. Which is not a bad place to start. But at some point you have to put more into it.
And that the scary part–you don’t always know when you’ve got that more.
Sometimes writing is worse than ditch digging (I’ve done both, and the digging breaks your back, but writing can break your soul by inches). Sometimes it feels bad but it’s actually really good stuff. You just don’t know. You lose perspective on it, and that’s what you want. You want to be so deep into it you have no idea. You have to throw everything to the winds and dive in and you just have to be willing to make a fool of yourself.
You have to be willing to write god awful stuff and write stuff that may just be tripe and you have to be willing to write stuff that others may hate, because that also may be your best stuff. To me, this is only fun if you’re taking chances. And what’s the worst of it? Someone slams the work (and, yes, that does irritate, but so what–the work is done and has that person ever written a book?), or someone slams you (not the work, which is even more irritating and these folks need to learn the artist is not the art–there are only glimpses of the artists at that moment in time in the art). But this is also where a cool thing happens.
If you’ve written something you really put yourself into, you don’t care as much about what folks say. Because you have the work in your hands. You’ve done your job and if you’ve given it your best there’s a satisfaction in that. You have something that matters to you–and that’s what you hang onto.
The other good news is that the more you do this, the more this becomes a habit. It never gets easier. But it becomes the default way to write.
And then there are the times when you write something that you think is so golden, and/or so witty, that it should be engraved on marble tablets and handed out to the populace to be mandatory reading, only to go back and read it later and go “OMG I wrote that?!? I am so embarassed! I need to change my name. NOW!”.
There’s value in all writing — even if it’s just to show what you were like at that point in time.
I understand what you’re saying. There are times when the writing is wonderful and witty and then you have to cut the scene.
Greetings from New Zealand.
I just read you blog post in Writers in The Storm. I am a very new writer. 9 years ago I got about a 1/4 into a reincarnational romance which started in Georgian times. Then at the beginning of this year I started a utopian YA. You talk about passion, well this is mine!
I think your show and tell workshop would be very helpful. I am doing a YA on line course that should have finished at the end of last month but its dragging on as we have only had three of the promised 10 assignments! I suppose they will dribble on for the next month.
How many assignments will you be asking us to complete? And, does it matter that I am writing an YA adventure story with little or no romance in it?
Thanks for your time Shannon.
PS a kindle is winging its way to me so I will be able to down load and finish A compromising Situation!
In the workshop, the assignments are optional, but I think folks get more out of the workshop if they do them. We have one a week — it’s a four week workshop, so that’s a total of four. And, no, what you’re writing does not impact the workshop — the exercises are designed to be done outside a manuscript to learn specific writing skills.
Thanks I’m signing up!
Except I am 9 days behind. May be next time. It doesn’t work for me to play catch up. Thanks and look forward to working with you.