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.