Beth Anderson is a multi-published, award winning author in several genres including romance and mainstream crime fiction. A full time author, she now lives in Washington state. She has appeared on Chicago's WGN Morning Show, The ABC Evening News, as well as numerous other radio and cable television shows. She has guest lectured at Purdue University, Moraine Valley College, and many libraries and writers' conferences. She loves music, particularly jazz.Today Beth is sharing with us: The Part They Never Tell You About When You Start Writing A Novel
I’ve seen it in so many writers and I’ve done it myself. Write a little, stop. Write a little, stop. Put it down, put it away where you don’t have to look at it, under your bed or hidden in a computer file where even Bill Gates couldn’t find it. Anything to get it out of your sight and off your mind, because you don’t WANT to write today. Today stretches out into tomorrow, into the next day, and eventually you find you’ve wasted a week, a month, a year, and have not even one page to show for it, when what you originally SAID, and meant with all your heart, was, “I want to write a book.”
Sound familiar? I thought it might, but here’s what you need to realize: Someone a lot smarter than I said, “Writing is mostly re-writing.” And it is. Pages of great prose don’t just fall there by accident while you’re staring out the window thinking about something else. Oh sure, sometimes a brilliant thought or phrase or an unexpected scene does pop up and you don’t have a clue where it came from, but that’s one of those magic days when you’re blessed with some otherworldly sense and it flows from your fingers. It happens, although not often enough. You usually have to work at it.
Most days it’s just slogging away, hating what you just wrote, KNOWING you’re the world’s biggest fake because your dialogue is the suckiest ever, your narrative would bore any reader half to death, and nothing jells. That’s when you really have to buckle down and keep at it, because that’s the part you seldom hear about in author interview blogs. Published authors rarely want their readers to know what really goes on behind the scenes.
What happens is, if you’re smart and you want to be published any sooner than 2075, you keep noodling with it until it does jell. I would venture to say most of what most authors write is done like that. You sit there and force yourself to keep writing whether you like it or not. And then, when you save it and go back to it the next day, you’ll either find that it’s not nearly as bad as you thought and a few words will salvage it, or it is as bad as you thought. If it is, you go back and start noodling with whatever’s bothering you until you get it right. That’s how I do it, anyhow.
I don’t recommend my method for everyone. Many good authors say they keep on writing till it’s completely done and then they go back and fix everything. That works for them. It doesn’t work for me, and I’ll tell you why.
If I know something isn’t right with a scene I just wrote, I can NOT go on until it is right, and sometimes that means a day or so shifting words, paragraphs, deleting this, adding that, sometimes swearing the whole time, but I have to get it right. Then, and only then, I can move on. The good news about doing it that way is, when I write THE END, it’s as good as I can get it At That Point.
THEN I go back and fine-tune it, and that can mean any number of rewrites. That’s when I give into my motto: Write like a lover, edit like an ex-wife. THEN, when I think it’s perfect, I have others go through it for typos (yes, they do find them)and continuity or anything else they may spot that my feeble mind missed (and that happens). (Often).
So when I hear that tiny voice that says something’s not right, experience has taught me that if I don’t listen, an agent or editor will nab me on THAT VERY SPOT sure as God made little green pears like the ones sitting on our kitchen counter. It always happens. Every time. I go back until I find where it went wrong and fix it. I’m probably OCD that way.
You may be completely different. Things like that might not bother you. They bother me. OCD again.
The point I’m making is, writing a novel isn’t just a matter of sitting down and typing out a book in a month or two and sending it off. It almost never works that way except for rare authors I known who are certified writing machines. Most of us have to re-write until boiling hot blood spurts out of our foreheads.
Writing a novel isn’t always fun. You don’t end every day thrilled with what you wrote. You may have to completely rewrite it tomorrow, and the day after that, and maybe the day after that. But you’re still making progress, and isn’t it better than writing nothing at all?
If you want to get published and stay published, you don’t have a choice. You have to do rewrites and you have to keep at. You may have to do even more rewrites when an agent or editor gets hold of it. Grabbing that elusive gold ring called success in this business is about keeping after it day after day no matter how bored you are or no matter how disheartening it is, because keeping at it at least gives you a chance at getting where you want to go.