Saturday, December 14, 2013
Between the Bindings with Andrew Leon
Andrew Leon is an awesome guy - funny and very interesting. We met on Goodreads. One of my favorite things about that website is how accessible authors are - and how a random friend request can introduce you to a world of books that you hadn't yet noticed before. He is the author of The House on the Corner and Shadow Spinner, which is a collection I am currently enjoying (I've read the first two parts and am ready to read the third). You should definitely check out his blog (Strange Pegs) - he's got a lot of entertaining stuff going on over there.
The title of his author advice is: Writing Is "Easy." Yeah, not so much, as you will soon see ...
I saw a statistic not all that long ago that said that something like 80% of Americans believe that they could write a novel, you know, if they wanted to. They believe that in the sense that they somehow believe that writing is easy. I have to assume that they believe that writing is easy because sitting down and writing a few sentences is easy. Writing a novel, however, is not.
It's the difference between going out for a jog and running a marathon. Sure, anyone can run in a marathon, but only people that have trained for it can finish. The person who can, without training, finish a marathon is truly gifted. One might say, "Legendary." And he's probably named Barney.
So, yeah, it's easy to have an idea, that one bright, great idea, for a book. It's another thing entirely to sit down and write that book. To sit down and write it until it's finished. To ignore the new bright, shiny ideas that come along, ideas that seem better than the one you're working on, may even be better, but, if you let yourself chase each new idea that comes along, you will never finish anything. And, believe me, the process of writing generates ideas. Or it can, at any rate.
Also, writing can generate fatigue. Yes, just like running. Sitting and working on the same manuscript day after day can get pretty tedious if you let it. You pull out the manuscript, look at all the words, think of how many more you have to go, and it can just feel like too much. How will you ever get to the end? Oh, sure, right at first, it's all exciting, just like those first few miles of the marathon. You run fast and hard trying to get to the front of the pack, but, once you get 10,000 words or so in, you start to wonder why you're not already finished, and, once you hit 20,000 words, you begin to wonder if you will ever finish.
That's when those other ideas start to seem really appealing. You're fresh out of that first idea you had, the idea that started your general novel, and you haven't had a good idea, yet, to carry you through to the next part of your story. Maybe if you start something new...
And, so, writing a novel is hard. Really hard. It's something you have to commit to. I mean really commit to. And there's really only one way to finish one: keep writing it. Even when it seems like you will never finish. Even when you think you have a better idea for some other book.
Here are two things that have helped me:
1. Keep an idea folder. I keep mine on my computer. If you have an idea you think you might want to pursue, write it down. As you have more ideas about that project, continue to write them down. By the time you finish the project you're working on, you may even have a good working outline for your next project. Or the structure for a world and ideas for characters. Who knows? The main thing, though, is to not let these other ideas take you away from the piece you're working on. Because people who constantly chase new ideas never finish anything (and, yes, I know many of those people), and, if you want to write books, you have to be able to finish them, not just start them.
2. Set for yourself a daily word goal. Make it reasonable. My first word goal was a mere 400 words a day. That's all. Why 400? Because I read about how one famous author wrote his first novel on 400 words a day. Basically, between working and stuff, that's all he had time for, so make your goal something you can actually achieve. When I read that about how he had written only 400 words a day, I thought, "400 words? I can do that! I write emails longer than that!" So that was my first goal. Or 2000 words a week. However you want to break it down. Usually, I write more than 400, but I felt like I had accomplished something when I hit 400, and that helped me to keep going. It let me know that what I was doing was achievable and gave me a time table.
Yeah, writing is easy; however, 80% of Americans could not sit down tomorrow and dash off a novel just because they decided to do it. No more than 80% of Americans could decide to run a marathon and actually finish it. Well, I suppose I could finish a marathon eventually. If I was allowed to just walk it. Is that allowed? I don't actually know. Writing a novel takes discipline, commitment and practice. Writing a novel that's worth reading is something else entirely, but the first step is finishing.
What great advice, Andrew. And so true!! Thanks so much for all that you have given us today.
I hope that the advice these authors have been giving to you has been helpful.
I know that all of it has really benefited me. Until next week, y'all, when we will have some more author advice .... :)