Writing is fun, but it’s also work

I’ve been having a lot of writing angst lately, particularly in the professional arena.

I have some stuff I do for fun. That’s not here, has nothing to do with here, and it’s… distracting. I do it because it goes out to friends, and it has instant feedback, and sometimes a writer just needs to hear “oh hey, that’s good” in order to get energy to keep slogging on the other things.

But the pro stuff, the stuff for sale, that’s the hard work. For every piece that’s accepted there are a dozen (or more) rejections. And getting started on a new piece, while mired and buried in rejections, seems an insurmountable task. But the important thing I have to keep remembering is You can’t Win if you don’t Play.

In other words, if I don’t write the story, no one can reject it, that’s true. But just the same, no one can accept it, either. So if I want to get my work out there, I have to write. No matter how awful it is, I have to put fingers to keyboard and words onto the virtual paper. And I have to read it, and edit it, and let my critiquers tear it apart. I have to work at it.

Part of what’s been killing me is that I knew what book I wanted to write next. We’ll call it G’s Book because she’s the one who gave me the original idea for it, which has since mutated, severely. (As a random sidenote, many of my books seem to be written for people in some respect or another, even if that person happens to be me… none of my books come to life without some personal inspiration being responsible). The thing is, I had a base concept, a fantastic cast of characters all of whom were talking in my head, and no plot. Zilch. Zip. None. I got them started, wrote 9k, and realized the thing was going nowhere. More importantly, I realized it was boring me.

So I put it on the back burner and let it simmer for a while and I wandered off and did some fun things, and some short things, and otherwise ignored it for several months. When I came back to it, I threw out all the original words and started over. I redid the cast (which expanded). I firmed up some details. I removed a major element and localized a bunch of things. But I still had NO PLOT. Zilch all over again.

I can’t write a book with no plot. Or well, I could, and it might even entertain people if my characters were good enough, but it is highly unlikely that it would ever sell. No matter how incredible the voice.

So I stuck it back onto that simmer spot again, and out of the blue, a new idea came sailing in. It was an idea I’d had before (this one is Chick’s Book), but somewhere in the recesses of my brain it had mutated into something altogether different. Same title, a bit of the same concept, and even some of the same character arcs involved. But this time it had a plot to go with a whole new fabulously revamped cast of characters. I’ve spent the last few days making worldbuilding notes and putting together my corkboard of characters and positive arcs. Today I’m adding in the setbacks and negative character arcs (because angst is good, right?). My daughter is bouncing up and down because this is her book, and she can’t wait to see it (guess who will be my best cheerleader throughout the process).

The best part is, I’m not bored right now, so I’m pretty sure my readers won’t be bored. I think I’m onto something. I don’t mind the work, and I’m raring to go. Which means it’s time to start getting those words down and creating a new story. And remembering that writing is work, but it’s also as necessary to me as breathing. If it weren’t, I’d be happy just doing everything else in my life, right? But I want to share the people in my head and their stories. So I work at it, every single day. And even thought I’m frustrated at times, and yelling at the book, I love it.

About D. E. Atwood

When D.E. Atwood was in second grade, she finally grew tall enough to see the shelf above the mysteries in the bookmobile. She discovered a rich landscape of alternate worlds, magic, and space and has never looked back from the genres of fantasy and science fiction. When she was twelve, she declared that she was going to be a writer, and share the stories that she saw happening all around her. She wanted to create characters that others would care about, and that would touch their lives, like the books that she read had touched her own life. Today she has combined her interests, creating genre stories about the people who live next door, bringing magic into the world around us. When not writing, D.E. Atwood is a mother (to two children and a cat), a wife, a reader, a knitter, a systems administrator, a roleplayer, and a music aficionado. Sleep, she claims, is optional.
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3 Responses to Writing is fun, but it’s also work

  1. hannahkarena says:

    I’m struggling similarly. I got another rejection letter on Friday–a personal one that was super encouraging and wanted me to submit something else because they like my writing in general–but this just means that I need to go write something new for them (and in general, since I haven’t written anything new recently, and for myself, and for other publications to reject). Exhausted.

    • D. E. Atwood says:

      That is it exactly — the cycle is exhausting, and sometimes hard to just keep going. I’m glad for this project because my kid is excited about it, so that helps keep me excited (and will keep me moving forward if I know she’s waiting for more of it).

      I both look forward to and dread that sort of rejection for the agent hunting I’m doing, solely because while I have other things… none of them are properly edited and ready for primetime viewing. But it’s nice feedback to have someone love your work enough to want to see something else, so congratulations for that!

      It seems like the only way to get through is to keep going, and eventually the walls break and something else comes pouring out. And with luck, the stuff written in the harder periods isn’t as bad as we think… I know I come back to some things months later and am surprised at how much more clearly I can see them, including what needs to be tweaked to make “does not work” into “wow, I kind of love this.”

      • hannahkarena says:

        That’s true. I think that’s probably the best part about writing. We have so many projects going on–a lot on the back burner, as you put it–and so many submissions out there, that there are a lot of good surprises that crop up when we’re not expecting them: an acceptance letter in your email after so many weeks of waiting that you forgot you had even submitted it, digging out an old story and realizing that with some TLC tweaking it’s actually kind of awesome and ready to be loved by the big wide world. It’s like a garden, a little bit. Plant things and let them grow; eventually, it’ll be time to harvest all the crops you’re proud of.

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