Justine: Whoever Said Writing is Easy Hasn’t Tried to Write

frustrated authorThis sounds terrible, but I can understand why Faulkner drank and Hemingway shot himself. Writing is hard. Really hard. This past week has been exceptionally difficult for me from a story perspective and for the first time, I got so frustrated with my story I ended up in tears. I suppose I should be proud that it’s taken me over a year of working like a dog on my story to finally break down and cry. I mean, I and my fellow classmates have been through the wringer since signing up for the Romance Writing program a year ago August. By that I don’t mean to say that school has been a bitch…it’s been an amazing learning experience. But I do think that we’re getting so deep down into our books, our characters, our plots, and our subplots that the problems we see are getting much, much harder to solve. Harder = more frustrating. Too much frustration and…well…you know where you end up.

When we started this program a year ago, some of us had a basic understand of plot, conflict, scenes, turning points — the elements that go into making great fiction. Then there were people like me, who wouldn’t know conflict if it hit her on the head (in fact, I think it did a few times). The things I’ve been learning and attempting to square away in my story over the last year are now things that I’d consider basic…goal, motivation, conflict, for example. I’ve got that nailed down (at least I know what it is and how to fix it), but now I’m delving into stuff like subplot and character voice…things that, for me, require a hell of a lot more cranial power and imagination than I think I have.

It doesn’t help that my story has started and restarted multiple times. The plot I had a year ago is nothing — and I mean nothing, save the character’s names — like what I have now. Of course what I have now is much stronger than what I started with, but lately I find myself getting depressed over my perceived lack of progress. I still only have (less than) one act written, I’m a little unsure how Act 2 and Act 3 are going to roll, and of course I just have to write.

So, combine life complications that suck away writing time with depression resulting from “lack of progress” with (subconscious) self-imposed limits on brain power and imagination and it’s a perfect storm for a good cry.

That’s when your writing friends step in. Regular friends are great for other problems, but it takes a writer to know just what you’re going through. They point out the progress you’ve made over the past year. “You’re working on plot!” they say. “That’s hard! You’ve got your GMC figured out…that’s huge!” They remind you how much they like your story’s premise and how juiced they are to read your finished book. They also get involved in your story — they help you brainstorm, they offer critiques, and they listen to whatever you have to say. Kat mentioned in her post earlier this week how important a good writing community is and she’s so right. Were it not for the fantastic support of the other Eight Ladies and our teacher, I’d have probably thrown in the towel the other day. But I didn’t.

Look, if you want to be a writer, you best put on your big girl pants and get ready to do some serious work. Because as I’ve learned, writing isn’t easy. It’s exhausting, numbing, exhilarating, difficult, intoxicating, draining, and frustrating all at the same time. And even though I’ve had a major “this sucks” moment, I still think writing is one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve ever done.

I’m giving writing a go because I felt the time was right for me to create the great stories I’ve been reading all these years. As far as I’m concerned, this is my new job. Had I known a year ago what I know now about the kind of job writing would be, I might not have done it. But there’s no way I can turn back now. I’m pretty darn sure it’s what I’m meant to do.

So, when the next misery moment happens (it’s only a matter of time), I’ll gather together with my writing friends (virtually if need be), uncork some wine, eat some chocolate, sniffle a bit, and let the tears flow. When that’s all done, I’ll get up, turn on the computer, and get back to work. After all, I have stories to tell.

8 thoughts on “Justine: Whoever Said Writing is Easy Hasn’t Tried to Write

  1. Wow. I feel like my writing teachers in college (long long ago) taught me nothing about any of this. I couldn’t afford to take the McDaniels class unfortunately, so I’m going to have to learn all this difficult stuff the hard way: through reading books and blogs and from talking with my writer friends (and letting them read stuff if they want to). It seems incredibly daunting, given how hard it is for you given all you have learned from going through the program!

    But I, too, feel that writing fiction is what I’m meant to do. I’ve been doing it since I was 7. It’s just time to kick myself in the butt and get on with revising my first novel, and then writing more and more. Because I love it and want to write more than scientific and technical stuff.

    Thanks for sharing what you are experiencing in your writing. I do like reading it, even though it scares the crap out of me for my own writing! 🙂

    • Skye, I couldn’t continue the second year because of financial considerations (my daughter is doing an exchange program in America this year, and two college educations are looming on the horizon). But the first year? I felt I got every penny worth out of the program, and more. It was like five years packed into 40 weeks. If you can take a slower pace, you can learn a lot from other writers through their books and blogs. (-: And we’re a pretty sharing lot, I think.

      I would suggest that you earmark 10 percent of your future writing income for “continuing education.” It’s really an amazing dynamic when you are working on-line with other writers who care a lot about writing a good story.

      (-: You can do it!

  2. I think all writers are scared. It’s a huge piece of YOU that you’re revealing to the world. I’m scared of revealing my work (whenever I get the damn thing finished).

    I never had any writing classes in college that weren’t technical in nature (English major, Tech Writing/almost-History minor), so I had no “baggage” to bring to the table. Everything I learned last year I learned the first time.

    If you’re set to learn it through books and blogs, then definitely take a look at Michille’s blog post the other day about Tools and Techniques. IMHO, start with McKee’s “Story,” then go from there to Deb Dixon’s “GMC.” That will give you a really good foundation from which to build. Everything else just makes your books better. Good luck!!

  3. Make a note of where you are right now, Justine, so when the next misery moment hits you can show yourself how much progress you’ve made.

    It’s hard because you’re setting yourself such a high standard – and that’s just one of the reasons why we can’t wait to read your story 🙂

  4. And keep writing. I let an editor get in my head a couple of years ago and hack at my confidence like George Washington and his cherry tree. I didn’t write for years and every now and then when I feel like I am putting garbage on the page it is very hard not to hear that strident voice saying “Who would want to read this? I don’t want to read this. Would you want to read it?” I have to push it out of my head by telling it, “Yes. Yes I would like to read it. Once I fix it.”

  5. Oh, honey, I am right there with you, nodding my head at every paragraph.

    Ignorance can be bliss, but it’s front-loaded bliss. The hard part comes when you have to show it to people, and people see the big holes and the little inanities — or, the hard part comes when you send it to publisher after publisher and watch it come back without any clue about why they rejected it. Or, you can get the hard part out of the way first, and have smooth(er) sailing towards the end.

    A round of virtual tea and sympathy for everyone!

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