The writing part of being a fiction writer is easy. I don’t say that to brag and I hope I can explain it well enough so that you go, “Yes, that’s it.” [Side note: I find the research part of academic writing to be easy and fun, while the writing part feels more like wrestling an alligator.] When you’re writing your new story, the ideas you’ve had, the characters you’ve envisioned, the plot points you’ve considered, and so on all come spilling out. You think every sentence is better than the one before and sometimes they really are. Here is the story you imagined now given life!
The writing part is fun. At first, you barely even look at a misplaced comma let alone major plot inconsistencies. You’re not thinking about a potential reader, what your audience would like to see or what should happen in order to move the story forward. And any thoughts about what would make your book commercially successful – ha! You’re only interested in giving the story you’ve dreamed about shape. Never mind that that shape will end up being lumpy, ill-formed, and full of holes. Never mind that that shape will end up being hacked apart and refashioned into something else–something readable, enjoyable, and sellable.
The writing part is only the beginning. You’ve got an idea that you think is brilliant. You’ve got the chops to be able to string some beautiful words together. You’ve got the time to devote to creating those 80,000+ words. You’ve written a novel! Throw yourself a brief little celebration – because it’s true, not everyone can do what you’ve just done, although many have – and then take a look at your writing. Really, take a look. Because now the real work begins.
The writing part is certainly not over. You’ve written your end scene, you’ve had your celebratory Scotch and chocolate. But wait! Editing requires a good amount of new writing in addition to all the things you’ll cut. You have to learn to let go of truly well-written pages. You have to figure out what is missing from the whole and how to fix it. You have to be able to write these new little bits so they can be stuck in cohesively with the rest. You might have to change nearly every beautifully strung together word. I was lucky in that a wonderful agent spent a lot of time and effort helping me identify what my novel needed to be complete. Now that I know what needs to be done, I can envision it, and I actually agree with all the changes; I must admit, though, the doing is slow-going.
The writing part isn’t even my favorite part! That’s what I find so chuckle-worthy. I truly love editing. My red pen and I have great affection for one another. I love editing my work and others’. But in the last decade, I have only edited non-creative writing of my own. Editing a novel is a different ballgame altogether. I do it in little bursts, then a scene will stump me [“You’re perfect the way you are, you don’t need fixing!” or “You’re just all wrong and I don’t know how to change that…”] and I’ll go days before I look at the document, minimized at the bottom of my screen. Self-editing is crucial to any good writing. I know. But I really need some tips to keep myself on track in order to get the novel edited and back out into the world. Only 10 pages a day and it would be done in less than a month! It is now time for diligence and goal-setting and perseverance. A writer’s life is very much made up of those things.