“So, you’re a writer?”
“That’s nice. I do a bit of a writing too. Might put my book out there some time.”
I never know how to respond to these kind of things. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people write as a hobby, it’s great. Everyone should write, it’s good for your creativity. But it’s not the same to write as a hobby as it is for your job. It’s like me going to the dentist and saying “I pulled out my own loose teeth when I was young”, and expecting him to think I do the same work as he does. I know Amazon has made it easy to publish, and in many ways that’s a good thing. But please don’t publish your book unless you are serious about being a writer.
A nice story idea does not necessarily make a nice book. You know what makes a nice book? Hard work. With a few exceptions, most writers don’t have a perfect first draft. A lot of us have to write, rewrite, have beta-readers look at it, rewrite some more, get an editor, edit back and forth and polish a book before it’s finished. Those who do have good first drafts tend to take a long time, and in my opinion, they still need to do the editing dance.
Writing is more than just the story, writing is also about the writing itself, and about the character building and the world building. The story tends to be the easiest part. But how do you keep your characters consistent? Are you sure your language isn’t repetitive? Or passive? Are you drawing your readers in? Are you staying true to the reality you’ve created? Does your story work or are there plot-holes? Is what you’re describing physically possible, and if not, do you have a good explanation why this is happening? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself.
I’m challenging myself with my latest project ‘Alleria’. I’ve written an entire book in 1st person present tense. Let me tell you, it’s tough. I can do short stories like this, but an entire novel gives me a challenge. For one, the whole book is in my character’s head. I can’t have too many flashbacks, because that would make the story passive –but would also mess with the present tense thing and make the book confusing. So everything needs to be explained along the way. And in such a way that I stay true to my character without making her annoying or repetitive. This is harder than it sounds. So far I’ve written a monstrous first draft, but I think there is a story there. I’m very limited because I can’t go outside of my character’s mind in a way, we only see what she sees, and feel what she feels. On top of that I decided to write high fantasy romance. As you might have guessed… this is not my genre. I like writing about strong women, and guess what: my character starts out as an underdog. Not that those aren’t strong, but she’s been suppressed for such a long time, that I had troubles getting her out of her submissive state and still make it realistic. Between you and me, I don’t think I’ve quite succeeded in that yet. I will have to seriously polish her up in the rewrites.
And how to write romance without too much doting? Personally I hate insipid characters that swoon and faint over a man. But I do like a good bit of tension and attention between two characters, but to get that on paper is a whole different story. Some people are naturals at romance, yet a lot of romance is highly dramatic, and that doesn’t suit my reading and writing style. So, I’m faced with many dilemmas during this project. What do I want from my characters?
It only took me three weeks to write ‘Alleria’, I did it for my NaNoWriMo project. That’s just the first draft though. I think it’ll take me at least half a year to sort it out and get it polished the way I want it to. My first step now is to let a beta-reader look at it. I’m too close to this thing, and I can’t see what works and what doesn’t. With those notes I will cut pieces out and add other pieces. Then I’ll make a new draft, give it a little rough edit and will test it on someone again. If it works, then I’ll start the editing dance with Apple. This is the most arduous process, and also the most frustrating. At several times I will be convinced this book is absolute drivel and no one will want to read it (in fact, I went through 2 of those moments already, whilst writing)
By the time the editing dance is finished, I will be sick of my own book. Not because it’s bad, but because it has taken up 80% of my life for several months. I will have read, re-read, written and rewritten every chapter numerous times until my eyes have gone cross-eyed. I will have laughed and cried, been angry, upset, happy and proud at different stages of the project. It’s my process.
I’m not saying every writer has the same process. We go through our own writing journey. What I am saying is that you can tell the difference between someone who takes it serious, and someone who writes for a hobby. There is nothing wrong with having writing as a hobby, and if you want to step it up a notch, that’s fine too. But then you need to accept it will take time and hard work to get your book the way you want it to be. Don’t just put your work on Amazon because your friends liked it, if you’re going to charge people money be professional about it.