Thursday, January 09, 2020

just get writing already

thanks to my old bloggy friend, lynne, of wheatlands, i read a magnificent piece by helen brain on her writing process of her forthcoming post-apocalyptic YA trilogy. it had me thinking all day. thinking about building imagined worlds in clay, or at least drawing them as a map, maybe drawing up a timeline on the wall. you see, lynne, judith (also from the old bloggy days) and i are working on a project together - a project that we hope becomes a novel.  or rather, not that we hope will become a novel - a project that WILL become a novel.

but for that to happen, we need to get writing and i'm weirdly struggling with that. it's strange, because i actually love to write and although i'm out of practice, i feel it's like riding a bike, i will be able to do it again if i just try. but, i'm having trouble sitting down and doing it. and i'm not sure why.

i listened to stephen king's on writing on audible and he basically says that you just have to sit down and do the work, day after day. and look at all that he's produced! and he did it drunk, high and hung over for many years, so surely i can manage when i'm none of those and have plenty of time to devote to it.

so what's stopping me? fear that what i write won't be good enough for my writing partners? fear that the words won't come? distractions - the internet, master chef, netflix, litterboxes to pick, laundry to do, dinners to make. i think, "today i'll be able to settle in after i make a nice coffee for myself. or just after i have some lunch." but somehow, the settling in doesn't happen. i get fidgety in front of the keyboard and the writing doesn't come.

i sometimes wonder if i'm in the midst of a mild depression. i'm not sure i'd be able to discern the difference between it and everyday life. january and february are the darkest, most dreary months in these northern latitudes and that doesn't help me. you'd think a steady rain outside would be just what i need to keep me indoors in front of the computer, but alas, instead it renders me sluggish and uninspired and a bit grey myself and as much as it should, it does not make me sit down and write. (that's not strictly true, as i am sitting down and writing this.)

i love the story we're working on - a story of a brave, amazing young dutch woman who sailed as a man with the dutch east india company, was exposed along the voyage and put ashore in the burgeoning cape colony. there she met abraham, an aging pillar of the new community, who married her and they had a child before it was revealed that she was already married and she was sentenced to bigamy and banished back to europe. and all of this is true! we just have to weave it into a historical novel and bring her story to life.

maybe it's there that the pressure lies - the idea of telling her story and doing it justice is a bit daunting. she must have been so brave and adventurous to set off on that journey, how do we find her voice?  all i know is that i certainly won't find it by sitting here, not writing anything.

and so i turn back to helen brain's good advice to herself..."Maybe all that was needed for my book was the courage to push myself into unknown territory. Maybe I could immerse myself in my subconscious, and let the book filter up from the depths, instead of trying to force it to conform to my conscious process."

or maybe i should just get writing.


will said...

Writing is the easy part. Ignoring life's distractions is much more difficult. What you're doing is much the same as that of having a desk job.

When it time to write, Norman Mailer often rented a separate room, away from his home. He typically spent the entire day writing and did so for four days a week.

Using only a pen he wrote on average 1500 words per day.

Mailer was also a prolific letter writer, he found the time to write 47,000 letters - using a pen.

julochka said...

@will - that's astonishing and inspiring and daunting.

will said...

I had traditional publishing houses and they typically have their own in-house guidelines. Such as, when they want to get a book to market, the number of pages connects with price points and, is the author's language style translatable to international cultures?

Of course if you're famous there's more leeway.

Once the contract was signed I knew the generalized word count and I used that as motivation - approx. 2000 a day seemed doable but to achieve that, especially after doing it for several, the tasks got more uphill. That's when the action of steady writing on a daily basis becomes valuable.

Established publishing house are terrific to have when it comes to distribution, I believe my first book had eight reprints. Despite their reach you should prepare for what I consider the toughest part - you will need to self-promote the book.

The publisher sent me a book, "Guerrilla Marketing for Writers" and the advice, if I want the book to sell, I'd better reach out to bookstores, libraries, social medias, radio and TV stations - and just find ways to get the book in front of people.

Then, there's the afterward. Ego is a terrific tool to have when taking on a book but, for me, once the books were finished, they were simply became something I had done. What did matter - as a self-employed person, did the books produce revenue? At the time I was close with several successful authors and they all said, writing one book is no big deal, to be successful, to achieve notice and profitability I would need to write a series of books.

My walk-away. If one wants the challenge, something unto itself, then do a book. And, if you're OK to basically be working for peanuts, then take on the challenge. Then, there's the question - are you willing to be teeth gnashing, hair pulling and stressed beyond belief to write something on spec?

And, what about the biz of self-publishing? I looked into that and the money out of pocket to print a few hundred books was unacceptable - plus all the cold calls you need to make. So, a standard publishing house, with their boilerplate contracts and modest royalties should be considered.

Bottom line. If you have something say, a story to tell and you believe in your skills to write creatively, then keep going and don't look back.

Molly said...

Helen lives across the water from me and is a total inspiration. Try befriending her on facebook (Daisy Den Eeden) - she is one of the few reasons I still spend any time there and has a wide and varied community of lovely people. She has many frank observations about her own procrastination, mild depression, ADHD and how she still manages to write, and so well! I loved that piece of hers too.
Sorry you are glum, I can't imagine that weather helps at all :(

Molly said...

And I'm so excited for your novel!!

julochka said...

@will - thank you for this wealth of advice from your experience with publishers! we aren't yet at the stage where we have really thought about it too much yet - I think we want to have some of it written before we try to get an agent or submit any specs to a publisher. it will all come in good time!

@molly, i will look for Helen on Facebook! I haven't read her fiction, but I loved that article and her honesty. Also, the sun has now shined for two days in a row and I feel transformed. I really just need more sunshine!