Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The WORK of Writing

Writing is fun. Creating characters and places and throwing them into situations just to see how they react, how they survive, how they grow, is very satisfying. Done correctly, at least for me, the characters actually do take the writer places he didn't know he was going. Odds are, the twists and turns my readers experience were also experienced by me while writing the scenes. So many times I have no clue what is going to happen until it does, or something I had planned no longer seems to fit because my character has other ideas.

Don't laugh. It's true.

I'm not a very organized writer when it comes to content. I don't outline. Sure, I've tried, but it's a useless effort because I toss the outline aside and let my characters lead me. I don't set daily word-count goals for myself. I don't sketch out my plot and make sure the story arc has the correct curve. And, perhaps my greatest writerly sin: if I don't feel like writing today I won't. I'll do something else, or nothing at all. Sitting and staring at a blank screen does nothing but frustrate me and make me less creative.

But most days I DO feel like writing. More often than not, I want to write but can't because of time constraints or other obligations. Sometimes I do my best "writing" on the lawnmower, or on my motorcycle, or driving home from work with the radio off.

Writing, you see -- creating characters -- involves so much more than tapping keys with fingertips. To create a realistic character you have to get to know the character. You have to imagine them in different situations, even situations that have nothing to do with the story. You have to know them like you know real people, because to be realistic to your reader, they must BE real to you, the writer.

Is that the WORK of writing? No. The work, to me, comes later, after the "final" draft. The work of writing involves intense editing -- reading and re-reading in search of typos, jumbled sentences, repeated words, and inconsistent events. The work involves formatting -- making sure the various e-book versions display correctly. Making sure the paperback layout is correct. The work involves collaborating with a cover artist. The work involves promoting, advertising, fretting over sales. But perhaps the most difficult WORK is writing that damnable blurb that goes on the back cover.

I wish I could write, hand the manuscript to someone else, let them do all the WORK, and jump right into the next novel, but that's impossible. Being self-published means the writer has to run the business side of things as well as the creative side. You can't just write the next great novel, throw it on Amazon, and expect it to sell. Selling, is work.

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