Writing is hard

I take a long time to process pretty much anything I go through, so I usually try to wait before posting about a subject until I have a stronger grip on how I actually think or feel about it. This is useful in that the writing of the post itself often helps me decide what those feelings are and that I don’t really post things that I feel I’ll soon regret. Today however, I really want to capture something as it is before I have time to forget or warp it through retrospect.

Today I’m going to talk about what it’s like starting a new book.

I recently started my newest novel (Number five! Yay!), and started it, and started it, and started it. I think this one has taken me about five or six tries to get right, and though I have had that “click” that told me that this was the right way to start, in the midst of getting the right beginning, waiting for characters to tell me what I needed to know about them, figuring out the world, hating the boring drivel I had on the page, etc., I got to thinking: Is this always this hard?

The short answer is yes.

James Vanderbeek
Me trying to write something that isn’t terrible in the first few chapters of any new novel

I remember having to start over several times when I wrote my fourth book. In the fogs of time I see myself puzzling over finding momentum, throwing away useless scenes, struggling to figure out who or what these people “represented” (a mistake I’ve mentioned before which I will not cover here), free flow plotting, angst as things wouldn’t gel. That book was hard to start, just as this one is, and though I remember other books that were far easier to start (the first page of Machine has remained relatively unchanged since the day I wrote it, for example), as I am finally starting to turn the corner on this one, I also remember the ease with which book number four eventually started to come. I remember more distinctly than the initial struggles the rapidity with which words flew onto the page as I continued to write, the plot points and characters which came from nowhere to be just what I needed.

I write this not to brag about how good I am once I get in the zone. I don’t write it to complain or rehash how much I struggle. I write it as a record so that when book six comes into being, and I find myself wondering if I’ll ever write anything decent again, I can look back and say “Yes, I will.” Book five is starting to gel. The characters and world are coming together, and while I can’t say it hasn’t been difficult, would not like to say so, in fact, I would say that it’s going to be worth it.

It’s really hard when you have spent so much time on editing and polishing one book to come back and start another. You forget the work that’s gone into polishing, think of your polished work as your first draft level.

It’s not, at least for me. The first draft is hard. It’s ugly, it’s boring, useless extra words and phrases clutter the page. Writing the first draft sets me up for what will be hours and hours of cleanup, hacking the debris, wiping the dirt off to find the silver and gold. I say this for my future self, for you reader, if you write.

Writing is hard. It takes courage, faith, endurance. If you can’t handle the work, don’t do it. If you can, don’t give up. Something marvelous is coming your way. Keep writing and see what it is.

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