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Write it and She Will Come

I wrote the first version of this note in answer to a young writer on the discussion board of my novel revision course. (http://howtoreviseyournovel.com/ by fantasy writer Holly Lisle.) It was in answer to her- but it was really for me- to remind myself, as I go through this novel-writing and revision process again, all these years later, of what I know to be true, but still find easy to disregard.

When I wrote my first novel years ago I was just far enough into my twenties to start realizing that I really was an ADULT now, and get panicky over ‘not having accomplished anything in my life’. Although I’d always wanted to be a writer and had written constantly as a child and teenager now the prospect of writing something (and possibly failing, thereby ‘proving’ that I wasn’t really cut out to be a writer) was just too scary to me and I stayed safe by doing nothing. Finally, with the years ticking past, I mustered my courage, got some advice on how to actually finish something (always my downfall) and managed, by writing every day without fail, to get a complete first draft.. and then a second.

The thing about this was I really, really hated it! Every excruciating second. It was pure torture. And all kinds of ‘helpful’ people were telling me things like- ‘if you hate it that much, don’t do it’ and showing me articles where real (published) writers talked about how much fun writing was and how much they loved every second… And all I could do was repeat helplessly, “You don’t understand… I have to…”

And then… towards the end of this long process, while I was still finishing the novel I started to have the experience writers talk about- where characters show up and start telling you their story, where you dream whole scenes, wake up and madly scribble it down and find, in the morning, that it miraculously not only makes sense but perfectly fills in a gap in the story you hadn’t even noticed was there. Before long, with no pain, no forcing myself to work, I had a screen play written.

What I realized then is that you don’t attract a muse by being talented. You attract her by working. Makes sense, really. She doesn’t want to sit around twiddling her thumbs while you drown in angst. She wants something to play with. Show her that you’ll do that by writing regularly and she’ll be attracted like a moth to a flame. In other words, ‘Write it and she will come!’

The Wanderer

2 comments to Write it and She Will Come

  • frosty

    I made the attempt to write a novel in my 20s, and not having learned from my mistake, worked on a non-fiction book in my 30s. I have since written professional papers, but haven’t done the peer-reviewed journal papers that I think I’m capable of. Robert Heinlein’s rules of writing nail the whole issue of writing for a living (and I can’t believe it, this is from memory):

    1. You must write.
    2. You must finish what you write.
    3. You must not rewrite except to editorial order.
    4. You must put it on the market and keep it on the market until it is sold.

    Oops, I usually fall down at Step 2. As far as Step 1. Sit at the keyboard. Period. I got that far.

    Heinlein’s take on Rule 3 was: “Always leave an obvious mistake. After the editor pisses in it, he likes the flavor better, and then he’ll buy it.”

  • Tamara Hinck

    Don’t know if you remember me or if Sarah Shaw Tatounova will get this but I am a great great grand daughter of Samuel Black Weeks looking for Sarah to share some of what I have found in the last few years. Hope to hear from you, Tamara Hinck

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