I've been thinking about all the questions people ask me. How do you start writing a book? Why do you write? Where did you come up with this story? Is that character about someone you know? So I thought I would tell you a bit about what it's like to be a writer, at least the view from my desk:
So you get this idea. Maybe its an image, a picture, a story. It hooks a claw into you. Not enough to hurt, just enough to be uncomfortable. When you forget about it and try to live your life, the claw wriggles and says, HEY! I'm still here. Sometimes that claw hangs on for months or years. As you get more comfortable with the idea that "I AM A(n aspiring) WRITER!" the moment from hook to bleeding shortens. Not that this is unpleasant, mind you. The "hook" of a story that nags at you and begs to be written? Well, that is pure magic. But it still involves a lot of bleeding (and crying and laughing and every other bodily function and emotion you can come up with).
You fall in love with this image and then you have to come up with a so what? Meaning, the juicy center of the story, as in why would anyone take their time to read this? At this point, many writers draw diagrams and outlines and story plots and whatnot. I am a pantser. I look at a blank page and just go for it. I would no doubt be a better and more efficient writer if I would plan first but I just CAN'T. The freedom of flying through a story blind, having no idea where it will go is actually thrilling.
So, you write an opening. An opening that, most likely, will get slashed and re-written and possibly even erased, but still, you've got to do it. You don't have the protagonist's name yet, so you call her ___. You start writing in third person because everyone says that is the thing to do, then realize WTH? This feels wrong. I'll make it first person. Ahh. Much better. You write her as a red-head. No, a blond. No, bald. Just kidding, that usually doesn't happen.
You start making notes and researching the setting for your story. While researching, you start clicking the ads for "celebrity moms you didn't know were gay," realize you have wasted an hour and quickly shut down the clickbait. You agonize over one sentence, searching online thesauruses for that perfect word. You start to really get into this story. It wakes you up early, keeps you up late, even seeps into your dreams.
You write every day. Sometimes you get one paragraph. Sometimes you get 10 pages. Days, weeks, months pass and you begin to feel like these characters are real. They are for you, anyway. Some days your fingers can't keep up with your thoughts and you let all sorts of adverbs fly. You see that "ly" and you know you will have to erase it, but you move on. Just got to catch that story before the muse leaves you. And it will leave you at some point. On those days, you stare out windows and scroll Facebook and buy "how to write" books on amazon.
The ending is finally upon you. You type the words "The End." Then the fun begins.
Editing takes as long as (if not longer than) writing the story. You find that this novel that you pieced together over 4 or 5 months of your life is inconsistent- funny how that happens. You look at the entire story and find where the holes are, do your best to patch them up, and add/delete to your hard work.
Then comes the line editing. Ugh do I hate line editing. Imagine spending all day mowing your lawn. Rather than sitting back and enjoying a margarita, you get on your hands and knees with tweezers to pick out any stray blade that doesn't look as beautiful as the rest. Now imagine you do that for another 4 or 5 months.
You hire an editor, get critiques, and beta readers. You get the joy of seeing all that hard work peeled open like a pomegranate, as the seeds are picked out and crushed of their flesh and handed back to you with the task of putting it back together. You go back to dreaming and obsessing about this story, but you are getting a little tired of those beautiful characters you knew in the rough draft. You carry on.
Finally, you have a somewhat finished product. Now you have to send out query letters and synopses, and elevator pitches. Trust me when I tell you that taking a 90,000-word manuscript and turning it into a 2 sentence pitch is absolutely horrifying. And don't get me started on query letters and comparable titles.
You track your queries, stalk agents on twitter, send out a thousand query letters per day. You slug through the emotional sucker-punch of basically being ignored. You go back and begin editing again. Find new beta readers and learn that you have been spelling "All right" wrong this whole time and that agents all hate your first line. you edit until you can't look at it anymore.
You decide to self-publish because your story does nobody any good sitting in your computer. You read articles on publishing your own book and spam your social media accounts, create videos, join groups, and read about marketing for self-published authors. You learn that formatting for KDP is a total bitch. You go through about 30 drafts to get it right, then realize after publishing day the "finalized" version never made it to publishing and your 12 readers got a whole slew of errors you cleared out with tweezers.
You edit and finalize again, this time being better prepared for the ways of self-publishing. You keep pushing and marketing and six months later amazon sends you a check. Congratulations, after all that work, here is $130.
So now what?
You start another book.
Because the magic of writing is not in publishing. It is in the joy of diving into a world of your own making and seeing where it will take you. And hopefully, each fail gets you closer to the writer you want to be.