Writing is hard!

If you want to be a writer, that’s great. Here are some things to know!

  • You’ll never write anything good on your own. 

And this should just be accepted. Writing can be a very humbling experience. If you think you’ve written something nice, but it hasn’t been beta-read, then you could be in for a rude awakening.

Now, good beta readers aren’t going to say, “This manuscript is filth! It should be thrown out with the rest of society’s garbage!” (Anyone catch my allusion to a hilarious episode of Frasier there?) No, beta readers won’t say that. But they will point out stuff that you never even thought of or realized. “You just told us something but didn’t give an example!” or, “Right there, you mentioned an incident but then glossed over it without filling in certain blanks,” or, “That part’s interesting, but it goes on too long. Can you trim it?”

And your beta readers will point out structure issues if your writing isn’t polished, like if you use too many little words, or you’re writing in passive voice, or if you’re doing info dumps in the dialogue, for example. [Shrugs.]

(Here’s a funny example of doing an info dump in the dialogue: “Johnny, I know you’ve been blue ever since your brother was abducted by aliens under mysterious circumstances while the two of you were at summer camp last August in that rickety cabin you shared by the lake. And you’re upset that I was at home working to support the family instead of joining in the search, even though the police suspected my involvement and wouldn’t take their eyes off me. But son, it’s time to move on.” It’s better to put those details into the narration rather than have someone speak a line of unbelievable dialogue. But if you ever want to snoop out some info dumps, just watch the first ten minutes of any Hallmark movie.)

So you’ve got to leave your ego at the door. I’ve learned to have everything I self-publish beta-read. (This doesn’t include blog posts, but it does include short stories, flash fiction, or microfiction that I write for contests.)

  • What you write might not jibe with all readers. 

And this is totally fine. It’s a personal preference, and some readers won’t “get” your books. I still think that one of the funniest reviews I’ve ever received was also one of the poorest, in terms of the reader not liking it. (But she wrote the review without giving it a starred rating.) Here’s her review from Goodreads:

** Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book from the author via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for providing my honest review. **

I didn’t get very far in this book, I’m sad to say, before I had to quit reading. I did like the character of Corey’s mom; she seemed very realistic. The issue I ran into was the subject on which it looked as if Corey and her group at school were going to be allowed to do a report/project. It’s possible if I skipped around, or just skipped ahead a certain ways, that I could get around that, but I don’t know and I just am personally too repulsed to try. I don’t think that giving the topic would be a spoiler and if you’re fine with it then you may like the book, so I’ll say that it’s…
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…The Donner Party.

I’m very squeamish about it myself, just one of those things for me, and had I known it was even mentioned in the book, I would not have entered the giveaway. My apologies in that regard.

Yeah, so I could be upset about that, but instead, I choose to be highly amused. 😀

The worst kind of review you can get (in my mind) is one that criticizes your writing. Fortunately, I’ve never gotten such a review, not really. Maybe one of my first reviews was thusly, when I was starting out.

  • You can think you’re a brilliant writer (and maybe you are), but you can never get inside the reader’s head and see what they’re seeing. (Even if you could, it would vary from reader to reader.) 

It’s just not psychologically possible. You’re as likely to know what people secretly think of you.

  • Writing happens in phases, and it takes a while. 

Broadly speaking, the first phase is just to write it. There ya go.

The second phase is to look over it and make it a bit smoother, maybe add some parts or take out some parts. Always remember that rewording is rewarding.

The third phase is to send it out to your loyal beta readers, and then to incorporate their suggestions.

The fourth phase is to check more carefully for typos and mistakes than you’ve ever checked before. But even if your process varies, it’s not possible to write a good novel (or whatever) in one draft. It’s also not worth striving for.

That said, to be a good writer, it really helps if you have good first-draft writing skills. This involves having a mastery of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and basic structure. It also involves basic storytelling abilities. These can all be practiced and improved upon.

But then when you get your beta reader’s feedback, you don’t want to tell yourself, “Oh, rats, I should’ve thought of that! I shouldn’t have made a statement without showing its truth in that section,” or whatever. Because here’s the thing: the human brain doesn’t work that way. You need beta readers so you can compensate for your own mental blocks or oversights. There will never be a point wherein you no longer need beta readers, unless you happen to be a beta reading genius yourself, but even then, you might have blocks about your own writing.

Blocks are just what happens when you’ve got something pictured in your head, but you don’t convey it adequately, for example. You assume that such-and-such detail is implied or spelled out, but it isn’t. It’s hard to work around, because what we envision in our minds seems to be solid to us, but that doesn’t mean it will translate smoothly to the page. So always thank your beta readers!

  • It can seem impossible to ever get anything officially published. 

But hey. Every time you write something new, the possibility is there. You never know! (But never self-publish something unless or until you’ve wholly given up on finding an agent for it.)

All that being said, if you ever have a beta reader who really hurts your feelings, it might be best to get another opinion. Try not to take it to heart! Some people have certain pet peeves that your writing is going to set off. I got some painful feedback about one novel once, but I came to agree with it, and it helped me to improve the book quite a bit.

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So what’s so great about writing?

  • It’s fun! It’s a purely creative process. 

You can create your own universe!

  • It feels good to complete a project! 

NaNoWriMo comes to mind. During the month of November, the goal for National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words toward a novel. Their web site has a word counter where you can make updates. It’s always fun!

In fact, I hope to do it this year. Sonya’s going to help me plot a novel while I’m visiting her in October, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I’ll be back in town before Halloween, and NaNoWriMo starts on midnight of Halloween. It’s just fun!

It’s not the best way to write a first draft–in an huge rush–but the fun is of living in that new atmosphere of the NaNovel all month and getting it written. My best NaNoWriMo experience was writing Nervous. It was a magical month. That was in November of 2016.

To stay on course, you have to write around 1,667 words a day. Falling behind isn’t recommended.

  • Entering contests!

This is twofold: I enter short story contests all the time, but you can also enter your self-published books into indie publishing contests, by category. Forever Twelve was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards category of visionary fiction, and I’ve never been more proud. I’ve bombed every other indie novel contest I’ve entered.

  • Self-expression!

Like how I’ve been working on my memoir. I can’t tell you how good it’s been to express myself in it. But even writing fiction has aspects of self-expression! In fact, that leads me to…

  • Create the life you want!

This is rather metaphysical, but hear me out on it. I got into writing in October of 2013. I started writing my Advice Avengers series at that time, a project I worked on for many years. (It has twelve volumes.) In the series, I wrote my middle-school fantasy: having friends and other close and meaningful relationships, having a loving and supportive mother, and having all your emotional needs met. It’s utopian fiction. I’m not sure anyone else out there is writing utopian fiction. Dystopian, sure, but not utopian.

After creating that world for a few years, it happened for me: I found friends. It was like I’d paved the way for it by envisioning how I thought friendship should work. There’s got to be something to that. It could be wholly psychological, but it’s still awesomeness.

  • You come up with good material! 

Like that whole aforementioned concept of how rewording is rewarding? I just now thought that up! See? Too much fun!

6 thoughts on “Writing is hard!

    1. Thanks! Oh wow, you should totally get back into it!! And people love reading poems on blogs!! Go for it!! YAY!! And you’d love the story competitions at NYC Midnight!! Maybe you can get into it sometime!!

      Liked by 2 people

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