Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

Finally finish your first book: I know how to write a book!

Finish books 2 and 3: Yep. I got this! I know the process and all the secrets! How I write a book is how you write a book! Ask me and I’ll tell you because I know how to do it.

Reach 2/3 mark on book 4: Oh crap. My process isn’t working. I have to change how I do this. There was a secret I didn’t know before now.

Complete a series: Okay. Now I know all the secrets. Not only can I write a book, but I can finish a story. I know all.

Start writing 17th novel: I know nothing.

I know, seems strange, that on my 17th novel I’ve come to a point where I admit that I don’t know how to write a book. I mean, obviously I’ve done it a few times now, but things are just never the same.

Most of my books have taken me between 60 and 90 days to write the first draft. There are some of those books between 1 and 16 that I wrote in under 30 days.  But those are the ones where I am on fire and everything is clicking and I’m cranking out 4-6k words a day.

Words a day. Now that’s a phrase that freaks people out. We often hear the phrase “Real writers write every day.” I get this phrase, I really do. I applied it to my process for the bulk of my career, but I don’t take it quite as literally as many others do. For me, writing every day means 5-6 days a week that I’m drafting the first draft. That does not mean writing 8 hours a day. It means writing until I’ve reached a goal or I’ve come to a natural stopping point for the day. Sometimes that’s just 1 hour. Sometimes it’s 5. Depends on the book, the scene, and the day. And I do allow for 1 or 2 days off, like any “regular” job, you wouldn’t be there 7 days a week.

But this book, the 17th, has been so different for me.

I feel like Sisyphus and that rock is getting harder and harder to push uphill.

When I was first starting out, writing books 1-3 and the first 2/3rds of book 4, I never outlined. Then I hit a wall and had no idea where to go. So I loosely outlined the end of the fourth book and learned that I could, and maybe even should, outline a story before writing it. As a young writer, I couldn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, feeling like I’d already done it. So it took time and practice, but now I need an outline to help me get from A to Z.

So every day that I plan to write, I review my outline and get my daily goal, be it 1k words, 2k or 5k. Some days are hard and I may only get 500 words, but I get something.

But this book. This book. I want to write this book. I like my characters and their heartbreaking story. It’s a new world with new faces and a new story. I want to get to the end of it. But I started writing this book at the beginning of January and I’m only halfway through. I don’t even have a complete outline because it has been such a difficult story to figure out.

I take a week off from writing at a time. Some weeks I only write 2 or 3 days.  And I’m not even getting huge word goals when I do write.

This book is taking so much out of me.

But just like with my 4th book, I’ve learned to adapt to it. I have other projects going on at the same time that need attention, so I’m not just sitting around. But I’m telling myself not to feel guilty. I am working on it. I am always thinking about it. I even had a plot knot unravel itself the other day that will help  me expand the outline when I come to the end of it.

So what’s the point? The point is, none of us hold all the secrets. Processes will work for you until they don’t. You just gotta be able to roll with that and figure out how to carve a new key to unlock the next secret.  Even if you’ve written off the idea of something, like outlining vs. pantsing or writing every day vs. taking days off, try it if you’re stuck. It might be the thing that gets you unstuck.

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7 thoughts on “Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

  1. I have been going through this exact same stuff. I wrote a book in nine days last summer/autumn and it completely left me drained dry. The next book I got 25K in and flatlined. I tried to take a break. I tried to write a new thing that excited me. I couldn’t seem to do ANYTHING. It was like my brain, having seen that this one single time (book nine in my career) I was able to bang out a book in nine days and it decided that I should be able to do that ALL THE TIME. And I psyched myself out so much that I couldn’t write at all for months. When I managed, it was maybe 200-300 words at a time. The first day I hit over 1000 I felt like I needed a parade.

    I’m on book 11 right now and also juggling book 12, and weirdly, going back and forth between them seems to be working for me.

    Writing is hard.

    • Writing is hard. And strange. And frustrating. And awesome. But mostly hard.

      My last two books I wrote in tandem. It was a difficult process, but getting two books done within a week of each other made me feel so damn accomplished. But of course I needed a lot of time off after I was done, more than usual, so there’s a trade off. There are other stories I want to write, but I think maybe it’s because I want to avoid this one. Or I think I should be done, so screw it, I’ll put it aside. But I can’t. Like you, I gotta finish this one. I have shelved a book before, but I don’t want to give up on this one.

      But on days where I see a comma on the word count, I want a damn parade too.

      At least we’re figuring it out. At this stage, in the double digits, we gotta know we’re allow some leeway. It’s not like we’ve been writing the same novel for ten years.

  2. Pingback: Reinventing the Wheel: Writing When You Forget How | Emmie Mears

  3. Ohhhhh yes. I found the more drafts I wrote of my WIP (now on sub, yay!) I would be convinced: OK, NOW I know how to write a novel, now I get it, I got this. And I would learn something about story, or writing, or worldbuilding, look at the novel and go: welp, that’s why this part of the draft isn’t working. REWRITE. (And to boot, I have at least two and a half trunk novels that will never see the light of day.)

    Outlining and learning story structure helped, and taking writing classes and workshops helped, but now as I try to take all that stuff I have absorbed and approach my next big project, probably a novel… I still find I’m banging into my own limitations, like trying to drive a bumper car. I think they are different limitations, at least! But still frustrating. I’m cool with it being a journey and learning, but being stuck in that wandering middle, whether of your novel or of your process, can still be maddening.

  4. I’m literally over writer’s block. I feel like I’m in a car, crashing into a brick wall over and over every time I try to write. Ideas come out of me like water out of a faucet, but it does little good when I try to put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) to expand upon the idea. I can even come up with the complex mythology, outline, motivations for characters, everything, but I stall when I have to create a world worth reading without it coming off as stereo instructions or word dumps. My brain hurts, my soul is frustrated, and my Muses are tired of me.

    The things you wrote about: I’ve been suffering for four years now. I haven’t been working on anything, though I’ve tried time and again. I think a lot of it comes from personal life, tension, and stress, but the writer in me dies each moment I am not writing. Maybe this is the curse of being a writer: suffering.

    • That sucks, I’m sorry you’re struggling so much. It’s very possible you haven’t found your right story yet (my first book took me 4 years and only made it to 35k words before I realized I was writing the wrong story). I would suggest trying some writing exercises. It sounds like you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to write a book and you don’t think you can do it, or you want to do it so perfectly you can’t start for fear of screwing it up. So. Don’t. Don’t write a book. Write a scene. Write a conversation between two characters. Write a description of a room or a sunrise or a battlefield. And once you have that, do it again with something else. Just start writing things and see what happens. Once you build a habit of writing it’ll come easier and easier, even if it’s hard work, and one day you’ll realize you’re writing a story.

      • Wow. You’re probably right. Some things come out easier than others, especially different genres. Realistic fiction comes out of me so easily. But I LOVE Urban Fantasy and Horror. I have ideas for both genres. But I think you’re correct: start off with specific scenes and get used to prose. Add the other stuff in later.

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