Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Want To Be A Successful Author? Then Stop Quitting To Start A New Project!

Authors have a unique freedom when it comes to our work, in that we can write about any damn thing we choose. If we want to write about handsome billionaires seducing their secretaries, we can do that. If we want to write about a group of college kids being hunted by a pack of werewolves across the Scottish moors, we can do that, too. Hell, I wrote a story about a small team of mercenaries raiding a cult town to save the group's acolytes before they were sacrificed to monsters from the deep.

You can read that story, titled "Blackwater," in the free sample right here!
The process of refining that initial idea is intoxicating. You've been given a fresh canvas, and you can paint anything you damn well please on it. The problem is that, sooner or later, you need to start making brush strokes. Then, once you've started, you need to keep going until you've finished. Sometimes you're going to have trouble bringing your vision to life. Your descriptions will feel flat, or you'll find a big hole in the middle of your plot, or the twist you wanted to totally thrill your readers comes across as blase and predictable.

When that happens you will feel tempted to put down your brush, set your current canvas aside, and start fresh on a new project. You'll get back to the old one as soon as you've cleansed your palate, and found that old enthusiasm you had when you started.

I've got bad news for you; you're never going to find it again.

Writing is Just Another Job

To paraphrase the great sage and eminent junkie Stephen King, being a writer is just another job. It's a fun job, and you should enjoy it, but it's still a job. If you were driving a truck, and you were really excited for the first day and a half, you wouldn't stop in the middle of the country to suddenly drive off in another direction looking for something more inspiring because you got sick of your last route. If you were building a house, and you were halfway to completion, you wouldn't suddenly decide to build a different house instead, abandoning your previous project to the ravages of time and the elements.

I'll get back to it. One of these days...
No. If this is what you do, you buckle down and you finish the goddamn job. That's what makes you a professional.

But I'm Not In Love With This Project Anymore

Do you hear that? Know what that sound is? It's whining, and it's coming from inside the house!

Le Gasp!
When you first came up with your idea, you fell in love with it immediately. You saw every beautiful curve, and it invaded your thoughts every hour of every day. You dreamed about it, you wrote little notes about it, and you told your friends about it over afternoon coffee. Then, after you started spending more time with your idea, you realized that your lead character was a little rough around the edges. You realized that your idea was full of flash, but that deep down it was pretty shallow. You stuck it out for a couple of chapters, and tried to really work with it, but after your first big fight you threw up your hands and walked away.

You were not in love with your idea. You were suffering from a nasty case of literary lust.

The secret, the real secret, to finishing a book is simple; you need to make that book your partner. Your book isn't some weekend fling; it's an idea you are married to. You need to be dutiful to your book, and learn everything about it. You need to be willing to work with it, even when the going gets tough. Even when it won't talk to you for days on end, and you feel stupid for ever starting it. If you want to finish it, then you need to treat that book the same way you would treat a spouse; through thick or thin, in sickness and in health, you are here until it's done.

In short, you don't write books with catchy one-liners or brilliant insights. You write them with sweat, strain, and dedication. Most of all, though, you write them with professionalism. You sit down every day, and you put words on the page. Even if you don't feel very good that day. Even if you don't like what you're writing, or you end up deleting the past two days' work because it's not right, and you know it's not right. Authors are rivers, and it's time that allows them to create beautiful valleys.

At The End of The Day

No one is saying you can't put your current project down to work on something different. Maybe you're genuinely stymied, or something's come up and you need to crank out a different piece to make rent that month. Maybe you just want to take a short breather, because you think it will help. You know yourself better than me, since I'm just some yutz on the Internet.

However, if you find yourself putting down your books time and time again, always claiming you'll come back to it when you feel the magic again, stop. There is no magic, and the work is never going to get easier. So roll up your sleeves, crack your knuckles, and get some ink under your nails.

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1 comment:

  1. What an excellent and timely post! I've written over 75,000 words since February and should have either a) A novel completed or b) Three Novellas.

    I love the analogy about the truck driver stopping midway and the one about not finishing a house. Perfect. Okay, I'm going to finish this damn thing! Thanks.