Wednesday, May 4, 2016

You Can (And Should) Force Art

A lot of authors treat their ideas like unborn babies. They coddle them, coo over them, and will take every opportunity to tell you about the smallest of new developments. They want to shelter them from anything that might so much as scratch them, and they want to give them all the time they need to mature. I get that. We've all been there, and no one wants to try and push a story out before it's ready. But have you ever noticed that once you've gone through the process from start to finish a few times, you stop worrying about your creations tossing and turning inside you, or about whether it's too soon before you start pushing? It's because, as their creator, you start to realize that sometimes the only way to get your stories from A to B is to drag them, kicking and screaming.

No, plot, I'm not leaving this table until you give me my 500 words.
There are a lot of writers out there who complain that their ideas won't cooperate. Their characters are refusing to go forward, and the direction they'd planned doesn't seem to be working.

All of that may be true. But you're the parent. Fix it.

Writing a Book is Like Giving Birth

I was discussing this a while back with fellow author Ben Reeder (whose work you should totally check out, by the way), and a good way of describing it came to me. You have a book inside of you. It started from a seed, and it's been steadily growing the more you've nurtured it. You've named it, and you've seen the ultrasound in your mind's eye. You know every contour, and you can feel every shift.

If you want to birth that story, you're going to have to push. Hard.

Some births are more horrifying than others.
There's this common misconception that writing a book is supposed to be a breeze, if you've done everything right. That all you have to do is unlock the channel within you, and the story will just flow out faster than you can punch the keys. I don't know who started that rumor, but I can assure you that writing a book is not easy. Even talented, experienced authors will have to grit their teeth and flex. Probably while doing some breathing exercises. Sometimes pain meds are necessary.

It's not just a matter of gritting your teeth and pushing, either. Complications happen. Sometimes your main character starts strangling on the umbilical cord. Sometimes your plot is trying to come out sideways. Sometimes you need an emergency C-section. The thing is, when you're the writer, you're also the doctor. So it's your job to push the idea out, and to handle any problems before they can kill your new delivery.

And, in the end, you'll be sweating, exhausted, covered in blood, and in need of a stiff drink.

Your Feelings Aren't Important

I hinted at this in Fire Your Muse, And Get To Work! as well as in Authors Need Discipline, Not Inspiration, but I'm going to say it one more time in case I was being too subtle.

Your feelings are not what's important. Do the job.

But... but...
If you're writing a book to boost your ego, or for your own personal enjoyment, that's fine. You do your thing, and do it however you want. If, on the other hand, you're a professional author, then your book isn't about you. You are about your book. You don't have a child, and then expect that child to accessorize your lifestyle. Don't treat your book that way, either. Make time for your book, devote yourself to it, and ensure that your book is a priority in your life. You are the author, the creator, and in the end, the servant of the story. It's not glamorous, it's not sexy, and a lot of the time it isn't even fun. But you get down on your hands and knees anyway, and bleed all over that keyboard, because that's how the book gets done.

Hopefully some folks found this week's Craft of Writing article helpful, if not necessarily insightful. If you'd like to help support this blog, and keep the rants coming, then why not stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page? All it takes is $1 a month to maintain an open content tap. Lastly, if you haven't done so yet, why not follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter?

1 comment:

  1. Agreed! And I've resolved to finish that novel I started a year ago THIS YEAR!! And I've already got ideas for the next...

    I've already written books, but non-fiction is different than a novel.