Saturday, 4 January 2014

Writing Isn’t Easy


It’s a new year and it marks a fresh, enthusiastic start to writing, especially for new writers.  But for those beginners who think writing a novel is easy, then it is best to find out now rather than later that it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Firstly, let’s dispel a few myths so that every new writer is fundamentally aware of what lies ahead. Writing certainly isn’t easy – almost all writers will agree – and anyone who says different can’t be a true writer.  Every writer has a different skill level, so not everyone can write that well and not everyone has raw talent to do so.

Fact: writing is a very lonely, hard and frustrating business. It often means hours, days, weeks and years concentrating on a novel that may never be published.  A writer might spend weeks writing a short story that may never find a home.  Not everything we write makes it into print.  That’s the nature of writing.
Disappointment is often a staple diet of any writer – understand from the outset that not everything you write will be amazing and not everything will be to a publishable standard, but it’s worth remembering that the more we write, the better we become.

Writing to that publishable standard, however, doesn’t come instantly.  The fact is that people don’t just wake up one day and suddenly become novelists. I can pluck a few strings on a guitar and I can play a note or two on the piano, but it doesn’t make me a musician.
In other words, it means years of dedication and learning the craft of fiction writing, sometimes with minimal reward.

It also means would-be writers need to develop a tough skin and a positive outlook in order to ride out the disappointments that will inevitably come – the dreaded rejections – before any positives start to emerge.
Some writers spend a lifetime trying to be the next JK Rowling or Stephen King, but they never succeed simply because they are trying to emulate those writers in the hope that they become rich and famous, too, rather than letting their own writing voice and style do the work. Often their writing isn’t very good and they haven’t taken the time to learn about craft. You can’t be a writer overnight.

So, why isn’t writing easy? 
Well, it’s not just about stringing words together to make a story. It isn’t just about being creative either; it has many technical components too. It’s about developing, and structuring something that entertains, thrills and satisfies a reader, so there has to be a fundamental appreciation of how words work and what they mean. That means learning about and understanding the many different ways that narrative works, so writers need to be aware of the technicalities such as dialogue and description, correct POV, correct tenses, passive/active verbs, understanding sentence structure, the use of modifiers, and intensifiers, knowing the difference between adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs and above all, the correct use of grammar and syntax.

It’s also about understanding the idea of research, plotting, sub plotting and strategy.  It’s about applying themes to a story and how they all relate to the main character, then making all these elements come to together seamlessly by the end of the story.
It’s about knowing how to characterise using character history, actions, responses and thoughts. It’s about creating the right setting and background. It’s about creating unity between time, place and action (Greek unities). It’s about keeping continuity, knowing how to transition smoothly between scenes and how to correctly use flashback. It’s about understanding and applying symbolism and foreshadowing to create a deeper, layered narrative to provide hidden meanings for the reader to discover.

And don’t forget the right use of metaphor and simile, tone, assonance; immediacy…the list is endless.
Lastly, and most importantly, there is the ability to edit, to spot and correct your own mistakes.  Editing is probably the hardest part of the writing process.

Writing is all these things and more.  So, is writing really easy?
Anyone can write a novel and self-publish on Amazon etc., however, a large gamut of work on there is substandard and wouldn’t get past an editor.

Writers must understand just how hard it is to become mainstream published. In other words, writers should be at a standard that knocks the socks off agents and publishers, so that they will want to publish your work. 
Your job as a writer is to make them sit up and say ‘Wow!’

But getting that reaction is not easy. Every writer starting on this journey should be aware that the road ahead isn’t straight, smooth or lined with gold. Far from it. It’s a constant, uphill struggle to get your work noticed and appreciated, and even harder to be published.
But the way to do that is to forget about ‘instant success’ and concentrate on the craft and mechanics of fiction writing, to start at the bottom and work your way up. Writing is a constant learning curve, and there is much to learn, because no one is born with instant knowledge. The only thing a good writer is born with is raw talent to start the process.

The writing process allows you to learn as you write, to keep writing and improve. It takes years of apprenticeship and practice. It’s not instant. And the greatest learning device for any writer is rejection, because that’s how we correct our mistakes and learn about editing. That’s how we learn to become better writers.
So, do you still want to write? Even if it isn’t easy? Then be prepared for failure – rejection and disappointment will become a part of your writing journey, but ultimately failure will help you as a writer. Put in the hard work, be prepared to learn, and you will eventually succeed. 

And remember, writing is never easy.

Next week: Writing Myths

3 comments:

  1. Writing is tougher than mining coal, pays less, and it’s more dangerous.

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    1. ...but on the other hand...I just stumbled on to this, from Bukowski, a minute ago.

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      Writing isn’t work at all… And when people tell me how painful it is to write I don t understand it because it’s just like rolling down the mountain you know. It’s freeing. It’s enjoyable. It’s a gift and you get paid for what you want to do.

      I write because it comes out — and then to get paid for it afterwards? I told somebody, at some time, that writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money. I’ll take it.

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    2. For me personally, writing is pleasurable, but I am fortunate to be published. That's not to say it isn't tough, because writing is still hard work.

      As for Bukowski, he lived in an interesting period for publishing. And of course it's always enjoyable if you get paid for it. But it getting to that 'paid for it' bit is hard nowadays. But then, when you study Bukowski, he is kind of contradicting himself because his early days were full with failure and, as a consequence, intoxication. It's only ever pleasurable when we get the reward at the end.

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