This summer we are re-running my most-read blogs from the past year, in case you didn’t have an opportunity to read them the first time around. I’ve rewritten each one of these, so even if you’ve read them before, you may wish to read them again! Here is the tenth of those articles:
I am working on a new book—and I am struggling. Given the fact that I’ve published some eighty books, it may surprise some that I am having a hard time. Let me suggest why.
- Every book is a new book, and the success of one, though presumably it gives confidence to write another, that is not necessarily so. A writer’s confidence is, at best, fragile. A nasty remark on Goodreads can kill a day’s work. Let past success give me patience for my current failure.
- One of the pitfalls of a new book is my contract—if I have one. A contract will specify the total word count—say sixty thousand words. But there on my screen, the PC is always counting and it reads “2,465 words.” The psychological tendency, then, is to write more words than I need. That clogs up my writing, and makes it verbose. It feels as if I am writing badly. I am.
- I agreed to write such and such a book, with such and such a plot, and I made a good pitch. But a pitch is not a book. There is many a slip between pitch and book.
- Reminder: talk as little about my book as possible. It boxes me in. Silence is freedom. A talked book becomes an unwritten book.
- Sometimes as I write, I see a possibility for a shift in the story. But I promised something else. Reminder to self: go with the shift, with what feels right. The one person I should talk to is my editor.
- Reminder: Beware the book that is focused on place, rather than characters. Travel books are about places. Fiction is about characters.
- Reminder: Professional writers get paid for their work, and I depend on that income to live. Get it done! reverberates in my head. The rent is due. That creates another kind of pressure, one that may be real but that doesn’t help my writing.
- Reminder: Good writing is re-writing, endless re-writing. Patience is a key component of writing.
- Reminder: Never deny your deepest instincts about your own work. But be open to those instincts.
- Reminder: Read good writing by others. Good writing is generous. Other writers will show the way.
- Reminder: Slowly (if not surely) it will get done.