Monday, July 11, 2011

Tough Love: Writer's Edition

 A few weeks ago, the topic of jealous writers was floating around the internet as a debate. It came around the time John Locke became the first self-published author in the Amazon's Million ebook club (a list for people who have sold over a million books on Amazon). People were excited for him, or they said horrible things about him, spurring others to write posts about how you shouldn’t be jealous of others’ successes; you should be more interested in making your own.

I also tweeted things to that effect around this time, but I hadn’t listened to what I was preaching really. Not exactly.

I don’t get jealous when I hear about writers having amazing success; I get jealous when I read about prolific writers. The ones with 13 books under their belts and counting. The big names who write what seems like several books a month, the smaller names that actually do write several books a month. I am constantly in awe of these people.

Am I jealous because they have more ideas than me? No. I have a list of book ideas, a lot of which are actually fleshed out story lines. But the difference between them and me is that they’re writing theirs into stories, and I’m writing this, whining that they have more books down on paper than I do.

Well, it’s time for some tough love for me (and anyone who is in my shoes, either fully or tip-toe in). The people who are writing those books constantly are doing such because they are writing. Writing about writing, as much as I seem to enjoy it, does not a fiction writer make. It makes me a commentator. Not a writer. And I want to be a writer.

So here’s what I am leaving you with: If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to write a lot, write a lot. Thinking about writing, dreaming about writing, staring off into the abyss and wondering about your writing future all equal the same thing in the actual writing world-->nothing. You can’t say you’ve done it if you’ve only thought about it.

And again, I am not yelling at you (whoever you are), I’m yelling at me. Because I’ve earned it. 

Anyone in my shoes? Let me know in the comments below or by email...I'd like to feel like I'm not the only slacker. 

Now to leave you with a song to write by, “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert. It’s mainstream, and apparently was popular when it came out, but I only got into it recently, and I love the lyrics and flow.



  1. I think it's important to know what writing stage you're in. I didn't realize I wanted to be a writer until January 2010. I was watching Julie & Julia and saw her taking her crappy life and turning into something brilliant.

    I decided I would do the same. I started a blog and the day I did was the day I started writing.

    I wrote around 30-40K of crap. It was then I found writers. I learned about outlining, plotting, the works. It takes a lot of time to write a book. A lot of though. You live, breathe it, devour it.

    I've now written 6 novels and this last one will be the SECOND I query. I learned the first one wasn't anywhere near where I thought it was.

    The key for me is that I'm not a procrastinator. I listened to writers and published authors and devised my own plan. I don't write every day. In fact when I'm revising I just mull over my next idea. But when I write it flows for days until the novel is completed.

    The point is to find your own perfect method. Every writer is different. And I'm a believer that dreaming about it is the start to something on doing about it!

    Best of luck and if you ever need a cheerleader just let me know!! PS - Sorry for the novel.

  2. Wow Jen, can I say I am MORE amazed now that I realized how much you've gotten done in such a short amount of time (and the wips look amazing--i.e. I would like to read them immediately.)

    I need to stop being a procrastinator. I am way too lenient on myself, but I want the rewards so I need to do what I need to do to realize my goals.

    And I love novel-length responses. Keep them coming! Thanks!

  3. I have to give myself tough love a lot too, but I also have to tell myself that I am me and I can only do what I can do. So what, some people write 10,000 words a day? I can't work like that. I can only do what I can do.
    Yes I'm going to work as hard as I can for my dream, but Some things are out of my control. Anyway, keep moving forward, and don't give up, but don't feel like you have to kill yourself either to achieve what you want.
    P.S. Love the song!!

  4. K.D. You're making me blush! You're too sweet. I've always been an over-achiever by nature and this Type-A personality is put to good use. That being said it also hurts at moments when I can't let go and need too. I think all writers must be different. It allows us to push another one where our strenghts lie!!!

    I think if you're too lenient you have to tighten up the rope. Once you're comfortable you can always release it... allowing yourself to live a little.

    Lauren Oliver (author of Before I Fall and Delirium) says she writes 1,000 words a day. I tried to follow in suit with 250 words a day but I just don't work like that. I work better when I feel the words.

    I'm one who can write 10,000 in one sitting. Lauren Oliver is one who cannot. We use our strenghts and channel it where necessary. Thus proving everyone has different agendas and needs.

  5. Good post! I started plotting my first book last July, started writing in August, and am now working on my third book. Well I was before I started revising my second book, and I just got done rewriting my first. Writing is crazy isn't it? But I just keep showing up and that's about all I can do.

    Oh and yeah, LOVE that song :-)

  6. Well said. ;) I have been thinking that I write and think more about writing than actually well, writing, so tough love for me too. :)

    I like the song. I should go back and listen to the songs again. I'm looking to spice up my baby-I mean player-a bit. Thanks!

  7. I think it's important not to set ourselves up for failure. Try setting a goal for 15 minutes a day. That will probably roughly end up being a page a day (double-spaced page of copy...250 words of Courier.) If that's not going to work, try 15 minutes every other day. If it's doable, we'll show up. And the little successes each day add up...we start feeling smug and confident and next thing we know we have a finished book. At a page a day, we have a first draft in less than a year. Even 5 minutes a day is okay, if we know exactly what we want to write that day (put a sticky note on the computer: "finish scene where Jill gives her alibi for the night of Steve's murder", etc.

    And we shouldn't expect perfect copy--we should shoot for crap. Perfect copy happens many drafts later.

    You can do it...5--15 minutes a day. Or a weekly goal of 2-3 pages. Or a binge-writing session once every couple of weeks. Whatever works best. :)

  8. Jen: Very true. I don't want to go overboard and burn out, but I still need to do more than I'm currently doing. I'll have to work to find a balance.

    Jen Daiker:"I think if you're too lenient you have to tighten up the rope. Once you're comfortable you can always release it... allowing yourself to live a little." = great advice that I will be using. Thanks :)

    Rachel: at least you know what works for you right? :)

    Lyn: NP, glad you liked that song. It's a good one.

    Elizabeth/Riley: Thanks for the advice. I tend to do too little (i.e. nothing) or a TON, but it's not consistent. My main goal is to set a goal I can do and be happy with after.

    Glad you all like that song as much as I do!