You’d think it gets easier to write a book after the first two or three have been published, wouldn’t you? Well, it doesn’t. Ask any writer — each book throws up a whole new set of problems and headaches and makes you feel as if you’ve never written anything remotely sensible or insightful in your life.
Sad, but true.
I’ve just published my sixth full-length novel, in addition to short stories, a novella and some picture books, and nearly all of them have been hell to write in one way or another. I console myself with the thought that if writing were easier, everyone would want to do it. After all, it’s one of the few jobs you can do without changing out of your pajamas. No wonder we love it so much.
The thing I find hardest is plot. Any story arc I manage to squeeze out of my walnut-sized brain is always an emotional arc – protagonist starts off selfish and sad and ends up altruistic and happy-ish, or at least a bit wiser. But as to HOW that happens – to be honest, I don’t really care all that much. This is when I need a team of James Patterson-style clone-assistants or James Frey’s writing factory drones. “Fill in the story,” I’d command imperiously, and then go back to sleep.
But they probably wouldn’t do it right. Which would make me cranky. And I wouldn’t be satisfied with the result. So I’d have to go back and think about it some more, tear my hair out, phone my agent and sound mournful, tell my husband I’ve lost my touch and we’re going to starve, phone up all my writer friends and ask if they have any plots they’re not using right now, and eventually, drag some miserable bit of story kicking and screaming into the world, slap it onto the pre-existent emotional arc and pray it works.
A fair amount of cutting, pasting, patching, invisible weaving, and airbrushing comes next, and at the end of months of agonizing misery, voila! A book crawls and scrapes and limps its way into the light.
“Wow,” says the sweet guy interviewing me for a literary festival some months later. “You make it look so easy.”
And I deck him. [Read more…]