This is Why I’m Sweating the Start of a New Book
Who said writing a book is easy?
I’ll tell you who. The man who sold me my first computer. I had been writing genre fiction at the time, and when I explained to him what that was, he said, “Ah-ha, this computer will make it easy. A few clicks and you can change names, eye color, and places – and, presto, you have a new book.”
How wrong he was – or ignorant or snarky or simply male. He clearly had not ever read anything that either I or any other dedicated genre writer had written, but that’s a whole other discussion. For now, suffice it to say, IMHO, that the advent of the computer actually makes book writing harder. It opens up possibilities that the conscientious writer simply can’t ignore.
Take editing. Working on a computer, I do it forever and ever and ever. Since the computer makes it so easy, there’s no excuse for sloppy work, so I edit some more. I may decide that the pacing is off; whereas pre-computer, I’d have let it go, now it’s so easy to shift chapters around that I do it, then edit again to make the transition smooth. If a character doesn’t feel exactly right, I go through the entire manuscript modifying his/her personality. I’ve changed locations mid-book, changed plot twists mid-book, even deleted superfluous characters mid-book. Granted, the end result is better than it would have been without computer capability. Still, I put way more time into my books when I work on a computer than I ever did in those pre-historic typewriter days.
Writing a book is demanding.
There are times when I’m between books and forget exactly how much so. But I’m starting a new book now, thirty pages in, and I’m feeling the pain. Consider this. The opening pages introduce the characters, the physical setting, and the plot. In that they set the tone of the book, every single word counts. One ill-chosen adjective can make an impression on the reader that distorts her view of the entire book – if, that is, she chooses to read on.
Opening dialogue is a huge challenge. This new book has a lot of it, especially between Mallory and her teenage daughter. How the two communicate speaks volumes about what kind of mother Mallory is and whether the reader will care what happens to her. And her daughter, Joy? If she comes across as spoiled or bratty? Not good. If she comes across sounding like she’s thirty, not thirteen? Not good either. But here’s the thing. I’m getting to know the characters myself in these opening pages. I’m working out the relationships as I write them. I’ve known for a while what I want them to be, but it isn’t until the words come out of the characters’ mouths that I hear if those words are right.
There are no rules for this. It’s about writing and rewriting and rewriting some more until it all sounds and feels right.
It does get easier. Eventually.
In fairness, things do get easier – at least, I’ve always found that. Once I know my characters and the story is in full swing, I’m emotionally engaged, and once that happens, I feel the pages I’m writing, rather than just typing them out. That’s when I can write two or three pages a day. Right now I can write only one, and at the end of that page, I’m wiped!
One page a day, you may be thinking? Trust me, so am I. One page a day, when I need 400, is totally daunting. I read once, though, that John Grisham writes a page a day, seven days a week, which roughly equates with a book a year. If it works for him, it should work for me. Right?
Connect with me on social media: Twitter, Facebook, my new Street Team (click to join for fun, exclusive things I’m dreaming up), Pinterest, Instagram, and that’s it for now. I need time to write my books!
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When I picked up the first book I read of yours I was caught. Your books start out with a gusto. I have not started one of your books and was bored at the beginning always was ready for the next word, chapter, and sad when the book ended. It was like I need more. I can only imagine getting ready to start a book and looking at the blank screen. Getting thoughts together and wondering will it come out like you want. I find myself doing the same with my crocheting and coloring what do I do, how should I do it. I really feel just like any creative work there are no boundaries or rules. Creative minds can’t be held in we have to know the freedom in our heart and soul and let it go. No matter which way we know it will be okay because there are no rules. I love your books.
Fascinating insight! Keep doing what you do because yout books and characters always come across fabulously!
I can’t imagine that anything about writing a book is easy! I’m in awe of authors and the work that you do, and I’m thankful, aa well!
I think that each artist must approach their work in their own way. I’m always amazed at what is inside each individual. Musicians hear a melody in their heads, choreographers envision movement when they hear certain music, Michaelangelo saw his creation inside of a piece of marble and liberated it. Your art is the written word, and you are an artist, whatever your medium. 😀
I never thought that writing a book was easy, but I also never realized how difficult it could be. You do such an amazing job creating your characters, plot, and dialogue. I look forward to reading, and re-reading, every one of your books. Keep up the great work!
Barbara you are the only writer I read since I stumbled across you in a thrift store because of the book cover! Sweet Salt Air. I am so addicted to you and your work. It’s like the best food ever.Creation of each one just amazes me. Not one book has let me down. I don’t want them to end. I’m from back east and live in the southwest. You take me home. I love you!
As someone just starting to put together a first book, I appreciate your wisdom and sharing the process. I’m struggling with how to break the information down into chapters and tie it all together smoothly and as a bit of A perfectionist can relate to this. Again thank you. A query: have you explored writing a book about Katherine(the hairdresser) and Dr Steve Bauer from “Coast Road”? I’d enjoy learning more of their history/backstory and their process of getting to know each other and dating.
Thanks a lot for the article post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.
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