Monday, May 14, 2012

There Are No Shortcuts in Writing: A Writer's Organic Chemistry

Let me rephrase that: there are no shortcuts in good writing.

As much as we love to write, as fulfilling as it is to see our words appearing on the page, we all know that writing is often a love-hate relationship. We love the amazing stories we have in our heads, but hate how difficult it is to focus when it comes to writing them down. We love knowing we have found the perfect words to express something, but we hate how many almost perfect words we have to go through first. It is a very time consuming and frustrating process that I'm sure has left every single one of us looking like this at some point:

You know how in college they use classes like Organic Chemistry to weed out the people who aren't cut out to be Bio-Chem majors? Well this, my friends, is our Organic Chemistry. This infuriating process is what weeds out true writers from the wannabes, because only a true writer would take the time necessary to give a piece of work the time and effort it takes to make it great. 

In a post a few days ago (Disinherited is Born) I talked about how I had a realization about my WIP that meant, in order to make the book, and the series it belongs to, the best it can be I would basically have to start from scratch; that is after having written a little over 40 pages and roughly 13,000 words. You'd think that a realization like that would have devastated me to some extent, and of course I was a little sad, but I forced myself to focus on how much better the book would be if I went through with the changes. It is sad to know that most of those 40 pages will never again see the light of day, but I do not think of them as wasted time; it was what I needed to work through in order to get to where I am now. Needless to say the changes have set me back quite a bit, and I doubt that I will have my rough draft done by June 1st like I had hoped to, but I owe it to my MC to make her story the best it can possibly be, and so do you.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you have to have an outline to write a book; you don't. Sherrilyn Kenyon is an amazing author and, according to her, she never knows what is going to happen next until she sits down to write it, and if she ever starts to get bored while writing she just blows something up. I don't make actual outlines for my books, but I do sit down and figure out the major plot points before I start writing; if I didn't know anything about a book before I sat down to write it I would probably look like this:
...but that's just me.

I am going to tell you that you cannot write one draft of a book and call it a manuscript. A manuscript is something you'd be willing to send out to agents, and I can almost guarantee you that nothing any writer has ever written has been ready for publishing right after it was finished. What you have is a rough draft and, if its anything like my rough drafts, it is probably something any agent in their right mind would laugh at. The story itself in the rough draft could be the most amazing thing in the world, but, unfortunately, the writing will not be. That is why all drafts must go on to stage two: revisions.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. - Mark Twain

For most people revising is infuriating. You have just spent months, maybe years, writing this draft and now you have to go back through it and pick it apart. The best thing you can do is set the draft aside for a couple of weeks before you try to start revising anything. If you try to begin revisions the second you are finished with it you won't be willing to change anything that needs to be changed; it is your baby and you can't bear to tear it apart, so wait until its not as fresh. Find critique partners who are willing to read through your draft and make notes as to what works and, more importantly, what doesn't. It will most likely take a few rounds of editing and rewrites to turn your draft into a manuscript; don't give up.

Before the Beginning of Great Brilliance, there must first be Chaos. - I Ching

Writing is not easy. Not everyone can be a writer because not everyone has enough crazy in them to do everything it takes to make a piece of writing great. Great writing is one of the few truly beautiful things that emerges only from chaos; as writers, we must be prepared to stay on the insanity bus up until the very last stop.


  1. Great advice! I like your comparison to Organic Chemistry - I wouldn't even want to think about taking that class. Not for me. Good writing is hard work, but writers still love it. :)

    1. The thought of having to take any science classes is enough to make me dread next semester haha stupid geneds. I know so many people who switch majors because of that class lol. My roommate last year was one of them haha.

      I honestly think that somewhere inside all true writers must enjoy torturing themselves. Why else would we be willing to put everything into something and then spend the next months ripping it to shreds? lol

  2. This is a very good post! I love that quote from Mark Twain. So. True.

    1. Thank you!:) And it is one of my favorites<3 My biggest problem when writing is that I can't let the perfect word wait until the editing stage, so I take forever to write anything. Its a bad habit I'm trying to break via excessive word warring haha

  3. "Not everyone has enough crazy in them" - totally agree. I didn't even realize how much hard work it would take until I started writing seriously.

    I like Sherilynn Kenyon's advice - just blow something up. ;)

    1. I honestly think writing was invented so the crazy people could get people to understand what the hell they were talking about lol. And same here; its easy to underestimate how much work goes into those pages until your the one trying to write them.

      And I about died when I heard her say that lol. Its on youtube somewhere. :P

  4. Good post. I can reflect on every point you make from my first novel :) It is disheartening to throw away some so-meticulously-selected words just for the sake of flow and/or sense. The hardest part for me was the prologue, which I ended up subversively integrating into the story rather than doing an information dump at the beginning. The hard yards were worth it in the end but the pain wasn't!