Posted On November 11, 2013 by Print This Post

The Pressure of Writing with Handsome Hansel

Handsome Hansel is back! Today, he talks about what he’s learned about writing (and himself) when faced with a deadline. 

As writers we are predisposed to lie to ourselves. It begins with the illusionary fact we are going to write the novel which shames all other novels. We tell others we are authors, not writers,  before having anything published. We expect others to be impressed simply because in our quiet moments of reflection, we are able to clack our thoughts out on a keyboard. As writers, we are fools.

I wouldn’t have taken this stand six months ago. Yes, even HH was the person described above. I’m cocky. I’m arrogant but in an incredibly charming way. I’m sure of myself yet keep it to myself. But, the last six months spent formulating an actual manuscript for my publisher has brought this man to his knees.

There is nothing I love more than writing. (The love of a good woman trumps that so I stand corrected.) Writing engages my psyche. It puts me in touch with who I am. Or at least who I want to be. As writers we get lost in our writing but we want it to mean as much to others as it does to us.

There’s an honesty in writing. Forget about the overused commas. Forget about misplaced quotation marks. The truth is in the writing. That’s why we are so sensitive to how our writing is perceived.

Why? Why? Why, as writers do we need to feel accepted? Let’s be honest. It’s a popularity contest. Our success is tallied on Amazon’s numbers, New York Time’s listings, and Social Media’s acceptance. We live and die, not by what we gave, but by what we received because we gave.

So why bother to give at all? Because we’re writers and there is a desire to be heard. In the last week, I have written an op-ed for my local paper, stripped a manuscript I realized was 5,000 words over, and pecked this piece out.  And loved every instance of each.

Don’t get me wrong, they came with their own individual pressures.  The op-ed editor asking for 800 words and not being able to deal when I gave him 900. My perfectionist attitude getting in the way when it comes to finally sending off my manuscript to a salivating publisher. Lastly, being verbally pimp slapped by Carrie because I’m squeaking in a post later than asked. After-all, which one of us REALLY loves their final product?

I’ll cheat and use the old cliché that we are our own worst critics, but that’s why it’s a cliché. How many times have we mentally patted ourselves on the back over a line or two in a story we wrote only to have them berated later? As writers we are gluttons for punishment, proliferators of self-doubt, and overdosed on infinitesimal amounts of second guesses. Unless you’re doing it wrong that is.

No matter what it is you’re writing for or about, we are given deadlines. (Hang on while we wait for Carrie to stop laughing.) :) Deadlines restrict us as writers but we don’t have a choice. They will always be there.

How in the hell do we get out of our head with all of the outside demands of us and simply…write?

I want to say “focus” but that’s not it. Not even close. You need to not give a damn about what others think. Write for you. Not for others. Throw the books you’ve read about writing out the window. There isn’t a formula for writing. There is good and bad writing. Period.

I was called “The Anthony Bourdain of Romance” recently and didn’t quite know how to take it. Was that a compliment? A slap in the face? After mulling it over for a few minutes, I came to the conclusion: Who cares! This was the mark I made on one person. Not what defines me to many.

We have to entertain and engage our readers in order to be successful. That we can all agree on. Yet there are stresses built in in achieving that. Deadlines, story lines, plot lines. If you are on your second book, the anticipations of your fans and publisher are always hanging over you. It’s an understatement to say it can all be overwhelming.

I’m willing to bet *almost* everyone reading this didn’t go into writing as their original profession. It was something you aspired to and always wanted to be. (I’m included.) At some turning point in your life you decided to commit and write. Write until your book hit its, “The End”.

While there are stresses during the writing process the real stress is in the letting go. When the time comes to push your writing out of the nest, it’s hard. We are extraordinary writers when it’s just us and our keyboard but the true test comes when we hit Send and share it with others.

Once you tell someone you’re writing, the suspense begins. The pressure starts. We have willfully placed ourselves within the expectations of others. Opening ourselves up to a future filled with How is the book coming along? questions. Yet we write.

These last few months have been brutal for me with regards to my writing. I went into it with a hearty can-do attitude. 45,000 words later I was curled on the floor in the fetal position sucking my thumb. (Ok, maybe that was the Gentleman Jack and not the writing.) :)  A big part of my frustration was that I learned being a pantser works for short stories or articles but it’s a pretty shitty way to write an 80,000 word novel. My timelines were off, dates were incorrect, the plot bounced around more than one of those super-balls.

It wasn’t that what I had written was bad. (Our writing is always good as long as we’re the only one reading it, right?)  I had to spend two days re-reading my story and taking notes. Once I found the inconsistencies, I spent another week correcting them. Wasted time if I had used a program like Scrivener or even started with an outline instead of just sitting and writing.

This process has changed my mind about not planning your story. That doesn’t mean you can’t change it up later if it’s just not working the way you want it to. Who would know? It’s about churning out your best for the entertainment of others. Start with a simple outline. Included character names, ages, descriptions. Show how they are related to each other. Add in locations.

Had I done ANY of that I would have saved myself a few weeks of frustration. I can sit and read an 80,000 word novel in a couple of days. But to write one seems as if it takes forever. I was naive. At times I have felt I’ve certainly bit off more than I can chew. And let me tell you, there’s a hard-core fat boy inside this girlish figure of mine dying to get out. So biting off more than I could chew wouldn’t usually be a problem.

I’ll be turning in my manuscript later this week with a whole lot of lessons learned. I learned as much about myself as I did becoming a writer. Once the manuscript is turned in, I look forward to learning the process of turning this writer into an author.

HH

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Does your writing process change when you’re writing under a deadline? 

Join us on Wednesday, November 13th, for author LynDee Walker’s post on Writing Male Characters.

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Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.

I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com

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31 Responses to “The Pressure of Writing with Handsome Hansel”

  1. Morning HH!

    Oh yeah, my writing changes when I’m under the gun – doing nano this month and I’m about 2K words behind at the moment. Instead of taking a day off here and there in my writing to reevaluate what I’m churning out, I just keep forging ahead.

    Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s terrifically bad. =)

    Best of luck with those deadlines HH! You can do it!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 11, 2013, 8:31 am
    • Carrie,

      Good morning!

      I have a problem with “padding” my stories. The problem comes when I feel I HAVE to write. The motivation’s just not there and I’m not feeling it but I feel I have to produce so I pad. Only later to rip it all out again. :(

      Thanks for your ongoing love and support!

      HH

      Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 10:27 am
  2. I always write better under the gun. My training is as a copywriter, so I’ve gotten to the point where the urgency is the medium that helps me the most. Crazy, right?

    Posted by Marc K | November 11, 2013, 9:59 am
    • Marc,

      Welcome! I certainly understand. Being under the gun in other parts of my life brings out the best in me. I don’t second guess, I just do. With writing however, it just doesn’t work like I hoped it would.

      Thanks for the comment!

      HH

      Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 10:29 am
  3. I’m actually in the opposite camp. I perform better when I’m under pressure. This is not because I’m some wonderful “Super Writer”. The truth is, I have a big time procrastination issue. I can think of a million and one reasons not to be writing. I need a ruthless overseer, someone or something to crack the whip, put me under the gun. Once that happens,I can go into “Turbo Pucci” mode and get the job done. Yep, I know I have issues :(

    Posted by Pucci Laveau (@poochie7060) | November 11, 2013, 10:01 am
  4. Congratulations, HH! You just did what 98 percent of writers fail to do. You finished your book! It may not have sunk in yet, but that’s a huge accomplishment. Bravo!

    My first book, as a pantser, took a decade (or more) to finish. Once I figured out that outlines really do help, book two took a year. I haven’t tackled Scrivner, but based on what I’ve seen, it may provide more structure than I want – or need.

    I hate deadlines, but I love them, too. They make me buckle down and Get It Done. My internal editor takes a break and words flow onto the screen. As painful as they can be, deadlines are a great motivator.

    Cheers,
    Willa Blair

    Posted by Willa Blair | November 11, 2013, 10:08 am
  5. Oh, Darlin, You have heart every nerve in my writing body. And now, I have to go write!

    Posted by Camille Wylde | November 11, 2013, 10:18 am
  6. Willa,

    Good Morning to you!

    I’m polishing the book as I write this. Giving it a couple final go throughs. You can bet I’ll be settling in with a stiff Gentleman Jack and toasting my iMac’s screen when I hit the ‘send’ button to my publisher.

    Scrivener does seem to have way more than I need but I promised myself that after this book was done I would go through every tutorial and figure out how to make it work best for me.

    Thanks for taking the time today, Willa.

    All my best,
    HH

    Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 10:35 am
  7. Great article. I enjoyed learning a bit about you as a writer.

    I am looking forward to reading your upcoming book. I am sure I will appreciate it that much more having learned a small part of the writing process. Not something to be taken for granted.

    Thank you for sharing a part of you with those of us who enjoy reading.

    Posted by Terressa Cortez | November 11, 2013, 12:25 pm
    • T,

      You’re welcome and I appreciate you stopping by!

      It’s not easy opening up about the writing process since so many wouldn’t get it. Most people think you just sit and type but there’s so much more to it than that. Internally and externally.

      Thanks again!
      HH

      Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 2:42 pm
  8. Hi HH

    You’ve reminded me how much I’m currently dragging my heels. Thanks for that. Interesting article. I’m on book three of a series, but have taken a detour into a comedy I’m writing when really I should be concentrating on that third book. What am I afraid of!

    Rowena

    Posted by Rowena O'Sullivan | November 11, 2013, 12:39 pm
    • Rowena,

      I certainly didn’t to bring up any ill feelings. :)

      If you’re like me, you’re afraid of finishing. Because then and only then will you know if you achieved your goal.

      All my best,
      HH

      Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 2:45 pm
  9. Great post, HH, as usual!

    My first book was written in the privacy of a spare bedroom with only myself knowing I was writing a novel. It took two years and no pressure. When that first book was published (after two more years of searching for a publisher) the pressure was on. All the sudden, fans and editors were asking for my next book. One book a year seemed to be what they wanted. Flash forward a few years and now two books a year is not enough – fans want more, as fast as I can churn them out. That sounds like the kind of situation any author would drool over, but it comes with an amazing amount of stress and pressure.

    I agree with Willa. CONGRATULATIONS. Most people who think they can write a novel find out they actually can’t. Having what they might consider to be “a good idea” is a whole lot different from sitting down, day after day, week after week, creating the characters and plotting the story one scene at a time. Can’t wait to read it!

    Posted by p.m.terrell | November 11, 2013, 12:55 pm
    • Trish,

      I wish that’s how I would have started out writing. By keeping my mouth shut. :)

      I’m in the unique position of having fans at the ready for my book and that’s put extra pressure on me. It seems it would be easier to write and gather a following afterwards.

      Leave it to me to do it all Back Asswards.

      HH

      Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 2:52 pm
  10. I hear you, HH. I’ve felt the same traversing many of the same avenues. If there’s one way to summarize how I feel after reading your post is…yes, writing evolves me. That’s why I feel compelled to write in the first place. All the uncomfortable places I’ve been during the write and share process have eventually landed me in vulnerability. A place where every wall is painted a different emotion. I guess I’m a glutton for pain. Or maybe I’m becoming fearless of the collective, opening to courage as my one true north.
    No matter what, I’m rooting for you. I shake my fists in the air and exclaim, “Kick some ass, HH!” Cheering for you inspires me to keep my eyes open to what matters most. Being Honest

    Posted by Alexandra Folz | November 11, 2013, 1:33 pm
    • Alexandra,

      First off, thanks for the encouraging emails and sharing your thoughts.

      I haven’t actually had someone read my manuscript in front of me because I would psycho-analyze every twitch and blink they made. I’m real good at reading people (as most writers are) and I’m afraid I’d be hyperaware of everything.

      Thanks for the cheerleading!

      HH

      Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 2:55 pm
  11. I remember the first time I wrote a book under contract with a due date. What a feeling of pride! I was a working writer! And one accustomed to deadlines in other parts of her life.
    But I have learned that I am better at slow and steady. Yes, I can speed up some as the deadline approaches, but if I haven’t put in the daily time and laid down the daily words for months before, I can’t make it up at the end. Valuable lesson!

    Posted by Blythe Gifford | November 11, 2013, 1:53 pm
  12. Hi HH,

    Deadlines remind me someone is waiting to read my story. Gives me incentive to get moving.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 11, 2013, 2:58 pm
  13. I always enjoy reading your posts (if for no other reason than to stare at your photo).

    Congrats on getting the manuscript out! I’m in the same boat as you and certainly experienced much of what you detailed in your post.

    Best of luck, Handsome and I look forward to reading your blockbuster.

    Posted by Tamara | November 11, 2013, 3:44 pm
    • Dammit Tamara! I promised I wouldn’t blush and look what you went and did! :)

      Thanks for your congrats. It’s going out this week while being toasted by a double Gentleman Jack. Keep in touch. Send me your Twitter.

      HH

      Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 6:32 pm
  14. Oh man, I relate to this a little too much. I write more words when I’m on a deadline, but I don’t think a time crunch does anything to improve the quality of my writing. If anything, the closer I get to a deadline, the more off-the-wall my writing gets.

    I usually meet deadlines in my non-fiction writing, but when it comes to fiction, I’m most productive when the deadlines are my own.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 11, 2013, 4:21 pm
    • Becke,

      Pacing certainly helps when it comes to writing. For instance, when it comes to RU Posts (Carrie…ear-muff it while I continue.) Writing closer to my deadline helps.

      This book however, not so much. I spent too many days doing math in my head… 10,000 words over twelve days comes to…

      You get the idea. :)

      Have a great week, Becke!

      HH

      Posted by HH | November 11, 2013, 6:34 pm
  15. HH,
    I’m not a romance writer. I write history and fantasy because that’s what I love. My books may not sell but I feel contentment in knowing I wrote the story that my soul needed to write. Always be true to yourself. It’s when you begin to think in terms of consumerism that you lose sight of what really matters to you.

    Posted by Connie | November 11, 2013, 9:24 pm
  16. Oh how you’ve written such true words

    “I’m willing to bet *almost* everyone reading this didn’t go into writing as their original profession.”

    Funnily enough I never had plans at all to ever be a writer. I fell into it somehow in the dark mists of my past. Maybe it was always there. I don’t care if no-one likes my writing. But someone must because what I write does get printed, (it’s not the New York Times) and I don’t get paid. Speaking of deadlines yes I’m feeling the pressure too have two articles in by tomorrow morning. I’ve typed one sentence because I can’t think right now what to write. I’m going to go out for a while clear my head and then it will happen.

    A welcome refreshing post I can definitely relate to!

    Glad you are back HH

    Posted by Liz Clark (@madbushfarm) | November 12, 2013, 1:23 pm
  17. What. He. Said.

    How do you do that?! It’s like you’re inside my head. Could not be said better & couldn’t agree more. Feel exactly the same way. Oh, and as always, you were cracking me up too. Need to remember to read your posts in private at home, to avoid embarrassing myself by laughing so hard in public I either let out an unladylike snort or like the time your post made me laugh so hard I actually had an asthma attack!

    Keep up the great work. You’re a superstar author waiting to happen. #BigFan&Friend

    Posted by Evangelina Joseph | November 12, 2013, 4:23 pm
  18. Hi HH
    Read your excellent post with a grimace of sympathy… I HATE having to write to a deadline. I don’t produce my best work then, because even when I plan, my writing almost immediately spirals off into pantser territory and then I need to have time to consider and think and rewrite to get the layers and link ideas and congruences within a storyline…
    Best of luck and hope the editor likes the end result:))

    Posted by Sarah Higbee | November 12, 2013, 5:07 pm
  19. Unlike many posters, I started out in technical writing and editing as a profession; left it to become a management consultant in communications and came back to it in 2011 after a bout with cancer. I’m back to my editing and writing (3 novels out) roots and have found a new peace and balance. Like some others, I start with a basic outline and character profile (including values and morals) and then the characters take over and off we go! HH, your post reminded me to not be too concerned about what others think. I believe I can now get back to finishing Novel 4! Thank you for contributing to my renewed resolve!!

    Posted by Mary Metcalfe | December 2, 2013, 4:51 pm

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