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.
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.
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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- Empathy. It’s Where Characters Are Born – Handsome Hansel