Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Circle of Writing

I have this circle when it comes to writing. It kind of goes like this:

Everyone writes differently, of course, and even when I'm not writing, I'm doing something writerly (shh, it's a word). If I'm not writing, I'm editing and revising, or working with my publisher (or in the case of my last book, self-publishing), or getting feedback from betas and making more revisions. Sometimes I'm editing books for other people, which actually helps my writing immensely.

But over the past ten years of writing, I've noticed something about how I write. When I get through a novel, my mental energy for coming up with plots and pounding them out on the keyboard seems to have reached its limit. I struggle to type even a hundred words.

Know what else I've learned? I can't force it. I've had to learn there's a difference between "persevering even when I don't feel like it" and "my brain really just needs a refresher." There's a definite difference there--it's something you learn to distinguish.

After I finish writing a novel, my muse goes on vacation so I can recharge. Even though I'm still working on edits and everything, it can be frustrating not to be writing. I miss writing. I want something to come out when I put my hands on the keyboard and open a document file. I'm supposed to be a writer, right? But it's been three weeks, and no new story. Three months, and no new story. Oh, look, now it's five months and that second book I was supposed to have already written? Yeah, it's not written yet.

Inevitably, though, if I keep working on cleaning up other projects, let my brain rest on the writing front, watch some movies, read some books...a new story comes in and clobbers me over the head, and then I'm back to pounding away on the keyboard. I know I can type a huge amount at once if I need to. I also know that some days, getting out just a little bit can be like pulling teeth.

On my best day, when I was on a deadline, I wrote 10,000 words. Some days, I'm doing good to get out two hundred.

Writing isn't easy--anyone who has written even half a book can tell you this. Sometimes it is frustrating, and annoying, and you just want to throw your book against the wall or shout at your characters for being so uncooperative.

And some days, the writing flows and the thrill of excitement hits you. The characters are doing their thing and you're just going along with it, and everything seems so easy.

No matter whether I'm in a difficult stage or an "everything is working wonderfully" stage, I really do love being a writer. I love it that I can tell a story that was never told before. Sure, there might be things similar to it, but nothing that is exactly like mine. I love the words and the characters and the uniqueness that belongs to each one. I love learning new things--from my writing and from others' writing.

If you're in a writing slump right now, remember that it won't last forever and that sometimes you just need a refresher. If you're on a writing high right now, I hope you are having a blast. Beyond anything else, even when you are tired, and exhausted, and frustrated, I hope that you can look at what you do and remember why you love it.

I also read two encouraging blog posts about writing and stories today, so I'm going to link those here.

Susan Kaye Quinn posted about the lies we tell ourselves as writers: Four Nasty Lies We Tell Ourselves About Writing

Peggy Eddleman wrote about the need for stories: The Need For Stories

Where are you with writing right now?


  1. I love your pictures!! :) I also really like your circular diagram.

    Gosh, those months of no writing can be SO frustrating. Their loaded with self-doubt, at least for me. Like you said, you're a writer so why aren't you writing?! But your brain just needs a break. You might know that, but it's hard accepting it.

    ps I, for one, am eternally grateful for your editing "other peoples' manuscripts." :D

  2. Why do I feel like breaking into song?

    "It's the circle of writing ... it's the wheel of fortune. It's a twist of fate ..." Okay, so I'm a little bit excited about the Lion King being back at theaters. :-)

    Great piece, Laura, and very true.

  3. This was soooo good to read today. Right now I am struggling to write 1k a day, which is my goal right now, but it's an uphill battle. I have had those rare 10k days too, but they are few and far between, and I haven't had a good "writing sprint" like that in months!

    Thanks for the encouraging words.

  4. I'm nearing the finish line of a first draft. Yay! But the "bad" news is that I've got a new story that buzzing around in my mind. I really didn't want it to be here yet. Especially since it's in a different genre. I was kind of hoping that it would go away. But it's getting bigger and stronger.

    I guess I know what I'm going to be doing after I get this first draft finished...I'm not really complaining, but I promised myself that I'd do serious yard work before I started something new. Oh, well.

  5. I'm in the middle of rewrites and the road is long and winding. One step at a time though...

  6. I'm right in the thick of the first draft and I know just what you're talking about. I've learned not to stress about writing. It is what it is. Some days it comes, some days it doesn't. I just hope the productive days outnumber the bad ones.

  7. I love that circle of writing you illustrated! It's so true. I'm doing a first draft right now and I'm also feeling the "writing can't be forced" thing.

  8. definitely cant force it!
    altho i'm trying to force myself to edit, but there are so many other funner things to do and not so fun things i have to do...

  9. This is the perfect explanation, I love that illustration! You are so right... writing can't be forced... I too am currently trying to buckle down and finish edits... but....

  10. So much truth here. I think it's a bit like family (and your WIP is your child). You have to take time to fill you own vessel (recharge) or you won't have anything to give to your family. Sometimes I feel guilty if I take time to read for fun. It's something I have to keep reminding myself.

  11. My biggest problem is all the random plot bunnies that leap through my brain while I'm working on whatever my current WIP is, that I promise myself I will put into a new story as soon as I finish this one. Then, of course, when I am free to work with them, I sit and stare, and they don't come together into anything cohesive. For months. Usually when I've started working on yet a different project!

  12. I'm almost always at more than one stage at a time - for different projects. Which helps keep the rinse cycle a little more even.

    Thanks for the link love! :)


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!