Writing Is Hard

I wouldn’t call myself a “novelist.” It’s one of those words of which I have an irrational dislike. I picture novelists sitting around in damask lounges where I’m not allowed, smoking tiny cigarettes, wobbling their big brains at each other and speaking about Humanity without separating their teeth.

But I have written 4 novels so far, which is about 3 3/4 more than most people, and considerably fewer than Terry Pratchett.

Pratchett

Unless you’re Stephen Hawking, this man is smarter than both of us put together.

Anyway, the way you write a novel is you think of a character and then you have your character do something, usually while whining about it, for about three hundred pages. If you want to write a young adult novel, which is what I do, you do the same thing, except . . . well, you just kind of do the same thing. I don’t know.

The thing is, what many critically-acclaimed novels have in common is that they “make sense.” This is where I usually have trouble. Oh, things start well. They hum along. And then I reach the 3/4 mark, and something is wrong. Let me explain it using word puzzles.

I enjoy word puzzles. I get those variety packs with all the different kinds. Here’s one I did called “Simon Says.” The idea is you write the phrase they tell you to, and then there are step by step instructions on how to change it a little at a time, and at the end, surprise! There’s a different phrase there!

Here’s the beginning:

puzzle1

So far, so good. Looks like we’re on our way to turning “Spring Training” into “All Star Game,” which is what happened about halfway through. But “All Star Game” was just a little divertissement in the middle. The real finale was to be “World Series,” revealed at Step 18.

Only something went horribly, horribly wrong.

Here is my Step 18:

puzzle2

That’s right. “LDORDWSURIFJ.” This is not a case of “BORLD SERIES.” This is a major issue. Something effed up went down somewhere, and I have no idea what it was. It could be one rogue letter, or an entire step missing, or I could have read one of the directions wrong. Anything. And from that moment, little things began to fall subtly out of place until the snowball effect reached its terrible pinnacle at Step 18.

That’s what happens with novels sometimes. They say if your ending is wrong, it’s not really your ending that’s wrong, and that’s probably true. But the gentle musing over whether a different angle or lighting might make your denoument more effective is completely different from the sickening feeling that arises from getting to the top of your dramatic arc to realize your story is running naked through the woods like a lunatic. At that point, there’s nothing to do but go back and pick everything apart to find the rogue letter that will set it all right again.

And as I quietly weep over my 3/4 novels, my only solace is that, probably, other writers have faced this kind of thing before. And maybe they didn’t even have blogs. Maybe they just had to write whiny little notes on their parchment or whatever: Writing is hard.

shakespeare
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This is an updated version of a post that previously appeared on my blog. I hope you enjoy it anyway.
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22 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Editing and Revising, Helpful or Otherwise, Plotting, Uncategorized, Writing

22 responses to “Writing Is Hard

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been wrestling with this big-time for about a week. Good to know it’s not just me! And thank goodness for patient critique partners.

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  2. I loved this post and laughed out loud! And can I say, as a lover of Shakespeare who has had quite enough of “Romeo and Juliet,” she would have been better off with Benvolio…

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  3. Writing is soooo hard, Adi! I like your puzzle analogy! That has happened to me many times in writing picture books. If I miss one little thing along the way there is NO way my ending will be satisfying…or even make sense … Yep my story is “LDORDWSURIFJ”
    AND
    “running naked through the woods like a lunatic”.
    So whine away! I can relate!

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    • OMG writing is so hard. Why do we do it????
      On a related note, one time I got stumped on a puzzle only to find the “solution” was batsh*t nonsense that had somehow slid through the editorial cracks. Yes, people died.

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  4. Lindsey Lane

    Brilliant!!! I’m in a discussion on another listserv about the writing process and the good about it is I don’t feel like a lunatic running through the woods naked. Writing is hard. And the process is insanity making.

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  5. Joshua McCune

    I need to figure out a way to steal some of your wit and funny, Adi. Come on, now, you’ve got an insane abundance to spare.

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  6. Parker Peevyhouse

    If only I could erase a bunch of letters to figure out where my writing goes wrong…

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  7. I’m still giggling over the thought of stories running naked through the woods like lunatics. Great post, Adi. So relatable, and funny to boot!

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  8. I tried to write a novel once. I’d have been thrilled if it had ended up running naked through the woods like a lunatic. Instead, it just sort of curled up in the fetal position and refused to do anything at all. I have endless admiration for those who write novels, whether they are novelists or not.

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  9. Bwahahaha. Love all of this. Love reading your words, Adi Rule. 🙂

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  10. Thanks, Tara! Back atcha!

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  11. You have a gift for humor. Your posts always make me laugh out loud, and this one did too. It also got me right in the gut. “The sickening feeling that arises from getting to the top of your dramatic arc to realize your story is running naked through the woods like a lunatic” – yeah. Exactly like that.

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  12. I know exactly what you mean.

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  14. Yes! Just, YES! We’re with you, Adi. We can all relate:)

    I am convinced there really is no solution to the puzzley art of writing. Just a variance in satisfying illusions.

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