“It’s been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.” That is how goddess-among-mere-mortals Amy Poehler described the process of writing her book, ‘Yes Please.’
Brittany Gibbons, hilarious author/blogger and advocate for self acceptance and body love, said, “I didn’t write a book. I struggled through a book. I cried through a book. I ate cheeseburgers through a book.” (You can buy her debut memoir, ‘Fat Girl Walking’ on May 5th.)
I am so abundantly thankful to these wonderful women who made it okay to struggle through something about which you are so desperately passionate. Writing my book has been good, ugly, beautiful, frustrating, terrifying and empowering. You know, just to name a few. It has been one of the most simultaneously difficult and mind-blowingly awesome experiences I have ever voluntarily subjected myself to. Today I’m linking up with Juliette and Rachael and a ton of other talented writers to talk about writing books, our processes and the struggles that come along with it.
I’m not participating in #NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month if you’re unfamiliar) like many of the other linker-uppers today, I finished my first draft about a month ago. I’ve read online that there are generally two kinds of writers: the planners and the pantsers. I am a humble planner, who needs an outline, map and/or list. Preferably any combination of the above-mentioned items. I charted out each chapter of my book before writing them, deciding which character would narrate which chapter, where the important plot points would take place, etc. The pantsers throw caution to the wind and write their little hearts out, figuring out a plan and plotting the action as they go. I admire their ability to write that way very much, but I’ve always been an outline kind of girl. I blame the type-A, first-born-child thing.
So once I had my outline and a big glass of wine, I got started writing. Here’s the way I *struggled* to view the rough draft: it could be as crappy as all get out (believe me, it was), it just had to be down on paper. Once that thought landed solidly in my head, I was able to write and write and write for hours on end. I rose with the sun on weekend mornings and pumped out several thousands of words per day, making notes as I went of cool ideas and plot twists to add in here and there, or additions to my characters’ arcs to weave into the narrative later. I’d describe the first draft writing process as a state of manic euphoria where your fingers just absolutely cannot type fast enough.
Now I’m on the first round of revisions. Remember all that self doubt and hacking away at ice and crying while eating cheeseburgers from earlier? Yeah. This is where all that comes in. After a couple of weeks of mental rest and self-induced separation from the book, I read through my first draft to see what I had to work with. And holy. It was rough. More than one time Andy found me sitting at the computer playing solitaire on my phone, painting my nails, snuggling the dumpster cats…..ANYTHING but editing my writing. I told myself during the first draft, “Who cares if it sucks, just get it on the page. You can make it better later.” Well guess what friends, it’s later. And now it’s my job to make some sense of all those thousands of words. If you tell me that you don’t find that a little bit terrifying, I’m going to call you a liar and then probably ask you to share your voodoo mind-control anti-anxiety secrets.
One of my biggest challenges during this process has not been the actual writing, nor the mapping of plot or the development of characters. It has been the comparison trap. I see my peers who are unendingly witty, hilarious and talented, and think that I will never be like them. I see published authors who are younger than me, and think “Damn. I have accomplished nothing with my life.” I see writers whose natural voices and word play is so beautiful and intricate, and I curse myself for not writing like they do. I think these doubts are normal, that every writer or any type of creative person probably struggles with their own haunted thoughts. But at the end of the day, those thoughts aren’t productive and I had to find a way to ignore them. Don’t be confused, this is not a one-and-done type deal. This is an everyday –heck, usually multiple times a day– choice when I am writing, and I hear that voice of doubt creep into my mind. It is an active choice to shut. it. down.
I’m pleased to say that I finally dug really deeply into the revising process and HOLY CRAP it’s almost like an actual book. Sure, only the first seven chapters are like an actual book, but I’m calling that a win. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and I am ready. I just can’t wait for the day when I *hopefully* hold my printed baby in my arms. You won’t be able to miss it, I’ll be the lunatic running through the streets harassing random passersby, screaming “DO YOU SEE THIS?! THIS IS A BOOK. I WROTE THIS. WITH MY MIND. AND MY HANDS. I WROTE THIS BOOK!” If you happen to miss it, you can probably find me afterwards, in prison for disturbing the peace.
So thank you to Amy Poehler and Brittany Gibbons for making it okay that the process is hard. Thank you to my husband and my mom for pushing me when I want to give up. Thank you to Juliette and Amber and Faith and Allie and all of my wonderful friends in bloglandia and in real life for commiserating, speaking words of affirmation and still loving me even though I’ve basically come a reclusive, non-showering hermit in the interest of writing this thing. I love you all.
Happy writing, friends!
—The Wife in Training
P.S. – I realized I told you absolutely nothing about what I’m actually writing. My book is called ‘Seekers’ and it’s about a group of strangers who embark on the search for a long-lost hidden treasure, shrouded in myths of sinister hauntings, curses and murder.
I am *such* a good writer what with the context and the curiosity and the logical process of thinking.