Monday, June 15, 2009

When I Got Serious About Writing

Tip of the Day: The Visual Bookshelf application in Facebook shows you what your friends are reading, makes book recommendations based on the titles you enter, and lets you read and write short reviews.

I tend to think that most people reading this blog do a lot of writing, but what if you're not? What if you're reading this because you'd like to find out how to get started in writing for teens and tweens? What if you're wondering how to make the transition from everyday life to being a writer? Well, by writing, sure. But where's the best place to start?

About five years ago, I was very sick with a disease that attacked my joints and nerves. The pain medication dried out my eyes severely, so I couldn't read much, or sew or watch TV or play computer games. I learned that I'm a very visual person and eyes are extremely important! I composed a lot of stories in my head to keep myself occupied without books or TV. I had always written stories, but I had written them when I was inspired. When I had free time. After I got sick, I realized that life was speeding by. With two children, free time and inspiration were never going to be dependable things. I knew that when I got well again, I'd get serious about my writing.

As my nervous system healed, I was able to sit in front of the computer after work again. I had interesting characters and tons of scenes in my head from the time when I couldn't do much else. It was plenty of material to write out five or six nights a week. In a blaze of determination, I struggled through scene after scene. I was serious. I was devoting time on a regular basis to my craft. There were just a few problems:

1. I was also surfing the web at work, doing some research, and it was beginning to dawn on me that my 8th grade characters fell in the crack between something called "Young Adult" and something else called "Middle Grade." In other words, I knew nothing about the market and what I was finding out was not encouraging.

2. My scenes didn't actually gel together. Oh, I could write a clumsy transition from one scene to the next, but there wasn't an actual narrative arc. I had problems figuring out what order they should go in, as I wrote them in the order I felt like it.

3. Blazing determination? It doesn't last as long as you think it will.

So I went from "I'm going to make this life-changing decision to write on a regular basis" to "what the heck am I doing this for?" Of course, it was a life-changing decision, and a good one. I needed to take it to the next level, though.

Even while I realized this, I kept writing. Because that was the most important part: I got into the habit of writing at least five hours a week. I've struggled for years to keep that going, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But my first step was realizing that I couldn't only write when I had free time and inspiration. I had to write when I didn't feel like it.

Next week, I'll explain how I got past my first "what the heck am I doing this for" Marsh of Doom. Because, hey, I still visit that Marsh of Doom sometimes.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages.


Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

Thanks for sharing this, Kate. I'm afraid I'm not quite as disciplined as you have been, but I'm getting there. Like you, I've battled some health issues and the time suck of a job and raising 2 kids. But I can't let that be an excuse. Fortunately now the kids are older, the job IS writing...and I even have a space to work in that is truly my own. 2 books still out there waiting for judgement...

Summer said...

Great post. Writing only when inspired is so lovely because you feel really driven and creative but then you don't get that much writing done. Writing like every day is so different but I enjoy it.

Emily Marshall said...

Great story Kate. Thanks for sharing. I think this is so important that we have to push through writing when it's not fun. I think that separates those wannabe writers from those who actually get published, even if it takes years upon years in between those stages.

DeenaML said...

Writing that first book is always the hardest. Once you complete it, no matter how crappy it may be, you know you can do it again. I think that's a huge accomplishment and I'm so glad you pushed through that first book!

Kate Fall said...

Ghost Girl, I'm so glad you have your writing space now! Summer, I have to keep finding new ways to force myself to sit down and work. I think a good part of my creativity goes towards that!

Deena, Em, there were many times my husband asked me why I was making myself write when I'd obviously rather be doing something else. It's a hard thing to explain sometimes, isn't it?

Christina Farley said...

Wow Kate. I didn't know that about you! Thanks for sharing all this. It really made me think about my own life and how much I take for granted. Hugs!

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