Today, let’s talk about something that all passionate writers/aspiring authors go through.
I hope everyone had a beautiful, happy, healthy Christmas! Wow, 2014 is coming in about 4 days. I still can’t quite wrap my mind around 2013…hahaha.
Anyways…here is a writing post.
So this post’s title was actually something coherent this time (instead of me being all like, “ehhh….I’m too lazy to think so I’ll just title it something creative like “cool stuff” or something specific along those lines). And…it’s about me thinking about, ha, TeaNovel.
So…a few days ago (Christmas Eve, I believe) I wrote a blog post/review of Days of Blood and Starlight. Wasn’t really a review–more like a rant/fangirl gush of me discovering Laini Taylor’s genius. (I know, I’m quite late. But Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the third book, is only about 4 months away…which is still not really okay because LAINI, I NEED IT NOW.)
So of course, I want to know the genius behind the masterpiece, you know?
A writing friend recommended her blog to me a while ago during NaNo, but after reading her books, I did some more in-depth browsing and came across this blog post:
It’s a very, very good post.
Hilarious pictures aside, Laini talks about the writing process and getting it right, not getting it fast. She quotes advice from Patrick Rothfuss, “It will only be late once, but it will suck forever.”
Here, she put it in caps and big font, so I will too.
IT WILL ONLY BE LATE ONCE, BUT IT WILL SUCK FOREVER.
There? Okay. We can go on. I’ll explain.
So basically, I was a teen when I wrote the TeaNovel. I still am a teen. Coming off multiple successes and bounties from NaNoWriMo, I always had the solid mentality of “Get it down, you can fix it later. Blindly throw crap at the wall and hope it sticks.”
Which was good advice…for the first draft.
But numerous rewrites later, I still had the “Get it down, you can fix it later” mentality. I wanted to get it done. I was being so smug and everything, telling the few people I trusted, “Yeah. I rewrote the entire thing in a month.”
Okay, so I still continued some of my successes. The plot improved drastically. Huge improvements and developments.
But the writing…not so much. I thought I was making so much progress, rewriting a scene over and over without slowing down, and when I got the plot down and it came down to the writing, I passed it off and I vowed that I would fix it later.
Without slowing down and paying attention to the writing, I thought I was finishing the story, but I was so focused on getting it down rather than getting it right, that the gap in the writing that I ignored came back to bite me in the ass, and I faced mountain after mountain of rewrites.
Let me rephrase it, in big font.
Because I was so focused on racing through it and getting it down, I thought I was finishing the story faster, but in reality I was setting myself up for more work in the end.
This time, I’m doing my last edits on it. Plot is okay, but the writing needs a LOT of work.
THIS TIME, I WILL GET IT RIGHT.
But this time, I’ll give it the time it needs. Maybe I’ll take more than a month. Now as I’m getting nearer and nearer to the finish line I have set up for myself, it all comes down to the writing.
I will be careful. I will be meticulous and I will be gentle and delicate and intricate.
This time, I know I have it down. This time, I want to get it right.
It’s been a transformative few weeks.
This is a TED Talk she gave a while ago.
I actually watched it for the tenth time when this message finally sank into me, but she gives great points and charming anecdotes, with that dry, Maggie humor of hers.
The point of the video? Don’t blindly believe in the labels others stick onto you. Stay true to your own self.
It’s a great talk.Watch it.
Internet, author Beth Revis is an amazing kickass.
Because of this:
I had seen this video a while ago, maybe a year. At that time, it resonated with me, but not in a soul-shaking, revelation kind of way.
Beth Revis, the author of the New York Times bestselling Across the Universe series, talked about failure.
Before she wrote Across the Universe, she wrote ten–TEN–novels. But the thing is, she said–and this was the part that hit me the most–that she thought each of those ten novels was “the one”. She edited them meticulously, poured her her love and her soul into each of those novels, and she edited the absolute crap out of them. Each. One. Of. Them.
None of those ten novels ended up getting published.
She showed the stack upon stack of papers that reached about two feet high, the legal pads full of notes and edit letters. She showed the three drafts, the thousand pages that made up the comparatively slim, small book of A Million Suns (her sequel).
And I saw a woman who gave everything she had into her writing. She took her energy and passion and tenacity and fragility and wove it into each and every one of her books. She didn’t crank them out like scientific papers or magazine articles. She genuinely thought that each of them was the one.
And that was the part the hit me and struck me and slapped me in the face.
I will admit a secret. This past week, in preparation for this online conference I was taking, I had rewritten an entire novel in two weeks, and two-thirds of that novel in one week. I wrote 37,000 words in the course of eight days. I set my alarm for 3:00 AM every night. I was working like a mad, crazy scientist on the brink of discovering a new set of atomic laws (well, as crazy and furious as I could get in the wee sluggish hours of the morning. )
I loved my TeaNovel. I loved it so much to rewrite it over and over again, four times and rack up about 300,000 words over it, to spend my days worrying about my plot and wondering if it would all work out.
And I was worrying that all this would go to nothing, all of it would slip away if/when my novel ultimately gets rejected.
And I’m still afraid.
I shouldn’t do this. I should be a good high school student and do Stuff that Will Get Me Good Grades and Stuff that Will Get Me into College. I should go watch movies and go squee over Taylor Swift and go outside more and Get A Life.
I shouldn’t be writing a novel. To tell you the truth, I’m breaking a lot of the rules I was wordlessly given.
And there is the question: is it all worth it?
Beth Revis had asked herself that question. She said that if she knew it would all be this hard when she was just starting out, she would have said no. That it wouldn’t be worth all the work, all the struggle and the angst and the heartbreak.
She says yes.
And her ending words are, “My name is Beth Revis. And today, I didn’t talk about failure at all. I talked about success.”
Thank you, Beth. Thank you.
Today I was practicing piano, one of those beautiful pieces by Ludovico Einaudi called Nuvole Bianche. He doesn’t have the mathematical and musical precision as say, Beethoven or Bach or Mozart did, but he makes these clear, ethereal melodies that have a feeling of fragility and richness at the same time.
And I was getting lost in the music and being sucked in by the perfect harmony of the notes and then…
I made a mistake.
An ugly one.
It was a slip of the key, an accidental sharp or flat, but I cringed at the same time and at that moment multiple thoughts were running through my head, like Ugh! It was supposed to be perfect! You ruined it! How could you even ruin such a pretty piece with just a wrong-placed finger? Why couldn’t you play it just like Ludovico Einaudi did?
And I sort of had this little epiphany, I guess.
What if Ludivico played it wrong, too?
I know that sounds really stupid, but it changed a lot of things. I kept asking.
What if Ludovico also cringed at a wrong chord?
What if Nuvole Bianche didn’t come out perfectly the first time? What if it was a mess of chords and then, slowly and slowly, it became beautiful?
And that’s something I’ve struggled with a long time since my childhood; my expectations of myself. Call it perfectionism or something, but when I was a kid, I would have fits and these mini-tantrums…at myself. I wanted to give beautiful art art and music justice.
That’s why I would have the fits, the times where I actually broke down and cried at the piano, because I could not get this beautiful piece torn apart by my clumsy, mistake-prone hands.
And then I remembered this old Chinese saying; Lotuses bloom in mud.
Lotuses had long been the symbol of purity, but its roots are firmly anchored in ugly, brown mud. And I realize this is how beautiful art comes, just like in writing; fast and ugly at first, torn with mistakes and mired in messes, but with careful hands and devotion, it can become stunning.
Aspiring Writer/Interviewer-“What advice do you have for young writers?”
Published Author-“Just write.”
That’s how it goes, every single time. Every single time the words, “Just write” were uttered, I wanted to gnash my teeth like a troll and secretly wonder how they could enchant readers with bouquets of beautiful prose and florid descriptions while, when asked about their craft, they could only offer two words.
Here’s the thing; they are ABSOLUTELY right.
But there are better ways of giving that rock-solid piece of advice. a gem doesn’t have to be found in rubble. (sorry for the horrid pun).
My two motivators?
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and a particular blog post by Merlin Mann.
First off is the brilliant Merlin Mann. He wrote a blog post, Nanowrimo: a pep talk and a warning, and it will be the hands down, best pep talk to get through Nanowrimo and that first draft. I can’t pinpoint a quote from it; it’s so chock-full of awesome and no-nonsense advice that i can only honor it by pasting the link from his blog, 43 Folders: http://www.43folders.com/2009/11/02/nanowrimo-advice
Next is War of Art. A clever wordplay on Sun Zi’s The Art of War, Steven Pressfield reveals the furry devil; Resistance, mother of procrastination, writer’s block, and the subsequent brain cells killed by thunking your head into the keyboard all the time. Why does it have to be so hard? You think. Why does the thing I love have to be the hardest thing I do?
Pressfield offers a brilliant piece of advice; Resistance is a compass. The more you love it, the harder it is to do. Especially if it’s a creative endeavor.
“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it. It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.”
That quote alone was enough to make me sit. And write.
What are your secret creative weapons?