#1. This Might Hurt
Hello again. Thanks very much to those of you who let me know you liked the chicken story. Part of me wanted to write about exclamation points this week, but instead I’ve decided to go back to the beginning, and proceed forward with my writing tips in some kind of orderly fashion.
First, a quick message from our pushy, annoying, but ultimately loveable sponsor.
On April 20th, my new book ATLANTIS: THE ACCIDENTAL INVASION will finally be released. The lack of a comma after the word “book” is purposeful, because I do have another new book out, but this one is more important to me, as it ties together some of my favorite things to write about - science, swimming, and family - in one epic, fast-paced, kid-focused adventure. If I were better at marketing, I would have told you about it months ago, and devised a clever way to get you to preorder, which is essential to a book’s success. But I’m terrible at that stuff. So here we go!
Glad we got that over with…now back to the writing tips.
#1. This Might Hurt
Almost every piece of writing I create involves some pain. Sometimes the process is difficult right at the start. Or maybe it’s easy at first, then transforms unexpectedly into a horrendous task. But it’s always hard at some point. Usually, I bump into several obstacles along the way. The illustrator John Hendrix calls these micro-pits of despair, and they happen with any long project.
The reality is that writing is usually hard, whether you’re crafting a novel or an email.
I’m not sure whether it’s valuable to know that or not. I certainly had no clue when I tried to write my first novel. I just started writing. Six months later, I had something that resembled a book. When my older brother printed it out for me, though, I quickly realized it was terrible.
A few revisions later, I sent it to someone in the business, who promptly told me to consider another career, since there were only a few good paragraphs to be found within the hundreds of written pages.
Did I cry? I can’t remember. Maybe a little.
I revised it again, and again, until a very accomplished writer friend of mine read the first chapter, circled a single sentence - “My genius will climb trees” - and told me that my book should probably grow out of those five words. That might not seem terribly encouraging. The chapter was roughly 3,000 words long and he picked five. Roughly 0.17% of the draft was salvageable. But I liked that sentence! And so I rewrote the book around it, and eventually produced an odd but apparently publishable novel.
I thought creating that first book was hard.
Then I tried to write a second one.
So I went to work again, turning to a story about a young man who journeys to the underworld. Here’s my outline below. Notice the little dude in the middle scratching his head? That was supposed to be the main character, but in retrospect it’s really me trying to write the book.
This effort failed, too.
Maybe there’s a lesson in here about perseverance, but we’ll skip that. What I’m trying to say is that this writing thing is consistently challenging. Sometimes this elusive muse creature visits and clarity drops right onto the page. But that’s rare. I’m still waiting for her to show up. (Or him? Haven’t really thought much about what form the muse would take, but I’m leaning toward a well-groomed, highly intelligent centaur.)
Don’t wait for the muse. Accept the likely appearance of unforeseen obstacles and push forward. Creating a quality story for any audience is difficult. And it doesn’t get easier just because you’ve done it once, or even a few times.
Which brings me back to our sponsor. This writer has authored or co-authored thirteen published books, but writing his latest one wasn’t any easier than the first effort. Even when he thought he had it right, after five or six self-directed revisions, a single line from his editor made him change just about everything.
“Make it funnier.”
That’s all. Three words, scrawled across the cover page of the manuscript, prompted another four months of arduous but absolutely essential rewrites. Does the end result deliver? I hope so. The early reviews are great.
But you might as well decide for yourself. Check it out, and thanks, as always, for reading!
P.S. Notice those exclamation points? They’re tactical. I’m especially fond of the first one; the second is a little presumptuous. Who am I to decide that preordering is exciting?