On Writing

…or rather, on finishing. Because I feel like sharing the sage advice I’ve acquired and been putting to use.

Get it? GET IT?

I’ll wait.

…anyway.

I’ve made up stories since¬† I can remember. By myself, with friends, plain or illustrated, spoken, written, or often nothing but a play in my head. And I always knew I could write. Despite the occasional self-doubts, which are entirely normal, it’s probably the one constant thing that I could always fall back on, that confidence. Like some people feel destined to be musicians, or painters, I always knew I was a writer.

While I was never perfect – and I have a Mount-Everest-sized pile of weird-ass, half-finished stories that argue for the prosecution – I kept at it. And I’m still at it.

I’ve learned over the years, both through my own experiences and from drinking in the advice of accomplished authors I admire, that there are two basic truths that apply to the vast majority of fiction writers:

1. Ideas are a dime a dozen.

2. Finishing is the hard part.

This is pretty much why, even though you hear lots of people saying they have a great idea for a book, those books hardly ever get written. Putting stuff on the page is the hard part. Trudging through tens of thousands (or sometimes hundreds of thousands) of words is the hard part. And it took me a long time to figure out how to do it. I still have trouble with it. But I know now that I can do it, because I have done it, and that helps a ton. But the most important thing?

Just finish it.

No matter how ugly. No matter how stupid you think it is. No matter that this new idea you just had sounds twenty times better than the crap you’re trying to get done.

I put post-its in my writing space that say stuff like “Just. Write!” and “Don’t even think about stopping”. I instruct my husband to remind me not to overthink or waffle around.

Just finish it.

It’s hard. It’s incredibly difficult for a large percentage of writers, but they all figured out a way to get past it, which is how they got published. It’s a mental tour de force for me, and when I write endings I feel sick, desperate, overwhelmed, ready to scream and tear my hair out in frustration. But when it’s finally done, it’s like I just finished a marathon. I feel drunk on the accomplishment for days, if not weeks. And then, when I come back down to earth and have my head on straight, I edit. That’s usually when I realize things like Hey, that wasn’t so crap after all and This part works much better than I thought.

While editing isn’t a walk in the park either, I do it with the knowledge that the hardest part is over with. I finished. Doesn’t matter what. Doesn’t matter how. Just that I did.

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