Last week I saw something reposted on Twitter about a writer admitting that she doesn’t really like the process of writing. She likes having written, but the process is difficult and frustrating.
There are days when I can totally relate, though while I do like having written, the part I really love is “going to write.” I love coming up with story ideas and characters, doing research and worldbuilding, even figuring out plots — all the stuff that falls under the category of “prewriting.”
The hard, and less fun, part comes when it’s time to put all that stuff into words. Sometimes it’s the words that are hard, finding a way to convey those things in your head. Sometimes it’s the nitty gritty of the plot, when you go beyond the big-picture arcs and need to come up with specific scenes that develop the plot.
That’s ironic when you consider how many times writers have people tell them that they have this great idea for a book, and if the writer will write it they can split the income 50/50. I think that happens at least once per booksigning (there seem to be people who go to every booksigning just to approach writers to tell them about their brilliant idea and present them with this proposition) and at just about every party where we meet new people who learn what we do.
New person: So, what do you do?
Writer: I’m a writer. I write books.
New person: Really? I have this amazing idea for a book. I should tell it to you, you can write it, and we can split the money it makes. I’m sure it’ll be a bestseller.
Writer: Oops, I need to go refill my drink. It was nice meeting you.
Ideas come all the time to writers. We don’t need to buy them from others. I’ll never get to all the ideas I want to write. Writing is the hard part, the part that takes time and real effort. That “brilliant” idea would probably take a ton of development and probably isn’t all that different from dozens of other things already on the market.
There are certainly days when the actual writing is fun, when I can see the scene playing out in my head like a movie, and all I have to do is describe it, and those words come so easily that I can forget I’m writing and feel like I’m just watching a movie. I usually love my characters, so I enjoy spending time with them. But a lot of the time, it really does feel like work, finding the right words, figuring out how to make things happen to get to the event I need. It’s at the end of one of those days when it’s been a real struggle but I still manage to get there that I love having written.
Sometimes I fantasize about being able to plug my brain into my computer so that the brilliant book in my head will just pour into the computer, but I suspect even if I could do that, the book would still require a lot of work. That brilliant book in the head is generally only a highlight reel or a trailer for the real book that has to be written. It’s the good parts, the scenes that come to life, without all the work of stitching those pieces together in a logical order that flows with good pacing. In other words, the hard part about writing.
Even if I could find someone to write my ideas for me, so that I just got to do the fun part without the hard part, I don’t think I would. I’m too proprietary with my ideas. I couldn’t hand them over to anyone else because no one else would be able to bring them to life the way I would. And so, the hard part is the price I pay to get to make up fun stuff and be able to share it with others. If I don’t write it, I can’t share it with others, which means I don’t make money, which means I’d have to get a different kind of job, and I have no idea what I’d do.