I’m still in England, last few days. I had to write this post this morning, with no real idea what I would write about. So I asked my son what I write about writing?
His answer: “Tell them writing is hard.”
Well, there you have it. Writing is hard.
Except it isn’t. Any damn fool can write. Many do.
The true statement is ‘Writing something anyone might wish to read is hard.’ And writing something that a lot of people really enjoy reading… is hard.
It’s harder for some of us than others (there are those to whom it is more natural than to me, for example) and even if you can do well, there is of course no guarantee that you will be read and enjoyed. Writing a great read will not bring you an audience – people need to know the work exists. That – barring luck or the right connections who push it, is hard too.
But writing itself… ain’t hard. Constructing a story is a skill you may have to learn. Researching the background may be hard. Being disciplined enough to sit in your chair and write, may be hard.
But writing itself, is not. And all the rest can be learned, worked on, improved.
Picture from the Yorkshire ‘spa’ town – where an entire industry grew up around nasty tasting water. Because nasty has to do you good… This is the famous Betty’s tearoom, where nice will possibly make you need of the nasty water to lose some weight.
Depends. Some people find mere writing hard.
How about a column on getting out of writing a book without losing the friend who asked you to write it with him? Been two years, he’s unproductive, I wrote some before Covid but now I’m blocked and embarassed and frustrated . . .
Help me, Mister Wizard. You’re my only hope.
If it were me (and it isn’t, I know…)
All I can suggest is to shelve it on your end and write your next project. Either the stopped one will revive, or it won’t. Your friend is probably more embarrassed and depressed about it than you are, and shy about discussing it… (Think what it’s like when you disappoint someone who’s counting on you, and how depressing that is.)
You’re both frustrated, but his guilt is probably more corrosive to the friendship than your irritation. It’s easier to find new projects than new friends, so you might consider rescuing him and taking him off the hook.
I’d rather hose off my drunken friends and see them home safe than tell them how they’ve disappointed me at a party — we all need forbearance, and it’s not that easy to find. Too many of my said drunk friends are dead now.
Writing is easy. I can pull up half a dozen reference materials and sources and write something for SEO content that won’t trip a single plagiarism software package (the trick is the pacing and rewriting so that it sounds alike).
Writing fiction is hard, because all I have is…secondary reference material. I have to create the primary material-and keep track of it. What is the maximum drive aperture of a Shimuza torch? (60 m in radius, BTW.) How many of the Solist-rank are currently in the world? (Sixteen, and two of the Imperial line hiding in the Solists.) And not lose the bubble at the same time.
Keeping track of it all, over a good few volumes of an ongoing story is hard … going back to check on names you gave to secondary characters is a constant for me. Double checking on how old those characters may be in a given year … also a constant.
(I really ought to have a better spread-sheet bible for characters. On my to-do list…)
And, personality tracking, that’s always interesting. But, I do have a list of descriptions of a lot of my main cast-personality, height and weight and clothing sizes, personal preferences, etc, etc, etc…
I discovered over the course of editing my stories that I had a character who had brothers, sisters, and none depending on when I wrote it. I think a spreadsheet is at the very least a good idea. I still haven’t made one, though. At least I’ve gotten to the point where my characters’ last names stay consistent.
Gak. I need to go re-listen to the Writer Dojo on documenting world stuff.
Actually I should probably finish the story that seems to be happening, and if it goes well, then go back and document world bits that need to be consistent…
Figuring out what needs to be documented is a trick in itself.
Oh, yes. Overheard in our house: “How could I have written an entire book and never once mentioned what colour her eyes are? It’s got to be in here somewhere!”
(It was in a deleted scene.)
And yes, I have a yellow notepad with who, how to spell, how old, relevant physical and personal characteristics, and the dates on which things happened…
Someday I shall need to find a better solution, especially if I keep committing series.
That’s the kind of thing I keep scrivener around for. Dump all the deleted scenes into “Research” and I can check them if I need to.
I’ve already gotten into a habit of moving deleted scenes into a scratch pad file for whatever story I’m working on.
I’ve already had one scene that was boring in one story end up being the frame for the instigating scene in another.
Actually, it’s quite easy to write a book and never mention the color of someone’s eyes. I don’t know the eye color of the vast majority of people I know. There are a handful of people who have a particularly vivid blue or green that can be noticed across the room, but for most people, you just don’t notice it unless you’re specifically looking for it.
(Sorry for the mini-rant, but one of my pet peeves is that eye color is a WAY overused bit of description in fiction).
Eh, it’s something I notice, but it’s not something everyone does. So when writing from the perspective of some characters, it’ll get mentioned. From others… I wrote an entire book and he never noticed.
I read several series from a writer who never described his character except once mentioning that one had bright green hair.
It surprised a superior officer, and she explained it was genetically engineered and they didn’t dye it out of respect for their ancestors.
And it’s exactly the most trivial characters whom it’s easiest to forget.
Lists! Wonderful things!
Juggling what I want to say, how to say it [because Grammar in English difficult is], what to describe, and how to move the story along so that people will continue reading it . . . Those are the hard-for-me parts. Having a story that wants to be written? Not so hard.
What’s really hard for most of us? Listening.