10 things I hate about writing novels

Thursday, April 19, 2012

  1. What ends up on the page is usually entirely different from what's in my head. In my head, the novel is perfect. It's beautiful and heart-rending and hilarious and award-winning and sells lots of copies and everybody adores me. And then I write it down and it's an absolute mess. The transition from idea to actual manuscript is a horribly awkward one.
  2. There is no one right way of doing things. So there are a million possibilities, and while sometimes this can be super wonderful, when I'm trying to figure out what makes the most sense for my characters, too many options is an awful thing, especially since there usually isn't one best option.
  3. I have to edit them. A lot. And it takes a long time. This one time, I was working on a revision of a book for five months. Oh no wait, that's happening right now.
  4. Everyone has a different opinion. One person will love it, and another will hate it, and a third will be entirely indifferent. And no one is right. And that's terrible. Because what am I supposed to do? Do I change it or do I not change it and does this character need to be cut and does this plotline work or doesn't it? Can everyone just agree for once, and tell me it's fantastic?
  5. It's very difficult to write logically and systematically. I am a person who likes organisation and simplification and lists and numbers (though I am not super fond of maths, I like to count things). And even if I write an outline and plan neat little two-thousand-word chapters, a first draft becomes a complicated and crazy thing. It's just a whole bunch of words, but it defies organisation.
  6. I am always thinking about it too much. Because a very significant portion of my life is spent writing or editing or talking about writing or blogging about writing or spending time with writer friends, I think about this novelling business quite a bit.And the more I think about writing, the more intimidating it becomes. After all, if I'm dedicating so much time to it, I have to be good at it, and what if I'm not good at it? Maybe I shouldn't write tonight and I should go and watch reality TV instead, and not think about my possible lack of skill. There is always a renovation or singing show on. They really should combine the two. Reno Popstar.
  7. People are always telling me writing novels doesn't count as a real-world job. Oh my gosh, folks, I've been living in a fake world all this time? This isn't even a problem I have with writing novels. This is a problem I have with people devaluing creative pursuits. Writing and painting and dancing and making music can all be jobs, guys! If you tell me writing isn't a real job, that makes me sad.
  8. I am always comparing what I am writing to novels I love. I cringe at everything I write. Hopefully one day I will outgrow this, but I think a lot of other writers do this, too. So I can't tell the difference between good stuff I write and bad stuff I write. And next to books I really, really love, everything I write seems terrible! Maybe I ought to just give it up! Generally I try not to think about my favourite authors and how great they are when I am writing, otherwise it is demoralising.
  9. It is a very isolating thing. There's a lot of sitting around, inside, on your own, isn't there? And even though I know other people find this writing thing challenging, I'm not there with them when they're slaving away on their novels. I just see the finished product, which always seems terribly effortless, and a lot of writers I know seem very sociable and easygoing at parties. And I think, I am the only person in the world who is a lonely weirdo writer! (Obviously this is not true. But sometimes it feels like it.)
  10. The characters always have such exciting lives. I'm jealous. Stuff is always happening for them! Of course I am the person making it happen and they are not real and the things that happen to them aren't real, but still, maybe I want to have an exciting life? Unfortunately this is the real world, and often there are long breaks between exciting things happening to me, during which I have to work and do mundane, real-person stuff.
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