Monday, January 25, 2016

Three Things Writers Are Supposed To Hate, and Why I Love Them

A photo posted by Ellen Brickley (@brickleyelle) on



 1. Decaffeinated drinks

There is a stereotype that writers are powered by caffeine, and given how many writers are trying to write while having a day job, raising kids, keeping their home from falling apart, caring for elderly relatives, or indeed all of the above, it's no surprise that a lot of creative folk are running on coffee.

I've discovered that I'm quite caffeine sensitive, so I drink as little of it as I can (hence the pink tea from my blog title - I drink a lot of herbal and fruit teas). Decaffeinated black tea is my new fuel of choice and I love that delicious builders' tea taste without the accompanying heart palpitations and jitters. It's difficult to type while measuring your pulse on a fitness tracker to see if you're dying or not, because of some tea. Ask me how I know this.


2. Querying

I admit I am part of the problem here - check out my pre-querying fingernails on my last post. Writers are supposed to hate querying, and I can understand why. It's scary to condense your work to a query letter, sample pages and a synopsis. The possibility of rejection looms large. "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams," said Yeats and lots of people who just hit 'send'.

But honestly, querying is brilliant.

Everyone who has queried a novel has a dream, to one extent or another. Some of us have been dreaming for a very long time. Some people's dreams have younger legs. But we send our work out into the world because we hope that the echo that comes back will be louder than any sound we could have made on our own. We send because we want something to happen.

While my queries are out in the world, something could happen literally at any time. I mean, because of time differences, I could wake up at 3am for a square of chocolate (everyone does that, right?) and find an email from an agent. Anything is possible but while you're querying, anything is possible now.

Totally worth sacrificing a few pretty fingernails for, I think.



3. Editing

One of my favourite quotes about writing is from Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo (I know, I like something Nano-related. Shocker!). It is
Run whooping through the valleys of your imagination.
Beautiful, isn't it? What a fabulous way to describe the joy of first drafts.

But editing - polishing prose, rearranging scenes, doing heavy lifting of material from one part of the book to another, killing darlings - is the karmic price we pay for all of the revelry in the imagination valleys, right?

Nope. I love editing. I may like the second draft more than the first draft.

  • The material is there, and all I have to do is fix it. The pressure to create magic from thin air has been relieved but I can still shape the work as I wish. Love it.
  • It's easier - although not easy - to quantify how long work will take and set goals. 'I will revise Chapter 3 at lunchtime today', or 'I will check the whole manuscript for references to a character I got rid of', or 'I will  re-read the whole thing this weekend and make notes on what to change.' I find those goals easier to stick to than 'I will get Petra and Kat to the party and the confrontation will happen.' A routine emerges much more readily.
  • I can make the book better. I can fiddle about with sentences, and then put them back the way they were. Editing is a creative act, as many metaphors about smelting and crucibles and fire will attest.

But I still complain about them. Because otherwise, what on earth would I tweet about?

3 comments:

  1. A synopsis would be my primary complaint!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yay! You RITE!! Gotta lotta subtle, sassy, savvy, subliminal elixers and electronic elegance on our YOUTHwitheTRUTH blogs. N'joym, dear.

    Meet me Upstairs for the most explicit, exhaustive, ethereal, psychotic, radical, tantalizin, stupendously-kick-ass, ultra-maximum-party-hardy at my place you ever encountered without d'New Joisey accent for an eternal slew of precarious, physically magnanimous and primeval absurdities.

    God bless your indelible soul.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yay! You RITE!! Gotta lotta subtle, sassy, savvy, subliminal elixers and electronic elegance on our YOUTHwitheTRUTH blogs. N'joym, dear.

    Meet me Upstairs for the most explicit, exhaustive, ethereal, psychotic, radical, tantalizin, stupendously-kick-ass, ultra-maximum-party-hardy at my place you ever encountered without d'New Joisey accent for an eternal slew of precarious, physically magnanimous and primeval absurdities.

    God bless your indelible soul.

    ReplyDelete

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