Alice’s Restaurant

March 28, 2007

“I Could Be a Writer”

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 8:31 am

This one is for Nancy.

Did you really think this was going to be easy?  Just because Nora whips out half a dozen books a year and you can type 60 words per minute doesn’t mean you can write a book in six weeks.

Yes, I did it, but it wasn’t as long of a book and I already had one complete and years of experience under my belt.  It wasn’t a whole new experience for me.  Nor will that book ever see the light of day.  There wasn’t enough good about it to make it worth revising.

No!  I’m not saying you should quit!  Unless you’re going to be lazy about this.  If you aren’t willing to put in the work, then yeah, save yourself the heart ache.  Because if you aren’t willing to do what ever it takes — and you’ve already proven you aren’t any more talented than I am so it’ll take a lot — then you aren’t going to get anywhere.

Sometimes it feels like everything is either on or off with you.  First it’s gun-ho charge-ahead and get it done, which is all very well except you won’t listen to me then.  Then it’s “I’m not worthy” and “This reeks!” which not only isn’t true, it’s also a time when you won’t listen to me!  Why on earth do you want my critique if you won’t use it!  To be honest, I’d rather be working on my own stuff.

So you’ve gotten lost in the choices.  Frankly, I don’t think the hero’s hair color is all that important.  Whether or not he’s going to murder his uncle, yes I’d say that’s important.  If you didn’t want to deal with the problem of keeping him sympathetic while forcing him to do a heinous act on someone who really does deserve it, then you shouldn’t have set the story up that way in the first place.  Nor do you HAVE to write it that way.  Yes, it’s the most exciting part of the book, but hardly what the book is all about.  Hello.  Remember the heroine?  And no, I’m not saying she should be the one to kill the uncle.

What I’m saying is that you’ve got some structural problems.  Big whoop.  Deal with it.  How many times have I scarped off the last third of the book – we are talking tens of thousands of words each time here – just because they didn’t get the job done?  Trust me, it’s only a big problem if you make it one.  If you really want to make this thing a best seller, you’ll do it.

I’m sorry I didn’t say it more nicely, but I still think the part in the middle is boring.  You still don’t think fiction is about emotion, do you.  Well, I didn’t either for years and years and you can really see it in my work.  And no, that melodramatic drivel in the fifth chapter is NOT what I mean about emotion.  I mean the emotion you create in the reader, not what you slap on to the characters.

Yes, I said drivel and I stand by it.  Come on, you said yourself you don’t like it.  Why do you expect me to?  It’s just one little passage you spliced in.  Take it out.

I can just see your expression now.  Would you calm down!  Just because that little bit of the chapter isn’t good doesn’t mean you have to throw out the whole thing.  Next you’ll be back to the “I’m not worthy” thing and throwing out the whole book.  You’ll never write that best seller your after if you keep chucking the whole book.  You aren’t going to get this thing done at all if you don’t sit down and do it. 

Nora really hit the nail on the head when she said she can fix anything except a blank page.  Yes, I know that Howard something or other guy always wrote once and never revised.  But remember his editor said he always rolled the story around in his mind for years before he wrote anything, and they were only short stories.  Quit trying to encase your words in amber.  We aren’t talking stone tablets here.  They can easily be changed later.

No, I don’t know that this is going to be the one.  It’s your first book!  Sheesh.  It’s like insisting you have to get married to the first person you date.  Maybe you should, and maybe you shouldn’t.  All I know is that you CAN’T write a best seller if you never finish anything.  Even if this frog never does turn into a prince, you have to kiss him to find out.  Finish the book, put as much into revision as you can stand, and keep moving.  I mean you should start on the next book soon.

And that thing I said about smiling and saying “go for it” to those annoying wannabes who belittle the effort I’ve put into this, I meant it.  But I didn’t mean you!  Yes, encouraging people to write is unkind.  But I don’t do it out of spite.  I honestly want everyone to succeed at this.  Misery loves company?  Maybe.  But if you’re still willing to go for it, I’m still there for you.




  1. Mr. Al says I should tell you I’m a plain spoken Texan, and not to take me too seriously.


    Comment by aliceaudrey — March 28, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

  2. Actually, even though it wasn’t directed at me, I think that was just what I needed to hear to get me out of my writing funk. Thanks Alice – invaluable advice, as always!

    Comment by Kelly — March 28, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

  3. I used to work at a technical editor in the aerospace field (then later I was a tech writer working on the same reports). I didn’t have the emotional attachment to the reports that the engineers did. We often laughed and said that for some of them, we had to almost shoot the engineer to get them to give up the report. They wanted to tinker, tinker, tinker. . . and then tinker with it some more! Ack!

    Comment by Ericka Scott — March 29, 2007 @ 12:27 am

  4. You are a good and honest friend Alice.

    Comment by Bev — March 29, 2007 @ 7:37 am

  5. Sometimes this stuff is hard to hear. I wish I could have heard it – and handled it! – twenty years ago. Ok, so thirty would have been better, but I was way too young for it then even if I was on my second attempt.


    Comment by aliceaudrey — March 30, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  6. I think maybe we all needed to hear it. Thanks Alice!


    Comment by Laurie — March 30, 2007 @ 5:02 pm

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