Novel-Writing–I love thee. I love thee not…

For over a year, I have been writing a young adult novel. I originally planned to write a chapter a month, sending it off in regular installments to my cousin, for whom it was intended. But then, as stories often do, it grew, becoming bigger and clumsier than I ever imagined. By the fall 2013, I had about 25,000 words (which for some of you is a paltry sum, but you are reading the words of a girl who struggles with 200 words a day). I assumed by the length that I was almost done. Oh–how wrong I was.

It is very humbling to put together all the scraps of writing you have done across multiple notebooks, desktops, and corkboards and realize that the book you’ve written makes no sense. The characters don’t develop. Your villain is cheesy and has no motive. The worst for me is my poor bland protagonist. When I first sat down in January 2013 and scribbled off a list of character traits, I loved this character–a funky, quiet high-school senior with a penchant for art fairs and comic books. He was quirky, intelligent, and likable. The character in my book is–boring.

This is possibly the worst case of writer’s block blues I have ever had.

Having writer’s block is detrimental to satisfying writing sessions, but it makes other parts of your life so interesting. For example, you will suddenly decide to read a great epic you have always wanted to read. After all, reading is essential to becoming a better writer. Or perhaps you will be inspired to take up a new hobby–baking is practical. How about tennis–canoeing–bird-watching. Or you will become very concerned about your health. How much vitamin D do writers really get anyways? Or, like me, you may suddenly realize that now is the perfect chance to write about your wretched novel instead of re-writing the wretched novel.

Writer’s block magnifies the love-hate relationship of a writer and her craft like nothing else. But in the end, writing is a work of love. You do it because you want to. No one is twisting your arm. You write because to ignore the mess and shove it out the window would cause more agony than to painstakingly re-work the entire story in your brain, fill up more notebooks, and revise–again.  It can be very discouraging to look at the mountain of work you’ve done, the struggles you’ve passed through, and not to see any substantial improvement or any approval of your work. Ray Bradbury, one of the finest American writers ever, once said the following:

“You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done. For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality. How so? Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come. All arts, big and small, are the elimination of waste motion in favor of the concise declaration. The artist learns what to leave out. His greatest art will often be what he does not say, what he leaves out, his ability to state simply with clear emotion, the way he wants to go. The artist must work so hard, so long, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers.”*

That statement says more than I can about why to keep writing–through writer’s block, through temporary obsessions with baking and tennis, through momentary hatred of one’s own work. Keep writing. You’ll get there.

Signing off,

*Bradbury, Ray. “21 Ray Bradbury Quotes.” Writer’s Digest. electronic.

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