Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's Just What We Do

By Nichole Giles

I’ve been writing—seriously writing—for going on four years. It doesn’t sound like very long to some people, but to others it sounds like forever. Personally, I haven’t noticed much about the passage of time other than my kids have shot up (like feet rather than inches) and I’ve actually completed a few novels and sold some things for publication.

But if I go back and read my early work, I can see a significant difference in style, voice, technique, story, and plot. I look back at it and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote that, or how I ever thought it might be good. But the truth is, it was good. At the time, I was discovering writing, and everything involved, and the only way to do that is to write a lot. Every day. And I’ve done that—faithfully—for all this time. So even if the writing itself wasn’t high quality, it was good for me to do.

More than that, I’ve also been reading. Not that I didn’t read before, I did—but with different eyes. Now I look at technique, style, voice, technicalities, editing…everything that comes together to make a story not just good, but easy to read.

And I read a LOT. Rather than sticking with one favorite author and one genre, I now read a large variety of both—fiction and nonfiction—and each book I read is a study in how that particular author approaches story. That’s not to say I like everyone’s approach, but when something doesn’t work for me, I study it in order to figure out why.

I’ve gathered a collection of nonfiction books—mostly about writing and mythology. The mythology ones are great for research into my fantasy novels. The writing books have taught me as much as any class or author lecture—and I’ve taken lots of classes and gone to lots of conferences.

These books look at me from a shelf in my office, encouraging me to keep going, even when I feel like I’ll never get it right. You all know what I’m talking about. That little voice of doubt that creeps in and whispers that you’re wasting your time, no one will believe your story, and you might as well shut down the computer and find something more productive to do. That fear of rejection and success at the same time can be crippling and exhilarating. It’s a love hate thing for us, I think.

My point—in case you were wondering—is that we all have those doubts. And we ALL produce imperfect writing sometimes, especially when we’re getting started. It doesn’t matter. Write anyway. That’s what we do. We write. And the more we write, the better we become. Then we read everything we can get our hands on, and we become better writers for that as well. And even when it becomes physically painful to put those words on paper and share them with others, we push on. We take those rejection letters and file them, or burn them, or turn them into wallpaper—whatever—and we do another edit and resubmit somewhere else. It’s just what we do.

In my library of writing books, there are four that have affected me significantly and which I’ve read more than once. I thought I’d share them here, in case any of our readers are interested.

“On Writing” by Stephen King
“Word Magic for Writers” by Cindy Rogers
“On Writing Well” by William Zinsser
“Self-Editing For Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King

One last thought. I’ve been a part of this blogging group since the beginning. Having this deadline has acted as incentive to keep me writing—even when I wasn’t working on any particular project. Blogging is part of the reason I’ve progressed so much, because I am constantly on my toes watching for topics and ideas, and while I’m at it, I’m learning.

So, give yourself a deadline, write something every day, read as much as you can and ignore the irritating voice of doubt that perches on your shoulder and tries to convince you that you can’t do it, because you CAN. We’re writers. That’s just what we do! HUH!

(Yeah, I borrowed that from “Bedtime Stories.” Couldn’t help myself.)


Annette Lyon said...

No question about it. You're a writer! I think all of us can relate to just abuot everything you said.

Scarlet Knight said...

I agree. Writing is a love hate relationship, but something that is a passion. Keep it up Nichole!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Yep, I could relate to every word. My first novel just came out and I STILL feel like I am probably wasting my time writing another. (Too bad S. King's book has so many F words, huh? Still, a great book to read.)

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks ladies! I do love writing, that's the bottom line. But more than that, I think it's so built into me that I wouldn't know how NOT to write.

It's more than therapy, it's...oxygen. Well, okay, it can't really be oxygen but it feels that way sometimes!

Thanks for commenting.

LexiconLuvr said...

I've always wanted to know more about your writing roots. You're very passionate about writing. I'll mirror Scarlet here: Keep it up! Thanks for sharing.

Nichole Giles said...

Glad to share, Lexiconluvr. We all have roots somewhere, but some of us take longer than others, or have to dig harder, to find them.

It doesn't make us less as writers though!


Laura said...

Nichole- lots of relevant thoughts, thanks for putting all of that into words. I felt like I was reading an ominous voice reminding me 'that's what we do' because I'm a writer. No, I'm not crazy, I'm a writer. Or, maybe all writers are crazy the same way. hmmm... Here's to thinking on the same wave length, appreciating the art and certain love/hate relationship associated with the job.

Nichole Giles said...

Glad to help, Laura! I love when people feel like I can read their minds...or maybe I really did read your mind...

Actually, I think all people are crazy in one way or another. Writers are the ones who are brave enough to share their craziness with the rest of the world.

And I don't know about you, but for me, that takes some serious bravery!