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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Writing is hard.

I fancy myself a writer. Not just a blogger, but a writer. Writing in general has always come pretty easily to me. I've kind of got a knack for it.

I have a few book ideas rattling around in my head, ideas that have been there for a while and have no real timeline for getting out. I'm sure that doesn't really qualify me as a writer, but that's what I call myself nonetheless.

I have a friend who is a REAL writer. She's in a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. She actively writes every day. She submits stories to publications and has been published. So when she encouraged me to register for a community fiction writing workshop at my alma mater, I thought this was my chance to finally unleash the real writer in me.

The instructor of the class is Dan Barden, a really real writer whose book, The Next Right Thing, I'd read last summer. I was happily anxious for the class to get started.

The first night of class was great. Dan asked us to tell something that would make someone want to turn the page. And he didn't take whatever you said first. He pushed us to refine what we'd said. To dig deeper. Except when I put out my "juicy" item -- the fact that I'd Googled every person in the class before the first session -- he took it, said something about that making me "weird," but that it also made him want to know more. I had pleased the teacher. I was on my way.

Then Dan gave us the only homework we'd have every week for 12 weeks.

Write. By hand. For 30 minutes every day.

I imagined I'd have my first novel finished, at least in some draft form, by the end of the 12-week class.  That first week, I wrote for 30 minutes five of the seven days. Some of what I wrote was rambling about what I should write. Some of it was the beginning of a story that I thought had some legs.

The next week, I wrote for 30 minutes three of the seven days. The following weeks have been the same or less. And do you know why?

Because WRITING IS HARD.

The initial idea isn't too tough. I've got about three stories begun now. But getting beyond the first few pages is hard. Character development is hard. Knowing enough about the circumstances of the times, the history, the environment, is hard.

This class has given me a whole new respect for authors I've read. It's made me want to read more so I can write better. 

It was my turn to have my story, what little of it I've finished, critiqued this week. The feedback was constructive. My classmates thought it was funny. That the pacing and the voice were good.

Dan wasn't so convinced. He thought the voice was inauthentic. He felt that story as I'd submitted was still too conceptual, that I need to bring it "down to the dirt." He was right. What I'd turned in was my second draft, but it was hastily written. I knew where the holes were and just skipped by them in order to get something on the paper.

Writing is hard.

After class this week, I gathered all the feedback I'd received and brought it home to read it. A few people thought the storyline was something they'd read before, from a book I've never read. Several had underlined sentences that had made them laugh. And Dan had typed a page of response.

It began with the good stuff. That my writing is lively and funny. That I have an eye for detail. Then it was the stuff I needed to hear. And finally, suggestions for revisions, for how I might make the story better.

It's a daunting task. My first reaction was to scrap the piece and look for the next good idea. But I'm pushing myself to accept Dan's challenge, to re-write and keep on writing this story I've started. I don't know if I have that kind of perseverance and drive, but I'm going to try.

Who knows if at the end of the 12 weeks I'll have a story worthy of submitting anywhere. Or if I'll have the beginnings of something that might someday be a real book. But I know for sure that come December when this class is over, I will have learned at least one thing.

Writing is hard.

8 comments:

CWMartin said...

I've always found it best to let the character develop himself. Let him take on his own personality, and react in ways surprising to you. In other words, let him lead you, don't lead him. Lots more fun that way, too.

Rebecca said...

Amy--I'm standing knee-deep in the same writing muck you are. :) I have several stories rolling around my head, two or three partially written. A good friend is a successful romantic-comedy writer. The more I learn about writing and the publishing process... the more I sit down and write... I, too, find myself saying, "Writing is hard!" But it's a passion I have. An addiction, really. [sigh] Aren't we lucky? :)

Janet said...

Way to go! Thanks for sharing.

(I love how you write on your blog)

Darlene http://adventuresofamiddleagemom.com said...

Yes, Amy, writing is hard, but you already know that. And I know you are a tale Ted writer. What we both know is that writing takes discipline. Ready, set, go. I can't wait to read what you've written.

Darlene http://adventuresofamiddleagemom.com said...

Talented! I hate auto correct.

kimybeee said...

i am gonna tell you a secret that noone knows about me - and you can't tell! i too am a writer!!! i submitted a paper in my freshman english class in college that was in a contest and won actual money (6th place - but how many people can say that!) it was a descriptive essay that was a class assignment and i chose to write about my uncle waynes barn. the teacher and i spent weeks going over it for the contest and it was really good - if you walked into his barn at the time it would have been familiar to the reader!

i always did well on reports in high school - when it came time to choose a book i would choose a huge book that would make about six or seven of my classmates books - i loved to read and write.

when my kids were little i wrote two books that are just written in notebooks and hidden away in my closet. i also wrote a story for my daughter. nobody knows about the other two books and the story for my daughter was cute and then put in a box to scrapbook with later.

but i am good - it is one of my many talents!!!

i am a person of many talents - master of none!!!

keep up the good work and write what "feels" good to you - i prefer a pen and paper, it is less restrictive than a computer cause you aren't as focused on punctuation and typos and stuff that isn't important to the story!! just dig down deep and be yourself and it will be a great story that blows that class away.

as for the googling - that is totally insane!!

Amy said...

Thanks for the encouragement, friends. I haven't turned my attention back to that story yet, at least not on paper or screen. But I've been rolling it around my head.

Kim -- Nothing surprises me about you anymore! So cool.

bucknerblog said...

Writing is so hard! I have been trying to get the stories in my head down on paper for a while now - I have found that writing the BIG scenes is not as hard, it is the little connecting stuff between the big stuff that I struggle with writing down.

So, why do you have to write by hand? I'll try anything! I have 12 books I want to write, and a total of six pages written (most of those pages are just outlines).

And finally, you are a great, relatable writer - you will do great and I can't wait to eventually, hopefully read a finished product.